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BC Sterilization Victims Win Settlement
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 23, 2005

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--Nine women who claimed they were illegally sterilized while housed in a provincial institution decades ago will share $450,000 in a lawsuit settlement agreement announced last Wednesday.

The women claimed they were operated on so that they would not be able to have children while they were young patients at Riverview Psychiatric Hospital between 1940 and 1968.

They filed the suit nearly five years ago, saying the provincial government ignored its own law by allowing irreversible tubal ligations to be performed on them without their consent, with no valid medical reason, and without the required reviews.

The Sexual Sterilization Act of 1933 gave authorities permission to allow hundreds of people with intellectual disabilities and mental illnesses to be sterilized under the belief that they would pass their "defects" on to their children, and be further "burdens" to society. The law was similar in many respects to one in the neighboring province of Alberta, along with 33 states in the USA. From 1907 through the mid-1970s more than 60,000 people were sterilized under these eugenics laws during the popular American eugenics movement.

The B.C. law did have limits and conditions. In order for a man or woman to go through the operation, officials had to prove that the procedure was "medically necessary", and that the person had consented to having it done. Officials also had to get permission from a "eugenics board" which was to review each case.

The eighteen women and one man involved in the original suit civil suit said the operations were performed on them without those conditions being met. They claimed that the procedures were a form of "sexual assault" done for the staff's convenience.

All of the cases were dismissed in 2003, after a court determined that that those who administered the surgical procedures were acting with good intentions. But the province's Court of Appeal overturned the decision in nine cases earlier this year, allowing them to move to trial. They were scheduled for a second trial this coming spring.

Public Guardian and Trustee Jay Chalke, who represented the women, said it was time for a settlement.

"Some of our clients died during these lengthy proceedings and we had to consider the age of those still living," he said.

The settlements range between $25,000 and $100,000 for each of the women.

"Nine women sterilized in B.C. have lawsuits settled for $450,000" (Macleans)


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