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Coerced sterilization reports sparking concern in Canada’s medical community

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Reports detailing allegations of coerced and forced sterilizations of Indigenous women are « deeply concerning » and describe serious violations of medical ethics, the president of the Canadian Medical Association said Thursday.

« This should not be happening, » Dr. Gigi Osler said in an interview. « For me, to read these stories, it reinforces my desire and commitment for change to make sure … we are looking after our vulnerable groups and in this case, Indigenous women. »

No one should have a procedure performed on him or her without free, prior and informed consent, Osler said, adding that pressuring women into being sterilized is not only a violation of a victim’s human rights but also a violation of medical ethics.

She said Thursday that the association supports Ontario Sen. Yvonne Boyer’s call for a national study of the issue and it also plans to participate in a federal, provincial and territorial working group pitched by the federal government.

Working group proposed

Last week, Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott and Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor sent a letter to ​provincial and territorial ministers, as well as members of the medical community, to express concern over recent reports on forced and coerced sterilizations of Indigenous women and to propose a working group of senior officials on measures to improve cultural safety in health systems.

It also said the federal government sees merit in the working group of senior officials to oversee measures to improve cultural safety in health systems.

Osler responded to the ministers to say she shares concerns about 2017 findings published by Boyer and Manitoba Metis researcher Dr. Judith Bartlett on coerced sterilization in the Saskatoon Health Region and from the United Nations Committee Against Torture.

UN committee recommends Canada criminalize involuntary sterilization

Earlier this month, the UN committee said all allegations, including recent ones in Saskatchewan, must be impartially investigated and those responsible must be held to account. It also said governments need to use legal and policy measures to stop women from being sterilized against their will.

Other medical professionals are examining coerced sterilization reports as well.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario said the reports are troubling to the medical profession and Canadians as a whole, adding they are « entirely inconsistent » with the professionalism it sees from a vast majority of health care workers.

« As the largest physician regulatory body in Canada, we are prepared to partner with government to bring attention to this issue at the national level and make clear that such practices are simply unacceptable, » it said in a statement.

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada also confirmed it received a letter last week from the federal ministers.

« We will work together with the government and other concerned parties to ensure that all women experience safe and respectful childbirth, » CEO Jennifer Blake said.

Class action lawsuit filed

This week, sterilization victims expressed concern in response to the proposed working group, fearing it does little to nothing to immediately prevent the human-rights violation from happening to other women.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his government’s response to date during a roundtable interview on Friday with The Canadian Press.

« There are complex issues that feed into this and we have to at least get a handle on many of them to understand exactly that question ‘How could this happen? »‘ Trudeau said.

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

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

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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