Trigger warning: the subject of this book and this media release – the forced sterilization of Indigenous women by Canada’s medical establishment – may be disturbing for some individuals.
EDMONTON, AB — 2021 left its imprint on the consciousness of Canadians through the discovery of thousands of graves of Indigenous children, over 7000 to date, at the sites of former residential schools across Canada. Equally remarkable was the anger and sadness expressed by Canadians of all backgrounds. The painful discoveries touched a nerve deep in the Canadian psyche.
A new year is now upon us and a new book, just released this week, encourages Canadians to pay attention to yet another chapter in the relations between Indigenous people and the Canadian establishment. Sacred Bundles Unborn reveals lived realities of true stories of forced or coerced sterilization by doctors and other practitioners who witnessed and participated in sterilizations with impunity.
Sacred Bundles Unborn speaks to the traumatizing realities of racial profiling of Indigenous women during their most vulnerable state, pregnancy. Indigenous people’s health care cards identify their ‘Indian Status,’ which leads to
a minefield of systemic racism and greater potential of sterilization. Across Canada, pregnant mothers have a history of being unknowingly subjected to ‘birth alerts’ when registering for health care, which has placed their newborn at risk of immediate apprehension by child welfare, and increased the potential of coerced sterilization. The irony is not lost in that the healthcare system is where Indigenous women continue to find themselves at greater risk of harm.
“Centuries of prejudice has resulted in the medical profession – where we go when we are most vulnerable – condoning and asserting that forced sterilization is acceptable.
The question is whether Canada wants to change. I believe that, with evidence such as is found in this book, the nation finally has no choice.”
Dr. Brenda Anderson
Associate Professor, Department of Gender, Religion & Critical Studies Luther College, University of Regina
The book includes significant insights by lawyers, midwives, doctors, policy makers, artists and poets, politicians, students, men and women, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to lend both personal and professional analysis to this topic. The practice of forced sterilization of Indigenous women is not a legacy issue. It continues to this day, all too often fed by blatant, overt racism. The book asks that Canadians stand up and demand sterilizations be criminalized in 2022 hereon.
Those who have contributed to this book are collectively referred to as The Fire Keepers. They include:
- Co-author of the 2017 External Review: Tubal Ligation in the Saskatoon Health Region, Dr. Yvonne Boyer. Prominent Indigenous human rights lawyer, Alisa Lombard.
- Medical doctor in Canada’s North for 30 years and Order of Canada recipient, Dr. Ewan Affleck.
- A senior lawyer in Indigenous advocacy and the human rights of children, former judge and Order of Canada recipient, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.
- Assistant professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, who wrote An Act of Genocide: Colonialism and the Sterilization of Aboriginal Women (2015), Dr. Karen Stote.
- Acclaimed Canadian poet and author of Medicine Unbundled: A Journey Through the Minefields of Indigenous Health Care, Gary Geddes.
- Canadian Institute of Health Research, Canada Research Chair Tier II, Indigenous Maternal Child Wellness; Associate Professor, University of Calgary, Dr. Jennifer Leason.
- Anishinaabe midwife and an Assistant Professor at Queen’s University, Dr. Karen Lawford.
- Past-President of the Canadian Association of Midwives (2018-2020), CAM’s first Indigenous midwife to serve as President for 9 years. A founding member of the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives (NACM), Nathalie Pambrun.
- Métis midwife and community builder at Seventh Generation Midwives Toronto and Call Auntie Clinic, Cheryllee Bourgeois.
- Director, Indigenous Teacher Education Program and Assistant Professor, University of Ottawa, published poet,
- Dr.Keri Cheechoo.
- Historian and researcher on Forced and Coerced Sterilizations of Indigenous women, Genevieve Johnson-Smith.
- Program Manager at Inter Pares – Human Rights Activist, Bill Fairbairn.
- President of the “Sumaq Wayta” Association of Women Victims of Forced Sterilization of Ayacucho, in the rural (Indigenous) community of Maucallaqta, Peru. Survivor of forced sterilization, Victoria Saccsara Quispe.
- Editor of Sacred Bundles Unborn, author, activist, and survivor of forced sterilization, Morningstar Mercredi.
- Canadian Medical Association Board of Directors President- Elect, 2021-22. Dr. Alika Lafontaine.
Each author is an expert in their profession, many are published and recognized for their works nationally and internationally.