Saskatoon Health Region supports the calls to action, following today’s release of an external review into the lived experiences of coercion into tubal ligations for Aboriginal women.
“On behalf of Saskatoon Health Region, we are deeply sorry for what these women experienced, and for any other women in our community who had similar experiences, but were unable to come forward,” says Jackie Mann, vice-president Integrated Health Services, Saskatoon Health Region. “The report states that racism exists within our health care system and we, as leaders, acknowledge this. This report provides us with clear direction on how we must move forward to truly start the healing that needs to occur. We are thankful to the women who had the courage to come forward to share their story with the reviewers about their experience. You have been heard and will be listened to.”
The 56 page report authored by Dr. Yvonne Boyer, a lawyer and Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Health and Wellness at Brandon University, and Dr. Judy Bartlett, a physician and former professor with the College of Medicine at the University of Manitoba, was the result of a six month independent external review. The external review was launched in January after Aboriginal women came forward with concerns about being coerced into having tubal ligations after delivery. Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure in which a woman's fallopian tubes are clamped or severed and is considered a permanent method of birth control.
The independent review had initially been expected to be completed by spring. However, to ensure every effort was made to reach out to women who delivered their baby in Saskatoon, the reviewers extended the process until the end of June. This included a collective data analysis session with community and health leaders where the group reviewed de-identified information the reviewers had gathered through their interviews in order to develop themes. These themes then formed the basis of the reviewers’ calls to action.
During the process of the review, sixteen Indigenous women called and spoke to the review assistant. Of those women, seven were able to participate and shared their stories. The reviewers also interviewed health care providers, and their voices are also reflected in this report.
“We would like to thank Dr. Boyer and Dr. Bartlett for helping us move forward in this journey and for their thoroughness and thoughtfulness,” says Mann. “We also thank our health care teams for their honesty and candor.”
The report findings indicates the women interviewed “clearly felt stressed and under much duress from being coerced to have a tubal ligation while in labour”. With themes of “feeling invisible, profiled and powerless” emerging from their interviews, the women have indicated compelling stories of these experiences affecting their self-image, relationships and trust of the health care system. Based on their insights and those from care providers, the reviewers have developed ten calls to action.
“It is clear we have much to do. While our policies haves changed, we need to revisit these using a more collaborative approach involving those most impacted. It is difficult to hear the women’s stories and the impact tubal ligations have had on their lives. I encourage all the health care providers within Maternal Services to read the report and reflect individually on what they can do to improve our service for First Nations and Métis women,” says Leanne Smith, director Maternal Services, Saskatoon Health Region. “Every woman, regardless of race or social circumstance, should feel safe in our care. This report serves as motivation to improve our services and this will include a more robust Advisory Council with the voices of grandmothers, women and First Nations and Métis leaders. We also want to collaborate with our communities about First Nations and Métis health and wellness to support the creation of a service that allows women to feel a sense of belonging and support in the most difficult of circumstances, particularly through their pregnancy and following the birth of their child.”
Over the coming weeks, the Health Region will be sharing the report and discussing the calls to action with government agencies and other partners with the hope that together we can begin to address the root causes of these inequalities and discrimination.
“Hearing the voices of First Nations and Métis women through this review has had a profound impact,” says Mann. “The calls to action that have come from this process are setting us on a path to improving our services. To successfully move forward we will need to work closely with those women who seek healthcare, with our providers and with our community and partners to make the improvements that need to be made. It has taken a great deal of courage to get to today, but our next steps will require further courage to develop an action plan and to act on that plan.”
The report can be found here.