Canadian police won’t investigate doctor for sterilizing Indigenous woman



The Canadian government says it is making urgent efforts to stop the forced sterilization of Indigenous women, and calls the practice a human rights violation and a prosecutable crime. Yet police say they will not criminally investigate a recent case in which a doctor apologized for his “unprofessional conduct” in sterilizing an Inuit woman.

In July, the Associated Press informed of On the case of an Inuit woman in Yellowknife who had surgery in 2019 aimed at relieving stomach pain. Obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Andrew Kotaska did not have consent to sterilize the woman and did so over the objections of other medical personnel in the operating room. She is now suing him.

“This is an important case for Canada because it shows that forced sterilization is still happening,” said Dr. Anjali Malhotra of the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia. “It’s time this was treated as a crime.”

Kotaska declined to comment to the AP. Last month he released a public apology, admitting that sterilization “caused suffering to my patient.” He said he is doing what he feels is in the best interest of the woman.

The Canadian government has stated that anyone who performs a forced sterilization can be charged with assault and that the police are responsible for deciding whether to pursue a criminal investigation.

But the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said they would not investigate Kotaska because the woman had not filed a criminal complaint.

Kotaska’s statement “is very likely to be inadmissible in criminal court proceedings,” the RCMP said, and the victim will require investigators to see her confidential medical records. Police said they “respect the victim’s rights to seek justice through other legal mechanisms and to choose which processes she participates in.”

The woman’s lawyer, Steven Cooper, said he was not ready to proceed with a criminal complaint and was traumatized by having to participate in the medical board’s investigation.

Lisa Kelly, who teaches criminal law at Queen’s University in Ontario, said the Canadian legal system does not require a victim to participate if there is other solid evidence.

“In this case, there is another doctor and nurse, and possibly others, who can provide credible and reliable evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the patient did not consent to sterilization,” Kelly said.

While police and prosecutors have discretion, Kelly said, they “don’t have the discretion to ignore what appears to be evidence of a serious aggravated assault.”

Sen. Yvonne Boyer, who has proposed a law that would criminalize forced sterilization, said a long history of mistrust between Indigenous people and police has made it difficult for many victims to seek criminal prosecution.

“If a police officer learns of a crime being committed, they have an obligation to investigate,” Boyer said. “Why would it be any different to sterilize an Indigenous woman without her consent?”

The woman who was sterilized by Kotaska sued him and the hospital for 6 million Canadian dollars ($4.46 million), calling his actions “oppressive and malicious”.

In May, medical authorities in the Northwest Territories suspended Kotaska’s license for five months, forced him to pay part of the cost of his investigation and took an ethics course after finding him guilty of “malpractice”. Asked to take. Noting that these sentences have now been completed, Kotaska said he hopes to “continue to act with humility.”

Emma Cunliffe, a law professor at the University of British Columbia, called it “a very light suspension for forcibly sterilizing someone.”

She said: “It’s a very disturbing message that these violations of Indigenous women are not seen as serious.”


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. AP is solely responsible for all content.



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