(Melika Popp, who was sterilized against her will told APTN Investigates that the Saskatchewan hospitals review time is too narrow. Photo: APTN Investigates)
Holly Moore and Cullen Crozier
APTN National News
A Saskatchewan woman at the centre of a forced sterilization scandal says an external review launched by health region officials is not properly resourced and lacks the time required to conduct a thorough investigation into systemic racism in healthcare.
Melika Popp was among four Indigenous women who came forward alleging they were sterilized against their will over the last decade at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon.
She and two other women were the subject of APTN Investigates report “Against Their Will” which will re-air this Friday March 10.
In January 2017, the Saskatoon Health Region appointed Metis lawyer Yvonne Boyer and Metis physician Dr. Judith Bartlett to lead the review.
A spokesperson for the region said in an email they will not be conducting any interviews until the review is complete. They said they were not involved in designing the process “in order to ensure its independence.”
Popp is cooperating with the review panel and said she has plans to meet them mid-March but said their time frame is too narrow as potential survivors only have a few months to respond.
“There’s a question whether the resources and the time and space is there to ensure the experts can thoroughly assess not only the files but the broad practices of the health regions.” she said. “I’m really happy and pleased that the external reviewers have extensive knowledge of past and current issues relating to Indigenous human rights violations.” Popp said, adding she has faith in the experts chosen by the health region.
The review panel sent out a poster publicizing that it was seeking Indigenous women who felt they had been coerced into having their tubes tied after delivery in a Saskatoon hospital.
Popp questioned the value of putting the onus on women to come forward as opposed to reviewing charts for what she calls the health regions’ “biases, systemic racism, intolerant attitudes and discriminatory approaches.”
“I had hoped that these issues would be explored,” she said. “There should be calls to action, recommendations that were made and enforced. Not years from now but very soon.”
An email from the health authority said the review is required to actively seek women who may have had similar experiences.
“This was a requirement because, as we know from past, unrelated reviews, medical charts do not document a woman’s experience or how they felt during and after they were in our care.” the email said in part. “This review is about ensuring we have the right policies, procedures and training in place to support patients in this care environment. We hope this review will provide further recommendations on how we can improve.”
Popp said she wants to encourage more survivors to come forward.
“Lend your voices to this issue, otherwise change is not going to happen,” she urged. “I want transformative change in the healthcare region…where my children and future grandchildren never have to experience this again.”