Public Guardian Says He'll Fight High Court On Sterilization
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 25, 2003
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--Jay Chalke, British Columbia's public guardian and trustee, said Friday that his office will appeal a B.C. Supreme Court's ruling against 18 people with mental disabilities who had sued the province claiming it had illegally allowed them to be sterilized.
"This case examines a dark period in B.C. history," Chalke said in a statement. "Our office holds firmly to the view that historic wrongs are no less unjust because they are historic."
The 17 women and one man were forcibly sterilized while residents of Essondale Provincial Mental Hospital between 1940 and 1968, under a provincial law which was repealed in 1973. They claimed in the lawsuit that they underwent sterilization surgery for the hospital's convenience and without any scientific evidence supporting the belief that their children would inherit their disabilities. They also called the sterilizations a form of assault and accused the hospitals of violating their sexual privacy and integrity.
In its decision earlier this month, the province's high court wrote that, while the sterilization law has been found to be "widely discredited as morally repugnant and scientifically invalid", the plaintiffs had not challenged the law nor how it was implemented.
B.C. Attorney General Geoff Plant acknowledged that forced sterilizations on people with developmental and other disabilities "now cause people some sense of distress." Platt told the Vancouver Sun that the province would be willing to negotiate a settlement with the claimants, but that they have been not been able to do so in the past.
British Columbia and Alberta were the only two Canadian provinces to pass laws sterilization laws during the last century. In 1999, Alberta's government announced it would spend $82 million to compensate 247 people who had been sterilized while in the province's mental institutions.