The Coercive Sterilization of Aboriginal Women in Canada


Excerpt from Stote's Article, Page 117-118:

"This paper considers the coercive sterilization of Aboriginal women in both legislated and non-legislated form.[1] In Canada, there exists but one concise history of eugenics, and other works dealing with sterilization have rarely progressed beyond an examination of the legislation itself.[2] Nonetheless, studies have confirmed that Aboriginal women were disproportionately targeted by enacted legislation in the province of Alberta.[3] Sterilization measures were also implemented in the absence of formal legislation. Evidence indicates this practice was carried out by eugenically minded doctors in Ontario and Northern Canada, where Aboriginal women were the prime targets.[4] No scholarship, however, has yet specifically referred to or conducted in-depth study of this practice as it was applied to Aboriginal women. And although coercive sterilization policies have been recognized as racist, sexist, and imperialist, how this practice was carried out on Aboriginal women has yet to be fully understood within this larger context.[5]

Working toward this goal, I build on existing scholarship and provide a historical and materialist critique of coercive sterilization, one which allows the practice to be understood within the larger relations of colonialism, the oppression of women, and the denial of indigenous sovereignty. As the capitalist mode of production of Canadian society depends on a history of colonialism and control of Aboriginal peoples’ land and resources by the Canadian state, a central purpose of this work is to locate the sterilization of Aboriginal women within this context. Further, the expropriation of Aboriginal lands and resources and the imposition of capitalist relations were made possible through the subordination and exploitation of women both from colonizing countries and in their asserted colonies. For this reason, the control of Aboriginal women’s reproduction is also considered within the context of the exploitation of women.[6]

I begin by briefly tracing the rise of sexual sterilization as a cost-effective public health measure and show how presenting eugenic ideology as fact served to obfuscate the problems arising from industrial capitalist relations in the early twentieth century. I then provide an overview of some of what is known about the sterilization of Aboriginal women in Canada. Finally, I place this practice within the larger context of Indian policy in Canada. I argue for coercive sterilization to be understood, not as an isolated instance of abuse, but as one of many policies employed to undermine Aboriginal women, to separate Aboriginal peoples from their lands and resources, and to reduce the numbers of those to whom the federal government has obligations. I show how the effects of the sterilization of Aboriginal women, whether intended or not, are in line with past Indian policy and serve the political and economic interests of Canada." (117-118).

Publication Information

Stote, Karen. "The Coercive Sterilization of Aboriginal Women in Canada." American Indian Culture and Research Journal 36, no. 3 (2012): 117-150.

Stote, Karen
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