Allegations of coerced sterilization need public inquiry: Alberta First Nations chief

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam calling for government to investigate

Ongoing concerns about coerced sterilization of Indigenous women is nothing short of a “crisis” that warrants a public inquiry, says a prominent Alberta First Nations leader.

In an interview, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam said concerns were brought directly to his attention by a member of his community north of Fort McMurray.

He fears others could have been affected, maybe without their knowledge.

“You see it — there’s others in the community that appear to be having the same symptoms without nobody knowing why and nobody questions anything,” he said. “You tend to wonder, was it done to them without their consent, without them knowing?”

A public inquiry is necessary to ensure politicians deal with the issue “once and for all,” Adam added.

“I am deeply sorry in regards to what has happened,” he said, aiming that message at victims.

Morningstar Mercredi, an Indigenous author from Adam’s community who says she had a pregnancy terminated and her left ovary and Fallopian tube removed against her will in the mid-1970s in Saskatoon, said she hopes more leaders speak out.

“We are talking about our women and children,” she said.

READ MORE: Federal government plans examination of coerced sterilization

She also said she personally took comfort knowing her own chief was addressing the issue publicly, after she approached him about doing so.

“He took a stand in a supportive manner and I trust he will use his role as a leader in the most effective, proactive manner that would ensure coerced sterilization of Indigenous women is not permitted to continue,” she said. “I think he’s a good example.”

The chief’s comments come as the federal government tries to pull together officials from the provinces and territories this month to discuss the issue. Quebec has already indicated it is not willing to participate.

Stopping coerced sterilizations must be part of reconciliation efforts with Indigenous Peoples, Adam said, adding he wants to see the Liberal government act to amend the Criminal Code to make it a specifically defined crime. In December, chiefs at a meeting of the Assembly of First Nations in Ottawa also passed a resolution to politically support changes to the Criminal Code to explicitly criminalize forced sterilization.

“Mr. Trudeau has to come out and do what’s right because this has been going on too long and somebody has to correct the problem,” Adam said. “It is a violation of human rights.”

The federal government has so far rejected the push to change the Criminal Code, saying existing provisions forbid a range of criminal behaviour including coerced sterilization. Currently, a provision on involuntary termination of pregnancies and another on aggravated assault applies to anyone “who wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant.”

Alisa Lombard, a lawyer leading a proposed class action of Indigenous women who allege they endured coerced sterilizations in Saskatchewan, has said that explicitly outlawing coerced sterilization is the most concrete step the federal government can take in response to the grave allegations.

For its part, the federal NDP has urged that the RCMP immediately launch an investigation into all allegations of forced and coerced sterilizations in Canada, suggesting multiple, credible allegations of crimes have been made.

Morningstar said it was critical for Adam to communicate he believes the women coming forward with allegations, adding she also supports the push to outlaw coerced sterilization explicitly.

“One would think … why is the government not doing absolutely everything necessary to protect Indigenous women?” she said. “Shame on you, Canada.”

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Long-time Central Saanich councillor named NDP candidate for Saanich North and the Islands

King, who joins election campaign one week after its start, hopes to unseat Adam Olsen

Worklink march in Langford supports Orange Shirt Day

Ahousaht Prayer Song sets the tone

VicPD explains why calls for service can’t be compared to years before 2019

Department launches Open VicPD, new platform in aim to be transparent

Wetland property next to Saanich home donated for parkland through will

Brian Patriquin gained a love of nature and the environment spending time at Cedar Hill property

B.C. Greens introduce all-women slate for Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay ridings

School trustee Nicole Duncan assumes Oak Bay-Gordon Head candidacy

B.C. counts 125 new COVID-19 cases, up to 1,284 active

No new deaths or health care facility outbreaks

Health Canada green-lights rapid COVID-19 test

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

6 puppies rescued in mass seizure on Princeton farm die from illness: BC SPCA

Of the 97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized, most of the puppies suffered from parvo

Action demanded over death of First Nations youth in Abbotsford group home

Family and Indigenous organizations push for thorough investigation

U.S. boater fined $1,000 for violation of Quarantine Act

49-year-old man entered Canada to visit girlfriend in Surrey

More sex abuse charges laid against B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’

Investigators now focussing efforts on alleged victims within the Glad Tidings Church community

B.C. VOTES 2020: Businesses now owe $6 billion in deferred tax payments

COVID-19 relief from remittance to province ends with September

Most Read