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Breaking the wall of silence: Collecting forced sterilization testimonials from First Nations, Inuit women in Quebec


The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador is launching a new research project aimed at documenting the forced sterilization of First Nations and Inuit women in Quebec.

The AFNQL is inviting First Nations and Inuit women who believe they were sterilized without their consent to come forward and share their personal experiences, or those of loved ones with their permission.

In claims as recent as 2019, there have been numerous reports across Canada of Indigenous women receiving tubal ligations after giving birth, leaving them sterilized without their full and informed consent.

On Thursday, a new report by the senate committee on human rights stated that coerced sterilization of Indigenous women still happens in Canada.

According to the committee, most of the women interviewed for the report were coercively sterilized between 2005 and 2010, but the practice began decades earlier. 

Researchers from the Universite du Quebec en Abitibi-Temiscamingue (UQAT) and the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission (FNQLHSSC) will collect testimonials from Indigenous women who were forced or coerced into sterilization, or suffered obstetric violence in Quebec.

“This is not something that people just come forward and say it like that. A lot of times too, people didn't even know that they had that done. So we’re trying to bring the light on that,” Marjolaine Sioui, the executive director of the FNQLHSSC, told CTV’s Your Morning on Friday.

According to a press release, the testimonials will give researchers an opportunity to document the circumstances in which these medical procedures might have been performed in order to identify certain trends, if there are any.

Ghislain Picard, chief of the AFNQL, said these medical procedures were aimed at “a slowdown in the First Nations birth date” and these decisions were imposed against the values of these women.

“Today, I hope that the wall of silence will be broken, because women will finally be listened to. The research will provide a portrait of what some of these women have been through in hospitals, and finally make the truth known,” he said in a press release.

The researchers said they launched the project in Quebec after the provincial government there chose not to participate in a federal working group, created in 2018, to examine claims that Indigenous women were sterilized against their will.

In January 2019, a spokesperson for Quebec’s health minister at the time, Danielle McCann, said the province is very sensitive to the issue of coerced sterilization and is already having talks with a number of First Nations in Quebec. They also noted that health care is within provincial jurisdiction. 

Suzy Basile, who leads the Canada Research Chair on Indigenous Women’s Issues at UQAT, said in a press release that there is “a glaring lack of relevant data on this topic” in Quebec.

“In light of these facts, it seemed essential to us to compile a portrait of the situation in order to better understand it and measure its impacts,” she said.

Sioui said it’s important to gather evidence of these procedures so they can bring them to both provincial and federal governments in order to work together to make systemic change.

“It's all about working with the professionals, working with the system, with the health system, and changing things,” she said.

In an emailed statement to CTV, a spokesperson for Indigenous Services Canada said they were working with provincial and territorial governments, professional colleges, Indigenous partners and women “to increase safety and respect for Indigenous women in Canada’s health care system.”

“We are working with our partners to address coerced and forced sterilization as part of a broader imperative to eliminate systemic racism, improve cultural safety, ensure informed consent, and reduce the barriers that Indigenous people, and particularly Indigenous women, face when accessing health services,” the spokesperson said.

Sioui said she hopes the project will bring awareness to the issue so that people will know what’s happened to these Indigenous women and prevent it from happening again.

“More now, people are hearing the true story,” she said. “First Nations have been doing a lot, even when they didn't have the means to do that. So the work is ongoing, we can't let go, we have to move forward. And we need we need everybody to be part of that.”

The research group is collecting testimonials from First Nations and Inuit women in Quebec from May 17 until Aug. 31. For those who would like more information on how to provide a testimonial, the organization asked that they visit

With files from The Canadian Press Top Stories

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