A Senate report recommends Canada overhaul its consent processes for medical procedures, after a study found Indigenous women were forced or coerced into tubal ligation or sterilizations without being properly consulted.

The 46-page report outlines 13 recommendations, including legislation to prohibit this practice in Canada.

Several Saskatchewan women testified before the Human Rights Senate Committee demanding accountability.

During this I kept saying no, I don’t want to do this and crying uncontrollably. But nobody listened to me. I was completely ignored by everyone in that room,” said Sylvia Tuckanow.

She had just given birth to a healthy baby boy in July 2001 at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. Shortly after active labour, Tuckanow accused hospital staff of wheeling her into an operating room.

“I didn’t know exactly what I was objecting to at the time. But I had a terrible feeling because no one had talked to me about what was going on. I felt terror and fear as I was taken into that room,” she recalls.

Tuckanow remembers asking several times if the doctor was finished, but did not receive a reply until the procedure was complete.

“When he was finished, he said there, tied, cut and burnt. Nothing will get through that. I felt relief that I was getting out of that room,” Tuckanow testified.

“This terrifying experience left a void inside of me. I felt no longer a woman and I am terrified of hospitals and doctors. I didn’t say anything to anybody because I thought no one would believe me.”

Other recommendations in the report suggest Canada apologize to the victims and prepare a compensation package.

“After hearing the compelling testimony during this study, I drafted an introduced Bill S-250, in the Senate Chamber in late June. This bill would make it a criminal offense to sterilize someone against their will or with out their consent. It’s a direct response to the calls we heard during the study. Passing this bill quickly would heed one of the reports key recommendations,” explained Senator Yvonne Boyer Thursday addressing the report.

Melika Popp is a lead plaintiff in a proposed class-action suit over forced or coerced sterilization, alleging she too is a victim to this in 2008.

“I was interrogated, shamed, subjected to systemic racial profiling, harassment, and was further marginalized and violated when I was forcibly sterilized. I was told that the procedure was reversible, and that I didn’t want to be in this kind of situation again,” she said. “There are no words to describe the violation and powerlessness of having your cultural identity as a woman essentially sterilized. Such an inhumane brutal act can only be compared to being gutted wholly alive.”

The Senators said many of the victims believed racism was a factor in them getting sterilized and that this report underscores the link between racism in the health care system and the use of sterilizations on vulnerable and marginalized groups.

(Photo of Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon.)