Mary Durocher-Gardiner wants to join a proposed class-action lawsuit against the Saskatoon hospital she says sterilized her against her will.
“It happened in 1994. Right after I had my youngest. I was only 27,” Durocher-Gardiner said.
The Saskatchewan woman heard about the lawsuit this week proposed by two other Indigenous women.
“It still brings out feelings of helplessness in me. I was awake during the surgery,” she said.
Durocher-Gardiner said the unwanted medical procedure happened at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon and that she still has the medical records.
“All I remember is the anesthesiologist trying to put the needle in my back and the nurse bringing the consent form for me to sign. My instincts were crying out not to go through with it so I told the nurse, ‘No, I changed my mind. I don’t want to do this’ and I pushed the form away and refused to sign it,” she said.
But she said they wore her down and she felt intimidated by the male, non-Indigenous doctor.
“I didn’t know the full implications of what it was but I had an idea. I remember feeling violated and screaming for them to stop inside my head,” she said.
The two plaintiffs who filed a civil suit in Saskatoon are seeking $7 million each in damages for what they call ‘coerced sterilization.’ They claim they suffered “physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and psychologically.”
A publication ban prevents APTN News from naming them.
More women who say they were subjected to the same experience, like Durocher-Gardiner, would be included if a judge certifies the suit as a class-action.
Alisa Lombard of Ottawa is the lawyer in charge. She said the suit aims to compensate Indigenous women from across Saskatchewan.
Lombard did not respond to a message seeking comment.
So far, the suit alleges at least 20 women in the province were coerced into having the procedure or forced without proper or informed consent.
Some, like Durocher-Gardiner, had just given birth.
“I can say I wasn’t fully informed and I was coerced after I refused to sign the consent,” said Durocher-Gardiner, who is now 50. “It’s still traumatizing for me and made a huge impact in my life.”
The suit blames the province of Saskatchewan, its health regions, individual physicians, and Canada for the “dehumanizing treatment.” It claims the practice, which has been going since at least the 1930s, is an abuse of power and an example of racial profiling.
An apology was issued by the Saskatoon Health Region in July, after a researcher it commissioned interviewed several Indigenous former patients in a report the lawyer said forms the basis of the lawsuit.
The Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) said it failed to treat some Indigenous patients with the respect, compassion and support they deserved.
Earlier this week, SHR released a statement saying the women had a right to sue.
Court documents show the women feel their charter rights were breached. That includes their right to life, liberty and security, and their right to receive healthcare free of discrimination.
They are also suing for future cost of care, punitive or exemplary damages, and what they call “lost opportunity.”
Durocher-Gardiner said she was unsuccessful in having the procedure reversed later in life.