Canadians need to ‘know their history’ says plaintiff in sterilization lawsuit in B.C.

The latest proposed class action in British Columbia focuses on coerced sterilization and abortion

A proposed class action lawsuit in British Columbia is seeking compensation for “sexism, discrimination and cultural genocide” due to the provincial government’s nearly half-a-century policy of coercing Indigenous women into sterilizations.

Lorraine Davis and Stephani Roy are the representative plaintiffs for the proposed class action. “So often it feels like you’re alone when you have been coerced into sterilization, something I never wanted and never expected. It’s been many years and I’m glad that our voice is about to be heard,” said Davis in a press release.

According to the statement of claim, Davis went into the Campbell River Hospital and was scheduled to deliver her child by caesarian section.

“Moments before her survey was set to begin, Ms. Davis was presented with paperwork authorizing a ‘tubal ligation’. She signed the papers not knowing what she was signing—and having received no prior explanation or medical advice about sterilization,” said the claim.

The lawsuit, filed jointly by Cooper Regal in Alberta and Murphy Battista in B.C. said that the province had sterilization laws in place for 40 years before it was repealed in 1973.

APTN News has previously reported on the history of sterilization in Alberta, which also had a sexual sterilization act.

Statement of claim

“I continue to be stunned at the depth to which our beloved Canadian government have gone to. First it was residential schools, then ‘60s Scoop now we have forced and coerced sterilization,” said Steven Cooper, lead counsel for the proposed class action lawsuit.

Cooper said when it comes to class actions it is hard to know how many people come forward, especially when it is regarding something so personal.

“I think we are speaking in the hundreds, not the thousands,” said Cooper.

Fellow legal counsel Angela Bespflug said in a statement that these sterilizations are not solely things that occurred in the past.

“One of the particularly disturbing aspects of this claim is how recently some Indigenous people were subjected to these non-consensual medical procedures,” said Bespflug.

She added that they hope this proposed class action will compel “the province of British Columbia to acknowledge this dark chapter in our history.”

The press release announcing the class action states: “Indigenous people in British Columbia have suffered from sterilization and abortion in the absence of truly free and informed consent.”

Roy also shared her perspective in the press release.

“People in Canada need to know their history, the good and the bad,” she said. “The province of British Columbia participated and supported a program aimed at taking away the reproductive rights of Indigenous people, including my own rights as an Indigenous woman.”

In the statement of claim, Roy was a teenager and pregnant with her first child.

“Ms. Roy was scheduled to undergo an abortion at Vernon Jubilee hospital. At that time, she felt pressured to undergo the abortion at the behest of her boyfriend, his mother, and the hospital’s attending doctor.”

The statement of claim further said, “Immediately before the procedure began, Ms. Roy advised the medical professionals present that she did not want to have the abortion. She told them she changed her mind and did not want to proceed with it.

The claim said that her “advisement –and pleas not to go ahead with the abortion—went unheeded by the nurses and doctor.”

Cooper, in the statement, said that the lawsuit highlights Canada’s “oppressive colonial approach to the Indigenous population. Forced and coerced sterilization and abortion is yet another shameful chapter in Canada’s past attempts to subjugate and assimilate the First Peoples of this country.”

APTN has previously reported on similar lawsuits in Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. There was a previous class action proposed in B.C. as well.

The allegations in the lawsuit have not been proven in court and the province has yet to file a response to the claim.

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