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Feds reject push to amend Criminal Code to outlaw forced sterilization

Last Updated Dec 6, 2018 at 3:16 pm EDT

Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, makes an announcement on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is facing increased pressure from First Nations leaders and members of the legal community to amend the Criminal Code to outlaw coerced sterilization while the number Indigenous women coming forward with allegations grows. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

OTTAWA — Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s office says the federal government doesn’t plan to change the law to make coercing someone into being sterilized a crime.

First Nations leaders gathered at a special meeting of the Assembly of First Nations in Ottawa today want the government to amend the Criminal Code following a resolution passed by the organization this summer.

The resolution called for increased awareness, efforts to stop the practice and support for survivors seeking redress.

Wilson-Raybould’s office says the government is taking a “public-health approach” to the issue and existing provisions within the Criminal Code are meant to capture a range of criminal behaviour that includes pushing someone into a sterilization they don’t want.

Alisa Lombard, a lawyer leading a proposed class action of Indigenous women who allege they endured coerced sterilizations, says amending the criminal law would be a concrete step the federal government could take to deter the practice.

In November, a rapporteur with the United Nations said forced sterilization must be seen as equivalent to torture and asked for Canada to examine specific criminal provisions covering it, whether it is perpetrated by a public agent or private individual.

The Canadian Press