Lawsuit accuses B.C. government of coercing Indigenous women into sterilization

VANCOUVER — A proposed class-action lawsuit accuses the British Columbia government of "sexism and genocide" over a decades-long practice of coercing Indigenous women into sterilization and abortions.

The lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court this week says the province had a law on the books sanctioning sterilizations for 40 years before it was repealed in 1973, though the procedures allegedly continued afterward.

The notice of civil claim says the practice had a "traumatic and destructive effect" that inflicted harm on Indigenous women and their communities, and was aimed at "eradicating" their culture.

One lead plaintiff in the case says she was handed paperwork authorizing doctors to tie her tubes for no "valid medical reason" just moments before a caesarean section procedure in 1983 at a hospital in Campbell River.

The woman, now in her 60s, says she was left traumatized and untrusting of doctors after being sterilized without proper consent, racked with guilt about the child "she might have had" if not for the procedure.

The class seeks certification by the court and damages for Charter violations, but the allegations in the lawsuit have not been proven in court and the province has yet to file a response to the claim.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2023.

The Canadian Press