Thank you for inviting me to present today, on behalf of my clients, the brave indigenous women who have painfully shared their experiences of forced sterilization to protect other women from the same experiences.
I would like to first acknowledge the land, the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, and express my gratitude to them for allowing us to gather here. As well, thank you, honourable members of Parliament, for inviting the voices of the survivors of forced sterilization to be heard here today, while keeping in mind that some women have not survived.
I want to caution those present and those listening that we are about to describe very difficult and traumatic matters. If anyone thinks they may be impacted by these experiences, I strongly encourage you to make sure you have trustworthy supports available to you, or wait to listen until your supports are available.
If you require mental health supports or are in crisis, please call the toll-free help line at 1-855-242-3310. Counsellors are available in English and French, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On request, counselling can also be delivered in Cree, Ojibwa and Inuktitut. lf it is an emergency, call 911.
I represent indigenous women in a putative class action in Saskatchewan, M.R.L.P. and S.A.T. v Canada and other defendants, as well as indigenous women in other provinces, alleging similar experiences. We've been contacted by dozens of women reporting that they have been forcibly or coercively sterilized in publicly funded and administered hospitals in Canada. When there is a spike in public attention in the matter, more women come forward.
First, there are no words to convey the amount of pain and suffering my clients have survived, being robbed of their sacred ability to carry life, give birth, pass on their knowledge and culture and watch children in the number of their choice grow and become parents themselves. Their complete bodily autonomy over any and all decisions relating to procedures affecting their reproductive capacity has been violated.
As indigenous people, wealth is determined by the good relations we cultivate with our children, grandchildren and community members. For my clients, the decision on whether to gain in this kind of wealth was stolen from them, and we must all remember in our work the tremendous weight of this loss.
Many of the women who have reached out did not know that they had rights, that they had a choice. Some did not know that, under Canadian law, no doctor, nurse or government has any right to make decisions about their fertility for them. They were not given a fair chance to partake in medical decisions about their reproductive capabilities. In fact, their wishes for their own bodies were ignored. lt is critically important that women know what their rights are and that their rights are proactively upheld by medical professionals, their self-regulating entities and governments alike.
For the few moments I have here today, I will share the stories of some survivors further to their instruction and with their consent to do so. I've condensed the stories as much as possible without risking the exclusion of critical information and experiences. I share these stories in hopes that you will honour the voices of these survivors by creatively crafting a resolution process in co-operation with them that will put an end to these atrocities once and for all.
Liz is an Ojibwa woman from northern Ontario. She reports being pregnant with her third child at approximately 20 years old, in the late 1970s, when child and family services told her, “You might as well abort the baby, because if you have it, we are going to take it anyway.” After a late-term abortion, she was also sterilized without proper and informed consent. Her body bears the physical scars of the unwanted abortion and sterilization to this day.
S.A.T. is a Cree woman who gave birth naturally to her sixth child in Saskatoon, in 2001. When presented with a consent form for her sterilization, S.A.T. reports hearing her late husband say, “I am not [expletive] signing that,” before she was wheeled into the operating room, over her own protests. She recalls trying to wheel herself away from the operating room, but the doctor stopped her and redirected her back to the same operating room. She repeatedly said, “I don't want this,” and cried while the epidural was administered. When she was in the operating room, she kept asking the doctor if he was “done yet”. He finally said, “Yes, cut, tied and burned there. Nothing is getting through that.”
S.A.T. is a strong advocate for the specific criminalization of coerced sterilization.
D.D.S. is a 30-year-old Nakota woman from Saskatchewan. She was scheduled to have a Caesarean section for the delivery of her third child, in December 2018, six months ago, in Saskatchewan. Immediately before the administration of an epidural, the surgeon interrupted the discussion with the anaesthesiologist in an abrupt and aggressive manner, directing her to sign a consent form for the C-section. D.D.S. noticed that a tubal ligation was also listed on the consent form and believed that she had no choice but to sign. She does not recall prior conversations regarding a tubal ligation beforehand and did not want one. She wished to have more children.
D.D.S. was sterilized following her Caesarean section. She was devastated and immediately asked a nurse whether the operation was reversible. She has suffered psychologically as well as physically in the past months.
D.D.S.'s injuries are all the more tragic given that they occurred after this action had commenced and government defendants—the health authorities, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan, and the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association—had direct and specific knowledge of the practice of forced sterilization of indigenous women in Saskatchewan and in other provinces.
Sterilization without proper and informed consent continues to unnecessarily impact the lives of more women and families as responsible entities sit idle, decrying the heinous nature of the practice but failing to take any meaningful action to prevent it, punish it and provide reparations to the victims and their families. D.D.S.'s experience is evidence that the practice is ongoing, because it happened just over six months ago. Her beautiful daughter has not yet cut teeth and D.D.S. has yet to heal. From my experience in speaking with dozens of victims of forced sterilization, that healing is a very hard road.
D.D.S. was sterilized without her proper informed consent after the United Nations Committee Against Torture, having termed forced and coerced sterilization a form of torture, issued its recommendations to Canada and called on it to take measures to prevent it and punish the practice, and to provide reparations to the victims of the practice, over a year after a statement of claim was filed in this very matter. D.D.S.'s forced sterilization was foreseeable and preventable. D.D.S.'s unwanted sterilization falls squarely at the feet of those who were in a position to make change, who had notice and actual knowledge of this heinous practice, who yet chose not to take swift action.
Immediately following the release of the final report on the national inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women, announced hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for the protection of women's reproductive rights—abroad. My clients are disappointed but, sadly, not surprised. They are growing accustomed to the failure of successive governments to humanize them, to protect them, to honour them and to make things right. The courageous women who I have the honour of representing call upon you to govern and to work collaboratively with various orders of government to create solutions to mitigate the harms and losses for the indigenous women who have suffered this enormous injustice. Further, we call upon you to make reparations to help these women and their families heal from the insufferable dehumanization arising from indifference, negligence and racism that has been visited upon them.
My clients have asked the Senate, when it examines the forced and coerced sterilization of indigenous women, to remember the women and their lived experiences, and the little spirits who, against their will, they were prevented from bringing into this world. My clients respectfully ask the same of you, honourable members of Parliament, and ask that, when you put their experiences at the centre of your understanding of this issue, you immediately create solutions that will put an end to these horrific violations of human rights, and to what the inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women's final report properly qualified as an act of genocide.
and good afternoon.
Thank you for inviting us here today to testify on a very difficult but important topic, the forced and coerced sterilization of indigenous women and girls.
I'm Francyne Joe, a proud member of the Shackan First Nation, just south of Merritt, British Columbia, and president of the Native Women's Association of Canada. I use she and her pronouns.
I would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the unceded and unsurrendered traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
Since 1974, NWAC has represented the collective voices of indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people of first nations, on and off reserve, both status and non-status, disenfranchised, Métis and Inuit. By using a gender-based approach to the issues our people face, we are improving the overall well-being of individuals, and through extension, their communities, as our women are the foundations of the families. NWAC has 45 years of expertise conducting culturally relevant, gender-based analysis.
The forced, coerced and involuntary sterilization of indigenous women and girls is an extremely serious violation not only of human rights and medical ethics, but of the reproductive rights of indigenous women and girls. Impairing the reproductive status of indigenous women and girls against their will violates the rights to equality, non-discrimination, physical integrity, health and security, and constitutes an act of genocide and violence against women. This reprehensible procedure is not only an assault on the individual rights of indigenous peoples, but also affects indigenous families, communities and populations, continuing the history of colonization and assimilation in Canada.
Historically, forced sterilization was routinely inflicted on indigenous women in Canada and was permissible by law. This was an attempt by the Canadian government to reduce the population of indigenous peoples in Canada. This sterilization legacy remains intact through the intergenerational impacts of targeted cultural groups, distrust of settler systems and the complex socio-economic and health status of indigenous women. Racism and colonization are deeply rooted in the health care system and are fundamental mechanisms of the sexist and paternalistic health policies.
Combined with the forced assimilation of indigenous children of earlier generations in residential schools and modern-day failures of social services to place indigenous children in the care of indigenous parents in accordance with modern child welfare laws, the coerced sterilization of indigenous women continues to perpetuate mistrust within the health care system.
Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms expressly prohibits discrimination based on sex, race and ethnic origin, and further guarantees the right to life, liberty and security of the person. In 2018, the United Nations Committee Against Torture stated that forced and coerced sterilization is an act of torture. However, this practice continues within a country that holds itself as a champion of human rights.
The failure of health care practitioners to obtain proper consent perpetuates colonial attitudes where indigenous women and girls are treated as wards of the state, or less than human.
Canada has been aware of this issue for decades. In fact, this issue was brought up in the House of Commons at the very least in 1976, well after most eugenics legislation in the provinces had been repealed. At that time, there were still high levels of sterilization. These procedures were being performed on indigenous people in “Indian hospitals”. As well, there were high levels of sterilization of Inuit women in the north.
Remarkably, Canada did not take action then. There is no excuse for Canada to fail to act now. Immediate action must be taken to recognize and protect indigenous women and girls in a way that centres, respects and appropriately addresses their experiences and their voices.
I would like to take some time to discuss NWAC's recommendations to return birth closer to home and bring about reproductive justice that protects the rights of indigenous peoples.
Too many indigenous women and girls have had to leave their communities to give birth, which in many cases leaves them alone to give birth, far away from their families, communities and culture, increasing their vulnerability to forced and coerced sterilization. We need increased access to culturally safe birthing supports, such as indigenous midwives and doulas, immediately. If indigenous midwives and doulas were present, forced and coerced sterilization would not be happening.
In addition to these supports, which are necessary for prevention, we need to have adequate and appropriate culturally safe and trauma-informed supports and services closer to home to respond to women who have been impacted by forced sterilization and to respond to those who might be re-traumatized by the media attention surrounding recent allegations.
We recommend that the committee speak to the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives, NACM. They have recently released a position statement on forced and coerced sterilization of indigenous peoples.
Our indigenous women and girls deserve what anyone else deserves in the health care system: free, prior and informed consent and the right to have that consent respected and followed.
Therefore, health care providers need to examine how and when they counsel their patients about birth control, particularly when working with indigenous women, given the history of colonialism and the resulting systemic racism within the health care system.
Therefore, we also recommend that health care providers move beyond informed consent to informed choice.
Informed choice is a decision-making process that relies on a full conversation in a non-urgent, non-authoritarian setting. It provides the patient with autonomy and control and places authority on other forms of knowledge, values, lived experiences and relationships of the patient.
Oftentimes, informed consent involves providing the standard information, for example, the description, risks and benefits of a procedure, without recognizing the social context in which decisions are made and the relational autonomy of the patient.
Informed choice is a way of addressing this gap and of shifting from a physician-led to a client-centred conversation. Informed consent is the end goal of the informed choice process.
It is clear that hospitals need to be safer places for indigenous women and girls to attend, as there is clearly a risk for severe human rights abuses against indigenous women and girls.
We recommend developing funding and implementing an accountability mechanism or mechanisms within hospitals to hold practitioners accountable for obtaining consent in these medically unnecessary procedures. These mechanisms require the full co-operation of medical regulatory authorities and must be done with the leadership of indigenous women and their chosen representatives.
Hospitals in Canada need an indigenous ethics and advocacy office in every hospital, equipped with indigenous midwives and indigenous advocates.
This is not only to ensure the availability of traditional healing and equitable access to culturally appropriate service delivery, but it will also help ensure that patients are protected from racism, sexism and harmful stereotypes that are clearly informing the medical staff.
We recommend that both provincial and federal medical regulatory authorities work with indigenous women's organizations and governments to identify and improve on sterilization surgery policies and procedures at a minimum, obtaining and defining free, prior and informed consent and anti-racism in the medical practice.
Furthermore, NWAC recommends that annual reports must be generated from medical regulatory authorities to identity the number of indigenous women sterilized, in order to monitor trends and identify practices regionally and nationally. If troubling trends arise, then investigations must take place. This may be done with the assistance of the indigenous ethics and advocacy offices in hospitals.
We recognize that the final report of the national inquiry is calling for significant milestones and an important step toward identifying the causes of all forms of violence faced by indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people in Canada.
As forced and coerced sterilization constitutes an act of genocide and violence against indigenous women and girls, we recommend that the 231 calls for justice from the final report of the MMIWG inquiry must be implemented.
Last, the TRC calls to action that the Government of Canada has already committed to must be implemented, specifically the calls to action around health, numbers 19 to 24.
The direction forward, as we see it, is relatively simple. We must end all forms of violence against our women, girls, gender diverse people and communities. This includes forced and coerced sterilization of indigenous women and girls.
Thank you. Merci. Kukwstsétsemc.
Thank you for having me today and for considering this issue. I've been researching and thinking about the issue of coerced sterilization for over 10 years now. I want to highlight that indigenous women have been experiencing this issue for much longer than that.
I also want to acknowledge that indigenous women have their own voices on this issue and I'm not purporting to speak on their behalf.
I am encouraged to see that women's experiences are slowly being acknowledged, including by this committee. Thank you for this. As I've said before in other forums, however, I need to qualify that I am cautiously optimistic. That caution is based on my reading of history and the records of previous governments who have played a role in enabling the coerced sterilization of indigenous women. Despite having had many opportunities to intervene, they have sought to minimize the issue and avoid accountability, rather than approach it with the openness and honesty it requires.
My hope is that our appearance here today and the many brave women who are coming forward will result not only in getting something on the official record for future researchers like me to find, but also that the necessary actions will be taken to address the issue and ensure that it stops.
The coerced sterilization of indigenous women has taken place under what's often referred to as eugenics legislation in Canada, in Alberta and B.C. in particular. The documentary record shows that indigenous women were disproportionately targeted for sterilization overall under Alberta's Sexual Sterilization Act from the late 1930s until its repeal in 1972. Though much is unknown about B.C.'s Sexual Sterilization Act, some indigenous women were sterilized in provincial institutions under this legislation. These women were often viewed as mentally defective, sexually promiscuous or inferior in some other way.
We know that the federal government was aware that coerced sterilizations were happening under provincial legislation in provincial institutions, that it was sometimes looked to for consent for these operations and that, through broader legislative and other means, it also contributed to these taking place.
Coerced sterilization also took place outside of eugenics legislation. The documents I examined reveal that over 1,000 indigenous women were sterilized over a 10-year period, mostly in the early to mid-1970s, often in federally operated “Indian hospitals” across Canada.
These documents are only partial and don't tell the experiences of each individual woman, but they do show there was a loosening of guidelines on when sterilizations could be performed, that consent forms were inadequate and that qualified interpreters weren't always used. They also show a climate of racism and paternalism, leading to the view that sterilization was for some women's own good as a means of dealing with poverty and other public health issues so prevalent in indigenous communities.
This trend was allowed to continue following federal legislative and policy changes since the 1970s under the banner of family planning. The historical record shows that federal officials hoped that by decriminalizing contraceptives such as birth control and, consequently, sterilization for non-therapeutic reasons, this would curb the indigenous birth rate.
Federal actions and inactions set out parameters in which medical practitioners could act more freely in persuading indigenous people to adopt birth control and to consent to sterilization. This, coupled with the continued relations of colonialism and systemic racism faced by indigenous peoples, contributed to the context in which the coerced sterilization of indigenous women would continue.
The historical record also shows that Canada was aware that it may well be ultimately responsible for any actions taken by those it employed to deliver services, including contractually delegated services, to indigenous people. More recently, approximately 100 women have come forward alleging forms of coercion and systemic racism resulting in their sterilization without full, prior and informed consent, as recently as December 2018.
While other individuals have experienced coerced sterilization in Canada, indigenous experiences need to be understood within their own unique context, and unique actions are needed to address the issue.
In terms of immediate actions, those performing coerced sterilizations need to be held criminally responsible. Clear directives need to be given to all health professionals that coercion of any kind in the delivery of health services is not tolerated, and clear consequences need to follow if coercion does take place.
The mandatory framing of health and welfare professionals on issues of colonialism, systemic racism, poverty and the stereotypes associated with those is needed. Culturally grounded supports should be made available for indigenous women who are navigating decision-making in western medical institutions.
I have submitted these and further recommendations in my written brief to you.
I want to highlight that, for indigenous people, systemic change is also needed to the relations that continue to fundamentally shape every interaction indigenous women have with Canadians and Canadian institutions that lead to the possibility of coercion in the first place.
The coerced sterilization of indigenous women is connected to colonialism and the continued expropriation of indigenous lands to the benefit of settler society and private corporations.
Coerced sterilization is one of many forms of violence experienced by indigenous women. The violence committed against indigenous bodies is connected to the violence committed against indigenous lands. Coerced sterilization also works to destroy the connections between women and their peoples while reducing the number of those to whom the federal government has obligations. It breaks the link between aboriginal women and future generations. It undermines the ability of women to make decisions about their own lives.
The practice is linked to other policies stemming from the Indian Act, including the sexist and race-based definition of who is an Indian, which has denied many the ability to participate fully in their communities. Other policies like residential schools or the sixties scoop forcibly transferred children out of their communities and into state-run institutions and non-indigenous families.
Indigenous children continue to be disproportionately targeted in the child welfare system today. Indigenous women are over-incarcerated in prisons. These interventions promote assimilation and reinforce the stereotype that indigenous women are unfit mothers, unable to care for children. The practice is also consistent with how other medical services have sometimes been offered to indigenous peoples. Systemic racism in health care is well documented and has often resulted in the control of indigenous bodies, the undermining of indigenous health and wellness and the criminalization of indigenous health and reproductive practices.
For indigenous women, to be able to freely choose western medical options or fully funded and supported indigenous options, created by and under the control of indigenous peoples, needs to be viable alternatives.
Coercively sterilizing indigenous women allows the Canadian state to deny a responsibility for and avoid doing something about the deplorable social, economic and health conditions in many communities, conditions that are recognized as being the direct result of dispossession and colonialism. It becomes more cost-effective to limit the ability of indigenous women to reproduce than to do what's required to improve the conditions into which children are born.
There's a finality to the practice of coerced sterilization. The break that comes from robbing indigenous women of the ability to reproduce can't be undone. It effectively terminates the legal line of descendants able to claim indigenous rights and title to land. In a settler, colonial and capitalist nation such as Canada, this has always been a goal of Indian policy. It's this context that leads to the long-standing and credible charge that coerced sterilization is not only a human rights violation, but it's also an act of genocide.
I'm left wanting to ask you distinguished members of Parliament: What is the full extent to which government knows about the coerced sterilization of indigenous women? Who performed the operations and who approved them? Where are the documents and where is the data? Where are those who are criminally responsible, either directly or indirectly? Why has the government failed to act on this up until now?
Women who have experienced coerced sterilization deserve all possible supports to assist them in sharing their experiences, if they choose, and in dealing with the continued impact of this violence in their lives. Addressing the individual harms resulting from coerced sterilization, as important as this is, isn't enough.
With all due respect, I want to reiterate that, until government responds with the transparency and humility required to fully investigate this issue, and until conditions of colonialism are ended and aboriginal peoples are returned lands, resources and the freedom to meet their own needs in their own ways without stipulations, we will be falling short of what's required to ensure this injustice and the many others experienced by indigenous peoples are stopped.
Thank you for listening.
First, thank you to the committee for inviting Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak to speak here today.
We're the national voice for Métis women in the Métis homeland. We wanted to come here to discuss the gross violation of basic human rights that must be rectified in the name of justice for Métis women.
The forced and coerced sterilization of indigenous women has been condemned as torture by the United Nations Committee Against Torture. The committee has recommended that Canada take immediate action to end this practice.
Since November 2018, over 100 indigenous women have come forward and reported their horrifying experiences with forced or coerced sterilization. We believe that's only the tip of the iceberg. When we went forward to do community consultations, many women said that when they were being coerced into having tubal ligations, they had no idea that it was a violation of their rights. They're only beginning to understand some of this stuff now.
The final report of the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, released just last week, found that forced sterilization is indeed a state violence that is disproportionately being directed against indigenous women and has jeopardized their rights to culture, health and security. We must work together to find justice for these women.
Canada has had a colonial history of violence against Métis women since the 1700s. Discrimination of our women was created and is still reinforced through government policies and practices that have institutionalized racism towards Métis women, girls and gender diverse people.
While the current government is working towards reconciliation, many discriminatory policies and practices exist today. The circumstances surrounding forced and coerced sterilization are deeply discriminatory.
The forced and coerced sterilization of Métis women is an act of colonization against Métis women, and urgent action is required. Tubal ligation permanently prevents women from becoming pregnant again naturally, which can have a profound consequence on women's mental and physical well-being as well as the well-being of their families and communities.
In some of the cases these women have brought forward, the women were sterilized even after they had expressly denied consent. Other women were unduly pressured by child and family services, which threatened to take away their parental rights. Others were simply not asked at all.
Tubal ligation is not an urgent medical procedure and is strictly elective. It also has many health risks and implications, such as infection, organ damage, ectopic pregnancies, incomplete closing of fallopian tubes and side effects from anaesthesia, which in rare cases can include death.
Furthermore, there are higher risks for women having a history of pelvic or abdominal surgeries, resulting in things such as obesity and diabetes. Métis populations are more likely to experience obesity and diabetes, putting Métis women at higher risk of complications when undergoing tubal ligation procedures.
Involuntary sterilization is based upon negative presumptions, stereotypes and misinformation about Métis women. This leads to disproportionate impacts on Métis women, but even more so for those who are most vulnerable, including Métis women who live in poverty, with HIV or AIDS or with disabilities, and gender diverse people such as trans, two spirit, and intersex Métis women.
Doctors are performing these procedures while these women are in labour or immediately postpartum, when the women are physically and emotionally exhausted, often still under the influence of anaesthetic and unable to give informed consent. Some women were not permitted to see their newborn babies or even leave the facility until undergoing the procedure.
Forced sterilization is a procedure that is performed without a woman's full, free, prior and informed consent. International human rights conventions have clearly established that forced and coerced sterilization violates multiple human rights laws and is an act of gender-based violence.
The United Nations and its member states have called upon Canada to impartially investigate all allegations of forced or coerced sterilization, and to ensure that the persons who are held responsible are accountable for their actions with immediate and adequate redress provided to all the victims.
The United Nations has also called upon Canada to adopt legislative and policy measures to prevent and criminalize the practice by clearly defining the requirement for prior and informed consent with regard to sterilization. Furthermore, Canada has been called upon to raise awareness among indigenous women and medical personnel of the requirement of free, prior and informed consent.
Canada has begun these steps to address the United Nations calls to action but no one is being held accountable for these dehumanizing procedures, and there has been little or no redress for any of our victims. Canada is taking steps to raise awareness about forced and coerced sterilization as well as the requirements for free, prior and informed consent, but Canada has openly stated that it does not intend to criminalize these practices.
Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak recognizes Métis women's rights to make informed choices about their own bodies according to their own values. Métis women have a right to consider all options and to be given as much time as they need to make an informed decision. Métis women have a right to have all of the risks and benefits associated with medical procedures explained in a way that they can understand. Métis women also have a right to refuse tubal ligation and to have that decision respected unconditionally.
Furthermore, Métis women have a right to lead the way in healing from forced and coerced sterilization, and to find solutions to end this violation of their human rights. Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak would like to see further research and data collection on forced or coerced sterilization procedures in Canada with a focus on disaggregated data collection and dissemination.
There needs to be more research done on the implications of the health care system, child and family services and the justice system with the introduction of legislation to protect Métis women's rights to informed consent in their health care. If research proves that criminalization is the appropriate response to these human rights violations, Les Femmes Michif Otipemisiwak will recommend that Canada take steps to introduce immediate measures to criminalize the practice of forced or coerced sterilization.
I thank you for giving us the opportunity to present.
I'll qualify this by saying that you're asking me, so you're getting my opinions.
There are laws in Canada for things such as assault, and the very fact that forced sterilization is not considered a crime under existing law is part of the problem. Whether or not a law is put in place, I am hesitant to go that route, seeing how laws are currently upheld in relation to indigenous peoples or in relation to women. Putting another law on the books without proper enforcement is not something that is going to solve any issue, and the criminal justice system itself is imbued with systemic racism. We know this from previous reports.
In my opinion, there are a lot of things. There are different levels of change that need to happen. On the individual level, there's dealing with the women who have been subject to this violence and supporting them and giving them proper redress. At the institutional level, there's dealing with hospitals, health care professionals and all of the other practitioners that interact with indigenous peoples in terms of that training and those policies that can be implemented on an institutional level.
Ultimately, in my opinion, the systemic level is where change needs to happen. Otherwise, we will continue to sit in these rooms and talk about these injustices. And these injustices aren't happening just in medical institutions, right? They're happening in the criminal justice system. They're happening in the child welfare system and so on.
Systemic change needs to happen. What is the context that is creating racism in the first place? What is the context that is allowing for coercion? That's where the change needs to happen.
As I was thinking about coming to this committee today...because this is tiring for people, right? I was thinking, how many more injustices is it going to take for people to do something? I'm a Canadian. How much longer? This is not to shame anybody in the room, but the opportunities are here. The time is right to do something. You guys can be some of the people involved in doing something fundamental to change the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples, and none of that is going to be completely effective if we don't address colonialism.
Personally, I can't accept that such a thing would happen anywhere in the world, and even less so in our country, Canada.
The questions I would really like to ask you may be difficult.
You said you don't have much data. People come to see you and tell you that they experienced this trauma, this illegal practice, that they were sterilized without their consent. There is something systemic there. There is concerted action. I'm not a doctor, but it seems that this type of medical act is practised in certain specific locations. As you mentioned, Ms. Joe, you just know that you have to avoid certain hospitals, because that sort of intervention might take place. There has been talk of asking the RCMP to investigate, but it doesn't happen, because there are too few complaints. In my opinion, one single complaint should be enough to get this file moving.
All that being said, how does one conclude, as you have, that there is a systemic problem, and concerted action against indigenous women? Have other communities experienced the same type of problem? I'd like you to enlighten me on that.
Ms. Lombard, you seem to want to respond, so please do so.
The other witnesses could answer afterwards, if they wish.