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Aboriginal Women Say They Were Coerced Into Sterilization

“Why are you guys doing this to women?”

Four aboriginal women told the CBC they were sterilized against their will at the same Saskatoon hospital, according to a report on The Current Thursday.

Melika Popp went to the Royal University Hospital to deliver her second child by C-section in 2008. She said doctors coerced her into having her fallopian tubes tied. The procedure was suggested to her while she was in labour, already “open” for surgery, she said.

Popp said hospital staff lied to her by saying the procedure was reversible.

Another woman, Brenda Pelletier, told CBC News in November she was hounded by a social worker to agree to the procedure after giving birth. A recovering addict at the time, said she was told, “We don’t want you leaving this hospital until it’s done.”

“Why are you guys doing this to women?”

After coming forward with her story and learning other women had similar experiences, Popp hired a lawyer in November. She’s calling for a class action lawsuit against the Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) and possibly the provincial and federal governments.

“Why are you guys doing this to women?” Popp said in her interview with The Current. “Why are you hurting aboriginal women? This is not happening to anyone who is not coloured or is not a single mother.”

In response to complaints received in October, SHR apologized and changed their policy so tubal ligation requires a woman's consent before she arrives at the hospital to give birth.

The health authority has also committed to hiring an external investigator. No one has been hired yet, as of mid-December the StarPhoenix reported.

Losing the ability to have children made her feel even more disconnected from her aboriginal identity, Popp said. She was taken away from her own birth mother in the ‘60s scoop and was taught to be ashamed of her culture, she told the StarPhoenix.

“It’s another form of cultural genocide.”

Canada should recognize both the ‘60s scoop and her sterilization were acts of systemic racism, Popp said. “It’s another form of cultural genocide.” The province disagrees.

The suggestion the provincial government is responsible for this is “flat-out wrong,” Health Minister Dustin Duncan told the National Post. “Clinical decisions are made between patients and their physician and care team,” he said.

“For anyone to suggest that it occurred because of a government policy is offensive.”


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