The Stories We Tell

The Stories We Tell is a collection of brave and unrelenting people who are fighting for a better and fairer system that treats all people equally and with dignity and respect. I am honoured to share their stories with you.

The Stories We Tell

The words you find on this page are summaries of stories that have been shared with us over the years, please click on the link underneath the photo to hear the story in the survivors’ own words.

If you would like to share your story, please reach out directly via email:

Elizabeth Esquega

Hear Elizabeth’s story in her own words, here.

Elizabeth is an Anishinaabe women. When she was a teen mom, she was forced into sterilization and simultaneously forced to abort her child without full knowledge of the consequences of these actions.

Elizabeth remembers vividly that before she was forced into the operation, the Child’s Aid Society social worker told her that they would take her baby one way or another. She recalls that after the operation, she felt empty and her right and ability to bear life was stripped from her.  No complaint or investigation was done – Elizabeth suffered in silence until now. 

Elizabeth feels that sexual sterilization is similar to being sexually abused. They are both harmful, degrading and traumatizing. The abuses in each scenario want power and control over their victims.

This experience has impacted Elizbeth’s mental health. She was overcome with shame and suffered psychological effects. She realizes now that sexual sterilization is part of eugenics era  where people were labelled as unfit, defective, unworthy to justify being forcefully sterilized.  who were picked to be sterilized correlation between the sexual nature in the violence in the act.

Lois Cardinal

Read Lois’s story in her own words, here.

Lois Cardinal is a First Nations person from Saddle Lake Treaty 6 Territory. In 2007 they were diagnosed with gender identity disorder. They were followed by the lead of the Alberta GID program, Dr. Lorne Warneke out of the Grey Nuns Hospital Out Patient Psychiatric Unit. After a short time on hormonal medications, they were assessed as a candidate for bottom surgery. They failed one of the psychiatric assessments but were pushed through behind the scenes by Dr. Warneke. At this point they were very uncertain about the procedure and tried to express this but felt dismissed and pressured.

At the hospital before the surgery they told several nurses and surgical staff that they were nervous and not ready but the staff dismissed those feelings and said everyone feels like this before surgery. They were put in a headlock when they gave them the epidural and immediately regretted the surgery when they woke up in recovery and now feel they have added to the genocide of their own people.

Malika Pop

Hear Malika’s story in her own words, here.

Malika Pop is the founding leading plaintiff of a class action lawsuit claiming forced sterilization of Indigenous women in Saskatchewan. She is a member of Fishing Lake First Nation in Treaty 4 territory and a citizen of the Anishinaabeg nation.

Malika was sterilized after giving birth to her son in 2008. Malika was told that the operation was reversible. Prior to, during and after Malika gave birth, healthcare practitioners interrogated and shamed and racially profiled before she was forcefully sterilized. Similar to many other Indigenous women, Malika’s human rights were violated as she did not provide free prior and informed consent to being sterilized.

Forced sterilization is a genocide. This operation compromises Indigenous women’s ability to birth the next generations of children. Notably, Indigenous women with status under the Indian Act who are forcefully sterilized are prevented from passing on that status to future generations and as a result decrease the number of Indigenous peoples.

Malika urges the Senate to take concrete action to address forced sterilization to ensure free prior and informed consent is provided.

Morningstar Mercredi

Hear Morningstar’s story in her own words, here.

Morningstar is 58 years old. Morningstar does not describe her sterilization procedure when she was 14 years old and pregnant. She urges listeners to read her book “Sacred Bundles Unborn” which describes the inhumane and brutal torture.

Morningstar has only felt safe enough to talk about her experience once she turned 50 years old and when she surrounded by supportive, nurturing, compassionate, loving, understanding women and people in her inner circle.

The forced and coerced sterilization was a traumatic event for Morningstar. This was a genocide on her person. She now struggles with PTSD and suicidal depression. Morningstar reflects that forced coerced sterilization in Canada can occur by a surgeon who might feel that based on by his bias and racial perspective that he has the right to discontinue a woman’s right to conceive, therefore ending her DNA, her genealogical line and her lineage.

Nicole Rabbit

Hear Nicole’s story in her own words, here.

Nicole’s Blackfoot name is Eagle Woman and she is from the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta. Nicole comes from a family of educators. Nicole received her Bachelor of Education from the University of Saskatchewan and was valedictorian in 2004. She began her career as a teacher in 2004 and was a school principal for the last six years. 

In 2001, Nicole was a 28-year-old university student in her second year when she was coerced to be sterilized. At this time, she scheduled to deliver her baby through a c-section. After a successful c-section, a nurse approached her and said that she could not hold another baby and it was best to tie her tubes. She asked if it was reversible, and the nurse said yes. Nicole could not think clearly and was coerced into agreeing to the surgery and pressured to say yes.

Nicole was still on the hospital bed, exposed and in a vulnerable state when she was coerced by strangers to tie her tubes. Nicole was never asked what she wanted, and no one explained to her the consequences of the operation. Her human rights were violated and her identity as a women taken away. To this day, Nicole does not what kind of procedure was done on her. She smelt burning flesh, but no one described to her the operation.

Nicole’s mother, and other women on the Blood Tribe reserve had the same experience. Her mother was coerced into being sterilized in 1973 at the hospital in Fort Macleod, Alberta. Nicole states that her people are communal – they help each other. The sterilization of women has limited the number of people that make up the next generation of care takers.

Sylvia Tuckanow

Hear Sylvia’s story in her own words, here.

Sylvia is a Cree woman from Peepeekisis First Nation in Saskatchewan.

Sylvia was forcefully sterilized by health care professionals on July 9, 2001, after giving birth to her son. Sylvia always dreamed of having a large family. Sylvia’s forced sterilization led to a breakdown in her marriage and family because her husband did not believe in birth control.

After her son was born in Saskatchewan hospital, Sylvia overheard her husband shouting at nurses. She overheard him saying “I am not signing that.” At this time, Sylvia was very disorientated after giving birth. When her husband left the hospital, she was wheeled to an unfamiliar room. Sylvia felt scared and she continued to ask the health care practitioners what was going on. She did not agree or sign in agreement to another operation. Sylvia was forced onto a hospital bed and tied down. She cried and pled with the doctors to stop the operation – no one listened. After the sterilization procedure was completed, the doctor said, “there, tied, cut and burnt. Nothing will get through that.”

Sylvia has suffered alone for 14 years until others like Malika Pop, Brenda Pelletier and Roxanne Ledoux came forward with their stories. She is advocating for the protection of future generations form this genocide.

The Stories We Tell