Forced tubal ligation victims begin steps to sue province, doctors
Published Tuesday, October 10, 2017 6:27PM CST Last Updated Wednesday, October 11, 2017 5:11PM CST
A proposed class-action lawsuit against Canada’s attorney general, the Saskatchewan government, the province’s health regions and doctors who allegedly coerced Indigenous women to undergo sterilization has been filed in Saskatoon’s Court of Queen’s Bench.
The statement of claim was filed Oct. 5, about three months after the Saskatoon Health Region released the findings of a six-month external review into Indigenous women who were coerced into getting their tubes tied.
A judge needs to sign off on the statement of claim before it moves forward as a class-action suit.
The lawsuit, if certified, would seek $7 million in damages per woman. Two women are listed as plaintiffs in the statement of claim, but more women in Saskatchewan could be included if the lawsuit is approved.
“It’s not possible to put out a number that will compensate these women for what they’ve lost, and I’m sure any woman in a like circumstance whose choice has been taken away to make the most fundamentally human-based choice — to have children or not to have children — will understand it’s incredibly difficult to quantify that,” said Alisa Lombard, the lawyer who filed the statement.
Tubal ligation is a procedure in which a woman’s fallopian tubes are clamped or severed. It is considered a permanent method of birth control, according to the Saskatoon Health Region.
“Most of the women interviewed did not understand that tubal ligation was permanent, thinking it was a form of birth control that could be reversed in the future,” the external review read. “Essentially all of the women interviewed felt that the health system had not served their needs, and they had felt powerless to do anything about it.”
One woman was quoted in the report: “At the time it was just… just his decision for me…. Just because he was a doctor, I listened.”
Another stated she was told: “We don’t want you to leave until the tubal is done.”
Most said the experience impacted their womanhood, their mental health, their self-worth and their relationships.
The statement of claim states the women’s charter rights, including their right to life, liberty and security and their right to receive health care free of discrimination, were breached. Other damages listed include future cost of care, punitive or exemplary damages, and general damages for "lost opportunity," among others.
The Saskatoon Health Region apologized when it released its review findings in July.