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'It steals your dreams': Saskatoon woman not sure whether she will join forced-sterilization lawsuit


Debbie Ironbow still isn’t sure whether she’ll join a class-action lawsuit on forced sterilization.

Earlier this month, two Indigenous women launched the lawsuit against the Province of Saskatchewan, health regions, individual doctors and the Government of Canada.

The women claim they have suffered physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and psychologically after both of them were sterilized against their consent. A publication ban has been ordered by the judge protecting their identities. 

Both women are asking for $7 million in damages.

Ironbow, a Saskatoon mother of three, said she was sterilized in the 1990s without her consent during a caesarian section. She said the experience was something she’ll have to live with for the rest of her life.

“It steals your dreams,” she said. “And I never realized until it came out how deep all of that wounding really was.”

Ironbow said her doctor asked her if she wanted her tubes tied while she was going under anesthetic for the C-section.

“I’d never got married because of that,” she said. “There was no hope of having a family with a husband.”

Education first

If she does join the class action, Ironbow would like to see an education and healing component in the lawsuit.

“Will some of this go toward reconciliation between the health region and these women?” she asked. “We need that trust back, and I don’t think we have that right now. We have some women who won’t go see their doctor for female issues. And it’s common.”

The Saskatoon Health Region apologized publicly in July for past coerced sterilizations after a 57-page report was released examining the postpartum tubal ligation policy that was in place from 2005 to 2010. Dr. Yvonne Boyer and Dr. Judith Bartlett, who wrote the report, spoke to 16 women.

The region has revised its policy for sterilization.

“At Saskatoon Health Region, we remain committed to supporting the calls to action identified in the independent external review which was publicly released this summer,” read an email from the region. “We believe this work is critical to fostering respect and support for First Nations and Métis people.”

For her part, Ironbow said she’s disappointed the health region has never reached out to contact her, even though she’s made her story public. 

“I think the only thing that speaks is the law,” she said. “The only thing we have going for us as Indigenous women and Indigenous people is that we can go into a courtroom and we can assert an inherent right over our bodies.”

The class-action lawsuit still needs to be certified by a judge.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.



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