In 2001, a 29-year-old Cree woman, nicknamed S.A.T. in legal documents, went to the Royal University Hospital in Saskatchewan, Canada, to give birth to her sixth child. After she gave birth, she says, she was wheeled into an operating room to be sterilized. She says she desperately protested, but no one listened. To this day, she remembers “the smell of burning flesh” as her fallopian tubes were cauterized against her will in an irreversible birth control procedure.
This claim is laid out in a new class action lawsuit alleging widespread abuse of power by Saskatchewan health professionals and the violation of many indigenous women when they were at their most vulnerable.
If successful, the women in the lawsuit will each be entitled to millions of dollars of reparations from the Saskatchewan and Canadian governments and their health systems. While these women may only represent a fraction of the people negatively affected by forced sterilization in Canada, their lawsuit is recognition of the ubiquity of the practice — and its consequences.
Attorney Alisa Lombard is directing the lawsuit. She’s an associate at Maurice Law, Canada’s only indigenous-owned national law firm. Since news broke of the legal action last month, over 60 more women have contacted Lombard’s office, saying they were sterilized without their consent. In the seven days after CBC’s November 13 article about the lawsuit, 29 women called or emailed her.
The women were mostly from Saskatchewan, but also from Ontario and Manitoba. They reported similar experiences of being coerced into signing consent forms and being misled about the irreversible nature of the procedure. The stories go back decades; one is as recent as 2017. Most of the sterilizations happened in the hectic time directly after the women gave birth. In some cases, women were denied access to their newborn babies unless they…