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Class action lawsuit proposed on coerced sterilization in Alberta

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A proposed class action lawsuit has been filed against the Government of Alberta on behalf of Indigenous women who say they were subjected to forced sterilization.

The lawsuit seeks $500 million in damages, plus an additional $50 million in punitive damages. It has been brought on behalf of all Indigenous women sterilized in Alberta without their prior and informed consent before Dec. 14 of this year.

The statement of claim, filed on Tuesday, alleges the province — including senior officials and ministers — had specific knowledge of widespread coerced sterilizations perpetrated on Indigenous women.

It also alleges the government turned a blind eye to that conduct and breached its fiduciary responsibilities.

Nothing in the claim has been tested in court.

“As a result of the defendant’s acts and omissions, Indigenous women suffered … physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and psychologically,” the statement of claim says. “Coerced sterilization has been destructive to their health, family, relationships and culture.”

‘No valid medical reason’

The statement of claim also refers to the proposed representative plaintiff May Sarah Cardinal, and a sterilization procedure she allegedly underwent in a northern Alberta hospital in December 1977.

It says Cardinal was 20 years old and married when she went to the hospital to give birth to her second child, and she and her husband wanted to have more. It says the people treating her told her a doctor had decided she should be sterilized so as not to have more children.

“She did not consent to this surgery,” the statement of claim says. “There was no valid medical reason for the surgery.”

‘Another dark chapter’

Celeste Poltak, a lawyer with the Toronto-based firm Koskie Minsky LLP, said coerced sterilization of Indigenous women is “yet another dark chapter” in the relationship between governments and Indigenous Peoples.

“This court action is a powerful and practical means for finally achieving access to justice for the victims,” she said in a statement. “The litigation of this claim will afford the government an opportunity to both examine the failings that permitted this situation and provide meaningful compensation to the victims.”

Poltak’s firm, which is working alongside Edmonton-based firm Cooper Regel, notes Alberta’s Sexual Sterilization Act explicitly authorized forced sterilizations in the province until 1972.

After it was repealed, doctors and nurses in Alberta continued to perform coerced sterilizations, the firm said, alleging these actions were a product of systemic and institutional racism.

This court action is a powerful and practical means for finally achieving access to justice for the victims.-Celeste Poltak ,  lawyer

A proposed class action is also underway in Saskatchewan by Indigenous-owned firm Maurice Law. It names the Saskatoon Health Authority, the Saskatchewan government, the federal government and a handful of medical professionals as defendants.

It was launched in 2017 by two women, each claiming $7 million in damages.

Earlier this month, Canada was ordered by the United Nations Committee Against Torture to stop the “extensive forced or coerced sterilization” of Indigenous women and girls — a finding that prompted calls for additional federal action by human-rights groups and the federal NDP.

The committee said all allegations, including recent ones made in Saskatchewan, must be investigated impartially, and those responsible held to account. The state needs to take legislative and policy measures to stop women from being sterilized against their will, the committee said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has defended his government’s response.

During a roundtable interview with The Canadian Press on Friday, Trudeau called the practice “heinous” while he stressed the importance of a working group of senior officials to oversee measures to improve cultural safety in health systems.

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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