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

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

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

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

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
41 positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Cases have gone up in Northern Health in the past week, as they have all over B.C. (K-J Millar/Black Press Media)
Northern Health reports new highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

Nineteen cases were reported to Public Health last Tuesday (Nov. 17)

FILE – British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Masks now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in B.C.

Many retailers and businesses had voiced their frustration with a lack of mask mandate before

(Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared Thursday.
COVID-19 outbreak at LNG Canada Project site

14 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at this time

A man has been arrested after a Nov. 11 break and enter at the Sandspit Airport, Queen Charlotte RCMP said in a media release on. Nov 17. (Black Press Media files)
Man arrested after Nov. 11 break and enter at local airport

Queen Charlotte RCMP investigate recent spate of break and enters

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Pamela Wright, a UNBC professor in the department of ecosystem science and management, is presented with the Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership - Professor, at a virtual ceremony today (Nov. 24) in recognition of her collaborative work with community partners and students to conserve Canada’s northern lands. (Photo submitted by Mitacs)
UNBC professor recieves prestigeous conservation award

Pamela Wright recognized for leadership in ‘breakthrough’ work on northern issues

Pamela Wright, a UNBC professor in the department of ecosystem science and management, is presented with the Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership - Professor, at a virtual ceremony today (Nov. 24) in recognition of her collaborative work with community partners and students to conserve Canada’s northern lands. (Photo submitted by Mitacs)
UNBC professor receives prestigious conservation award

Pamela Wright recognized for leadership in ‘breakthrough’ work on northern issues

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Pixabay)
All dance studios, other indoor group fitness facilities must close amid updated COVID-19 rules

Prior announcement had said everything except spin, HIIT and hot yoga could remain open

B.C. Liberal interim leader Shirley Bond speaks to reporters from Prince George via Zoom conference, Nov. 24, 2020. MLAs are being sworn in for the legislature session this week, many of them also by video. (B.C. legislature)
B.C. Liberal leadership contest will wait for election post-mortem

Interim leader set to face NDP on payments for COVID-19

Most Read