For my colleagues' benefit, the motion is this:
That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Committee invite the Minister of Health to provide a briefing, at the earliest opportunity, on the forced sterilization of Indigenous women in Canada.
Frankly, I think it's broader than just indigenous women. It has primarily been indigenous women, but not exclusively.
When the minister appeared before committee, I had a chance to ask her one question on this. Her answer was this:
I have to agree with all of your comments, Mr. Davies. It's an appalling situation. It's completely unacceptable to think that this is happening in this country. It's certainly a clear violation of human rights, and also, it's gender-based violence. Here we are, on December 6, of all days, talking about this—a very appropriate day to be talking about this. It's just simply not acceptable at all.Minister Philpott and I work in close collaboration. We are reaching out to provinces and territories in order to further this discussion, and not only provinces and territories, but medical associations that regulate these professions. We want to make sure we do all that we can to put an end to this.
She finished by saying:
I've indicated I still can't believe that in 2018 we're having this conversation, and it's happening in this country. Let me be clear: This is absolutely unacceptable, and we will do all that we can to ensure that it no longer occurs.
Mr. Chair, I can only second the very powerful comments of the minister. This is a really appalling situation. I mean, we have women in this country who, as late as last year, have been sterilized against their will, without their knowledge, sometimes forcibly. We know that this constitutes torture under international law, and we know that the Supreme Court of Canada stated the obvious—that this is illegal—but we know it's going on. I think that we need to do all that we can, and as a health committee, it's our responsibility to delve into this as an emergency issue. I think it starts with the briefing.
I think the committee should probably conduct a study on this some time in the new year. However, at this point, I think that it's time for us, as a very collegial committee, to simply ask the minister to come back on this one issue to brief us on what's going on, how this happened, what steps are possible, whether charges are being contemplated, who is making these decisions to sterilize, and whether they are being held accountable. There are a lot of questions that I think we, as a health committee, should look into because these are medical procedures that are happening in health care facilities and primarily to a population—indigenous women—who are a core federal responsibility.
I think the least we can do is have a briefing on this. At this point, of course, we're going to be looking at the new year, so that gives us a lot of time to get the minister here. I would do that. I'll just give notice now that when we do go into committee business, if we don't get a briefing from the minister, I will be moving a motion that the chair send a letter to the chairs of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs and the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, proposing a joint study on the forced sterilization of indigenous women and on government action to eliminate this practice, which I think everybody in this room would want to see happen. The reason for that is that this is an issue that crosses over three committees. It affects women, it affects indigenous women, and it affects health. All three committees have a slice of this issue. No one committee has it all. If it were just studied by the indigenous affairs committee, well, that doesn't take care of the women who are not indigenous. If it were just studied by the status of women committee, it would not have the health component, and if it were just studied by our committee, we wouldn't have the indigenous component. It's a thing where I think all three committees ought to have a role.
I'll conclude just by saying that this is a call that has been officially made by Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights and Amnesty International, who have asked this Parliament, this committee, and members of Parliament to conduct that joint study.
Finally, under international law on the issue of coerced and forced sterilizations, they asked governments to investigate, to pursue charges and to seek redress for the victims.
I think we know now that not a single person has been charged in Canada—not that I'm aware of anyway.
I think it behooves us to investigate this thoroughly, and we can start by getting the briefing. I hope my colleagues will support my call for a briefing from the health minister. When we go into committee business, I will move my motion formally to have the joint committee study.