About this Toolkit

As of April 2019, over 100 Indigenous women from across Canada have come forward to say that they were forced or coerced to undergo a sterilization procedure. Of these women, most had not been offered other forms of birth control and were only given inadequate information about sterilization. Some of these women recall feeling pressured, if not threatened, by health care providers to consent to a sterilization procedure — without fully understanding the procedure’s risks or permanency. In some cases, sterilization procedures were conducted despite the women expressly refusing to provide consent and/or sign a consent form.

In response to the forced or coerced sterilization of Indigenous women, advocates, experts, and leaders have since called for systemic, sweeping changes to the health care system. Their recommendations include making changes to accountability standards and to legislation and policy; providing education and training on cultural safety, informed consent, and anti-racism to health care providers; and offering Indigenous-specific services and supports, including education on patient rights and responsibilities and informed consent.

With funding from the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Indigenous Services Canada, the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) was able to hold engagement sessions with Indigenous women to explore sexual and reproductive health needs and priorities. In these sessions, participants highlighted a gap in sexual health education and a need to empower and raise awareness among Indigenous women on their rights within the health care system; their understanding of their options when it comes to sexual and reproductive health; and the need for information on what to do when those rights are abused. The participants stressed there is a lack of trust between Indigenous community members and mainstream health services, which leads to hesitancy on the part of Indigenous community members to use these services — and, ultimately, to poorer health outcomes.

From these engagement sessions, NWAC developed this toolkit. This resource aims to provide education that empowers First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women, girls, and gender-diverse people to “know their rights” in the context of sexual and reproductive health. The toolkit includes resources on:

  • Informed Consent: Explore the meaning of free, prior, and informed consent, its application in health care, and what to do when it is not followed.
  • Patient Rights: Gain a deeper understanding of your rights within the health care system to better protect and advocate for yourself.
  • Birth Control Options: Delve into birth control options including their permanency, efficacy and side effects, so you can make an informed choice about what is best for you.
  • Informed Choice: Learn how to make an informed choice based on your personal knowledge, preferences and values using the informed choice decision-making tool.
  • Filing a Complaint: If you feel that you have not given informed consent for a procedure, follow our step-by-step guide on how to file a complaint with health care governing bodies, appeal a decision and seek legal action.

Click here to download NWAC’s Knowing Your Rights Toolkit: Sexual and Reproductive Health and get informed and empowered about your options and right to access them safely and free from discrimination or coercion.

Knowing Your Rights Toolkit (1 MB)

Knowing Your Rights: Birth Control Options

One of your rights as a patient navigating the health system is having access to information about your sexual and reproductive health in order to make informed choices. This includes understanding all your options when it comes to birth control, contraception, and family planning.

Click below to download NWAC’s Knowing Your Rights Toolkit: Birth Control Options and learn more about forms of birth control (also called contraception)! 

Knowing Your Rights Toolkit: Birth Control Options (2 MB)