British Columbia

Cash settlement for sterilized women

The B.C. Supreme Court has approved financial settlements totalling $450,000 for nine elderly women who were forcibly sterilized at Riverview psychiatric hospital between 1940 and 1968.

The B.C. Supreme Court has approved financial settlements totalling $450,000 for nine elderly women who were forcibly sterilized at Riverview psychiatric hospital between 1940 and 1968.

The nine will receive individual awards ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 plus their legal costs.

The settlement brings an end to a lawsuit launched years ago by B.C.'s Public Guardian and Trustee – originally on behalf of 18 women who were forcibly sterilized.

The case went to trial in 2003 and was dismissed. However, a new trial was ordered last spring for nine of the plaintiffs.

Public Guardian and Trustee Jay Chalke says the time was right for both sides to settle. " We had had two of our clients die during this litigation and we were conscious of wanting this to be compensation that these plaintiffs would be able to enjoy during their lifetime."

The women were sterilized under the Sexual Sterilization Act – based on the mistaken belief that mental illness can be inherited.

However, these women, according to hospital notes, were sterilized for other reasons – promiscuity, amoral behaviour and unfitness for motherhood based on low intelligence.

They were among nearly 200 patients sterilized between 1933 and 1968. Almost all of them were women.

"And I think it was something that is a dark chapter in our history but also something that maybe not a lot of us were aware of at the time," said Chalk,

The Sterilization Act wasn't repealed until 1973.