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Alisa Lombard is an associate with Maurice Law, Canada’s first national Indigenous-owned law firm, and the lead on a proposed class action law suit in Saskatchewan brought by two women who claim having been forcibly or coercively sterilized between 2000-2010. Over 60 women have reached out reporting they were sterilized without proper and informed consent, most from Saskatchewan, and also from Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario.
We spoke with Alisa the week the issue of the ongoing practice of forced and coerced sterilizations of Indigenous women and girls in Canada became headline news, prompting calls for urgent action to end this human rights violation and provide justice for the survivors.
Canadian and international media are reporting on the ongoing practice of coerced of forced sterilizations of Indigenous women in Canada. Here’s what you need to know.
What is forced sterilization and coerced sterilization?
October 2018 marks 14 years since Amnesty International released our “Stolen Sisters” report. In 2004, our report was ground breaking and helped to shine a light on a little known Canadian human rights crisis, and it promoted solutions identified by the Native Women’s Association of Canada and other partners in the Indigenous community.
Ottawa, June 5, 2018 – Amnesty International is alarmed at the government of Canada’s failure to act on a recommendation by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ to establish a national task force to review and reopen cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people.
At a press conference today responding to recommendations in the Inquiry’s Interim Report and request for an extension, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett said it was premature for a national task force to be struck before the National Inquiry’s final report is issued on April 30, 2019.
It’s March, and like many working parents, I’m making plans for the nine weeks when school is not in session this summer. Last year I naively thought that my child and I could have a chat, I’d book camps, and everything would be set. Oh, how I learned! I am more prepared this year and am in the midst of immense internet research and an intense series of complex negotiations involving myself, my child’s other parent, my child, my employer, organizations I work with (lest I book my vacation during a peak time on the human rights calendar), my family and close friends who live across the country, the parents of my child’s closest friends, my own playmates whom I want to go on camping adventures with, my bank account, and the weather forecaster.
On behalf of Amnesty International, and all our members across Canada, we want to express our deepest sympathy to the family of Tina Fontaine, to her friends and to her community.
Everyone who has lost a loved one to violence deserves justice. They deserve answers about what may have put their loved one in harm’s way. They deserve to know that police have done everything in their power to identify those responsible for taking their loved one from them. And they deserve to see the perpetrators brought to account.
As the Manitoba Justice Inquiry so clearly set out almost 20 years ago, when justice is not achieved, the burden of suffering on families and friends is only increased.
Every woman and girl has the right to live in safety without threat of violence, intimidation, or harassment.
Canadian government statistics show that First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women and girls face much higher rates of violence than all other women and girls in Canada. Large gaps in government support for services to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities deny Indigenous women and girls supports they need to escape and recover from this violence.
There are roughly 15 shelters and transition houses serving 53 Inuit communities across the Arctic. Some of these shelters are extremely small and most communities are accessible only by air.
The federal department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs reports that it provides funding for only 41 shelters to serve the 634 recognized First Nations communities in Canada. According to the National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence, as of January 2018 only 38 shelters were operational.They do not provide funding to shelters in Inuit communities.
On May 9th, a provincial election will be held in British Columbia. Amnesty International is urging all candidates to make clear public commitments to closing crucial gaps in oversight, accountability, and service delivery that jeopardize the safety, health and well-being of many British Columbians and undermine human rights protection in the province.
We need your help! We're asking all our supporters in British Columbia to help us ensure that human rights are part of this election.
Here's how:1. Learn more
Amnesty International has issued an open letter to all candidates in this election outlining our concerns, including:
Rebecca Kudloo and Rhoda Ungalaq both serve on Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada’s Board of Directors. Rebecca, an educator and counsellor from Baker Lake, Nunavut, is involved with Mianiqsijit, a local project providing counselling to address inter-generational trauma. Rhoda Ungalaq, a retired teacher in Iqaluit, Nunavut, is a board member for the Qimaavik Women’s Shelter and Sivummut House (homeless shelter for women), operated by the YWCA Agvik Nunavut.
Rebecca and Rhoda sat down in Ottawa with Amnesty International’s Women’s Rights Campaigner Jackie Hansen last week to talk about the inadequacy of services in the north for Inuit women fleeing violence. Join Rebecca and Rhoda and take action now to call on the federal government to support the supports and services needed by Inuit women fleeing violence.
By Jackie Hansen, Women’s Rights Campaigner
Annually since 1991, women’s rights activists from around the world have joined together to take action as part of the 16 Days of Activism to end Gender-based Violence campaign. Women and girls continue to experience violence directed at them because of their gender. Indigenous women and girls experience higher rates of violence than any other group of women and girls in Canada. The federal government has launched a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. This is a laudable effort and one that Indigenous womens’ organizations, Amnesty International and many others long called for, but action to end violence against Indigenous women and girls must not be delayed until the Inquiry finishes its work two years from now.
New information released last week concerning police investigations into allegations of sexual violence and other abuses of Indigenous women and men in northern Quebec highlights the urgent need to ensure better police accountability, particularly for individuals and communities who have experienced a history of severe human rights violations in Canada.
“Indigenous women and girls are rightly questioning whether they can trust police and government to take allegations of sexual assault and other abuses seriously,” said Beatrice Vaugrante, Directrice générale of the Francophone Branch of Amnesty International Canada. “We know that a swift and thorough investigation is the most likely way to meet the burden of proof in the prosecution of sexual assaults. Unfortunately, mistrust of authorities, fear of repercussions and gender discrimination means that assaults either generally go unreported, especially if the alleged perpetrators are police, or go reported but with obstacles to accessing justice. These concerns are magnified for Indigenous women and girls who have experienced so much racism and discrimination in Canadian society.”
Christy Jordan-Fenton is a grassroots activist, educator, and author who lives with her family on a farm outside of Fort St. John, a small community in northeast British Columbia. Being raised in part by a Cree stepfather who attended residential school, and later residing with her residential school survivor mother-in-law, as well as being dedicated to Indigenous ceremonial practices, fueled Christy’s activism in support of the rights of Indigenous peoples. It also inspired her to write four children’s books about her mother-in-law’s experience at residential school. Christy uses her books as tools to educate young people about the residential school system and its legacies. Christy is also part of the grassroots effort to respect Indigenous rights by halting construction of the Site C hydroelectric dam. Amnesty International caught up with Christy in Fort St. John.
By Jackie Hansen
Each year in October, Indigenous women and men travel from Fort St. John, a small community in northeast British Columbia, to attend vigils on Parliament Hill in Ottawa honouring the lives of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. They bring with them the powerful stories of the mothers, daughters, sisters, aunties, friends, and community members whose lives have been cut short. Each year they have more stories to share, as the list of stolen sisters from northeast BC grows ever longer. And each year, the calls from these grassroots activists for concrete action to end this homegrown human rights crisis grow ever louder.
On October 4th, attend a vigil in your community honouring our stolen sisters.
Press Conference Comments
Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada (English Branch)
It is almost twelve years since Amnesty International launched our Stolen Sisters report, documenting the role of long entrenched discrimination in putting shocking numbers of Indigenous women and girls in harm’s way.
In raising our voice, we joined the Native Women’s Association of Canada; family members of murdered and missing First Nations, Inuit and Métis women and girls; women and girls who had survived violence; and countless frontline organizations and allies; all of whom had been struggling for years to draw attention to the violence and demand real action to bring it to an end.
Above all else today we honour the steadfast determination of the families who have courageously bared their pain and sorrow to Canada and, in fact, the world in pressing for justice.