A Quebec Superior Court judge has authorized a class action against three doctors accused of sterilizing Atikamekw women against their will.
One of the two women leading the class action — which is on behalf of all the women from the Atikamekw First Nation who allegedly didn't consent to a procedure that impaired their fertility — says she was sterilized without any knowledge of it happening beforehand.
The other woman said she succumbed to pressure from one of the three doctors before the procedure.
The women are not identified in the judgment released Monday by Justice Lukasz Granosik, due to the sensitivity of what they experienced, according to Léa Lemay Langlois, one of the lawyers representing them.
It was unclear to Lemay Langlois why the doctors were not identified by their full names, despite having been in previous public court filings.
The lawyer believes more victims could come forward as part of the lawsuit.
'A lot of trauma'
"It's very difficult for class members to come forward and talk about it. There is a lot of trauma and difficulty around it," she said, adding the collective nature of a class action could make it easier for some to seek justice for what happened to them.
The women say the life-altering procedures were a form of racism carried out in a context of systemic discrimination. They are seeking unspecified compensation for what they and their loved ones suffered as a result.
The class action initially sought to target the health board overseeing the hospital where the procedures took place, but Granosik only authorized the class action against the three doctors, one of whom died in 2019.
The group first made the request for the class action in November 2021. The case could take years to wind its way through the courts, as there is a grace period allowing defendants time to appeal and more plaintiffs could come forward.
A university study released late last year found there have been at least 22 cases of forced sterilization of First Nations and Inuit women in Quebec since 1980.
The allegations included in the class action have not been proven in court.