A medical ethicist hopes a damning report that outlines how Indigenous women in Saskatoon were coerced into being sterilized is a "teaching moment" for doctors and hospitals across the country.
"It's egregious, it's blatant, it's clearly racist and it's very unlikely it was confined to one or two health authorities or confined to a few First Nations women," said Arthur Schafer, a bioethicist and director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba.
Schafer says the report released this week should be read by doctors and health-care professionals not just in Saskatchewan but across Canada.
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The 57-page report released this week outlines how at least seven Indigenous women in Saskatoon were coerced into having tubal ligation surgery after giving birth. It details how they often felt racism and degradation during their hospital visit, have mistrusted the medical system, and felt "invisible, profiled and powerless."
Schafer said while the report was about Saskatoon hospitals (specifically Royal University Hospital), it has implications for doctors and hospitals elsewhere.
"Every hospital, every health-care faculty in Canada should be studying what happened in Saskatchewan and learning from it and dedicating ourselves to preventing it from happening again, anywhere, ever," he said.
Report provides historical context
The report says sterilization of Indigenous women in nothing new in Canada.
"Historically, Canada's sterilization policies have had great detrimental effects on Indigenous women," the report said.
"Large numbers of Aboriginal women and men were sterilized for being 'mentally unfit' – when in reality, for various cultural and historical reasons they did not fit in with the Eurocentric dominant society's definition of 'fit.'"
The report said Saskatchewan did not participate in sterilization policies that were enacted in Alberta and British Columbia, but it does say the "sterilization legislation legacy remains intact through imprints in not only Saskatchewan but all of Canada's health care system."
Schafer said the fact this happened recently and not in the distant past should come as a shock to Canadians.
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