This spring, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights did a study of forced and coerced sterilization in Canada. The Canadian Association for Community Living (CACL) and People First of Canada (People First) wrote a letter to the Senate. The letter explained that many people with intellectual disabilities have been sterilized against their will in Canada. We sent our letter in on May 17th, 2019.
Sterilization is when people are given medication or surgery that prevents them from being able to have babies. Sterilization is forced or coerced when it happens without a person’s permission or under pressure from others.
CACL and People First shared that thousands of people with intellectual disabilities were sterilized during the eugenics movement. At the time, it was common to believe that people with disabilities were ‘defective’, ‘undesirable’, or ‘unfit’ people. It was also common to believe that disability happened because of bad genes that should not be passed on. Because of this, from the 1930s to the 1970s, it was legal to sterilize people with intellectual disabilities in parts of Canada.
The Senate wanted to learn about the forced and coerced sterilization of indigenous women in Canada. CACL and People First shared that our stories – the stories of persons with disabilities – are connected. Indigenous people were also stereotyped for not being ‘normal’. Both groups of people faced discrimination and were sterilized during the eugenics movement.
In 1986, the Supreme Court decided the Eve Case. The judge said that Canadians should never be forced to be sterilized when it isn’t needed medically. Forced and coerced sterilization is no longer legal in Canada.
However, sterilization isn’t just a concern of the past. People with disabilities can still be stereotyped. Many assume that people with intellectual disabilities do not have sexual relationships and cannot be good parents. Even though it is more controversial, some people are still sterilized even today.
This violates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD protects the fertility of persons with disabilities on equal basis with others.
We are looking forward to hearing what the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights has learned through their study. And CACL and People First are committed to reminding the Senate of the ties that people with intellectual disabilities have to the issue of forced and coerced sterilization in Canada.