Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights condemns the forced sterilization of all people, including those detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as a violation of their fundamental human rights. These violations are part of a long history of state violence and anti-immigrant and anti-minority attacks.
Though shocking, the treatment suffered by the people detained at the Irwin County Detention Center is not unique to the United States. Canada has a long history of reproductive oppression aimed at subjugating Black and Brown people, Indigenous people, (im)migrants and refugees, and people who are incarcerated, living with disabilities, and living in poverty. Society built on white supremacy has used forced and coerced sterilization against communities it has deemed unwanted, unvaluable, or in need of control.
In November 2015, media outlets broke the stories of women in Saskatchewan who had experienced forced sterilization from 2010 to 2015. In 2018, 60 Indigenous women sued the provincial government, claiming they had been forced to accept sterilization shortly after giving birth and before being allowed to see their newborn babies. They all reported being pressured by health professionals and social workers to undergo tubal ligation surgeries, despite the elimination of policies which permitted and promoted forced sterilization in the 1970s.
According to our partners at the Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN), forms of sterilization persist in the treatment of Indigenous communities. NYSHN talks of modern forms of forced sterilization, such as the "over-prescription of Depo-Provera to Indigenous youth, which has been proven to cause signs of infertility when over-used." NYSHN has also reported incidences of forced sterilization in Canadian prisons.
The world has also seen disturbing reports of forced sterilization and compulsory birth control carried out by the Chinese government against Uighur Muslim peoples in Xinjiang internment camps.
As a human rights organization fighting for reproductive and gender justice, Action Canada fights for the right of all people to bodily autonomy. Sexual and reproductive rights include the right to become pregnant, to not become pregnant, to give birth in safe and supportive conditions, and to parent our children and care for our families in safe, sustainable communities. The use of forced sterilization is eugenics and it is genocide. We must all rise to fight it and to demand justice for Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples and communities.
We call on our partners in the sexual and reproductive health sector, on our colleagues in health care, on public health associations, and involved in other health entities to join us in speaking out against this human rights violation in Canada, in the United States, and around the world.
We also ask for all our partners in Canada to join us in support the campaign calling for Status for All, as permanent status for all (im)migrants is the first step toward safeguarding people from detention, ensuring that everyone has access to health care, and protecting against ongoing human rights violations.