Forced sterilizations of Indigenous women: One more act of genocide

Last fall, a group of Indigenous women in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan brought a class-action suit against the Saskatoon Health Authority. They also sued the provincial and federal governments and some medical professionals.

They asserted that some Indigenous women had been forcibly sterilized. Others had been tricked into giving consent for sterilization when they were under stress or heavily drugged. They claimed that doctors did this over several decades, up to the 2000s.

The UN Committee on Torture recommended in late 2018 that the Canadian government investigate all allegations of enforced sterilization and adopt legislation criminalizing it.

Indigenous activists want a new law specifically outlawing forced sterilization, but the federal government argues it's already illegal.

Canada doesn't have a good history with regard to forced sterilization. The provinces of Alberta and British Columbia forcibly sterilized people from the 1930s to the 1970s.

Authorities were responding to the eugenics movement, popular among many influential Canadians. Eugenicists wanted to keep the Canadian "race" pure by sterilizing "unfit" people. "Unfit" people were usually poor people, immigrants and people with disabilities. Indigenous people also were far more likely than others to be sterilized. As Angus McLaren shows in his 1990 book Our Own Master Race, during the last few years of forcible sterilization in Alberta, Indigenous and Metis people were 2.5 per cent of the population but 25 per cent of those sterilized.

One aspect of genocide

Forced sterilizations are an aspect of genocide. Most people think of genocide as the mass, deliberate murder of large numbers of people. But when the United Nations passed the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948, it defined five ways genocide could be committed.

Only one of the five means defined in the Genocide Convention is mass murder. The others are: "causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;" "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;" "imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;" and "forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

Forced prevents births.

The "Sixties Scoop" removed thousands of Indigenous children from their families and communities in the 1960s. The reason given was to protect the children from abusive situations, but this could be considered an example of forcibly transferring children from one group to another.

On Jan. 7, 2019, Premier Scott Moe of Saskatchewan apologized for the Sixties Scoop. Manitoba and Alberta had already apologized.

Forcible deportations are a way to deliberately inflict conditions calculated to bring about a group's physical destruction. Canada deported several Indigenous groups in the Far North from their homelands to other locations.

Many died from starvation, exposure and disease. Any removal of Indigenous people anywhere in the country that resulted in a significant number of deaths might be considered genocide by deportation.

Canada must remedy its history of genocidal actions

The term genocide was originally coined in 1944 by a Polish Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin.

Lemkin wanted to include what we now call cultural genocide in the definition. He wasn't thinking about Indigenous peoples; he was thinking of the cultural genocide of ethnic groups in occupied Eastern Europe by the Nazis during the Second World War.

Lemkin thought malicious destruction of works of art and culture should be a crime called vandalism, and destruction of human collectivities should be a crime called barbarism.

Although Lemkin lobbied hard for the UN to adopt these crimes of vandalism and barbarism as infractions people could be prosecuted for; it did not.

If it had, we could argue that Canada's system of residential schools was an aspect of genocide, the barbarism of destroying a collectivity. Indigenous children were removed from their communities and forbidden to speak their languages, or practice their customs and cultures.

We use the term cultural genocide as a descriptive term, but it isn't part of the UN's legal definition. Legally speaking, the UN definition requires proof of intent to commit genocide.

In other words, if Canadian authorities claim that the sterilizations of Indigenous women were the accumulation of a taken-for-granted culturally sanctioned practice of many doctors over many decades, then according to the law, Canada wasn't committing genocide by preventing births.

Similarly, if there was no intent to destroy a community by forcibly transferring children, then the Sixties Scoop wasn't genocide.

And if there was no intent to deliberately inflict conditions of life calculated to bring about peoples' by deporting Indigenous peoples, then Canada wasn't committing genocide.

But if we add up all the ways that Canadian governments have oppressed Indigenous peoples over the centuries, then those governments bear a weighty burden. They still must remedy the effects of practices that in effect, if not in intent, constituted .

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Mar 05, 2019
Canada does need to build a very very tall wall to protect themselves from the winds of hatred that blow from their south border.

Mar 05, 2019
Well, that's embarrassing.

Who were the people involved in this, and given there are medical records, why aren't they being rounded up and prosecuted? If they were ordered to, who ordered it and why aren't *they* being rounded up and prosecuted? You know, given the government says it's illegal and stuff.

Mar 05, 2019
What of things like marginalizing a once dominant culture, making members feel unwelcome in the land they built? The tactics of what the Democratic Rackets call the "civil rights" movement in the U.S. actually have forms that constitute what psychologists often call mental or emotional abuse. Accusing the individual of always being evil. Finding fault in whatever that individual says. Blaming them for everything that goes wrong. Always necessarily mistrusting what they say, always accusing them necessarily of ulterior motives. Forcing them to do things differently from what they are used to, even to speaking. Even the article speaks of indigenous Canadian Indians not being allowed to speak their own way. "Civil rights" in the U.S. is, for example, insisting the phrase, "Where are you from?", is "racist".

Mar 05, 2019
So you're all butthurt because somebody told you not to call black people a nasty word, and you equate that to a minority being *sterilized*?

Unbelievable. You, sir, are a bigot. You are disgusting. Now go back to your sister and the barrel fire in the middle of your trailer park.

Mar 10, 2019
It's not honest to define the "Sixties Scoop" as genocide. Removing children from abuse and neglect is not genocide. Regarding the sterilizations, tubal ligations are a legitimate form of birth control that many women chose; however, the procedure for giving informed consent to tubal ligations will always be open to legal challenges due to ambiguity of what is considered informed consent. Lawsuits are one reason medical care is so expensive. A lawsuit, and even a settlement, is not proof of medical malpractice or genocide.

Mar 10, 2019
What of things like marginalizing a once dominant culture, making members feel unwelcome in the land they built? The tactics of what the Democratic Rackets call the "civil rights" movement in the U.S. actually have forms that constitute what psychologists often call mental or emotional abuse
Before the godder takes yet another opportunity to get all self-righteous, he ought to know the role of his religion in all of this.

"Indian residential school system[nb 1] was a network of boarding schools for Indigenous peoples.[nb 2] The network was funded by the Canadian government's Department of Indian Affairs and administered by Christian churches...

Mar 10, 2019
"about 30 per cent of Indigenous children (around 150,000) were placed in residential schools nationally.[3][4]:2–3 The number of school-related deaths remains unknown due to an incomplete historical record, though estimates range from 3,200 upwards of 6,000.

"The residential school system harmed Indigenous children significantly by removing them from their families, depriving them of their ancestral languages, exposing many of them to physical and sexual abuse, and forcibly enfranchising them.

"The legacy of the system has been linked to an increased prevalence of post-traumatic stress, alcoholism, substance abuse, and suicide, which persist within Indigenous communities today.

"The TRC report found that the school system amounted to cultural genocide."

Mar 10, 2019
"Administered by the Anglican Church, the facility opened as the Mechanics' Institute, a day school for boys, in 1828 and became a boarding school four years later when it accepted its first boarders and began admitting female students. It remained in operation until June 30, 1970.

"Overcrowding, poor sanitation, inadequate heating, and a lack of medical care led to high rates of influenza and tuberculosis; in one school, the death rate reached 69 per cent."

-Yet one more shining example of how religion represents the WORST of the human species.


Mar 10, 2019
This is the norm, not the exception.

"THE Catholic Church in Australia has apologised for its part in an assimilation policy aimed at breaking the spiritual and cultural identity of Aborigines, by removing tens of thousands of black children from their parents.

"Tens of thousands of Aborigines, called the "Stolen Generation were forcibly separated from their families under the policy from the mid 1800s until the mid 1960s.

"Some elderly Aborigines have told the inquiry that police on horseback simply rode up to their outback communities, snatched them and rode off again.

"As of 3 March 2019, there were at least 270 documented frontier massacres over a period of 140 years starting in 1794, which was considered "a state-sanctioned and organised attempt to eradicate Aboriginal people""

-And who sanctioned the state? Who gave it the moral authority to rid the continent of indigenes?

"Supreme Governor of the Church of England is a title held by the British monarch..."

Mar 10, 2019
The plight of its indigenous peoples is the most disgraceful stain on Canada. These people, not only survived but flourished against untold hardships for millennia, only to succumb, in the blink of an eye, to the vile righteousness of the invading Europeans. To witness what these proud and resourceful people have been reduced to, leaves me deeply ashamed.

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