‘Good old boy network’ dominates FBI academy, lawsuit claims

FILE PHOTO: FBI headquarters building in Washington, U.S., December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

(Reuters) – Sixteen women filed a lawsuit against the FBI on Wednesday, claiming sexual discrimination and accusing it of running “a good old boy network” in its training program.

Male instructors exposed the former recruits to a hostile work environment, sexual harassment and inappropriate jokes, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in federal district court in Washington.

Seven of the women still work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and some did not use their full names in the suit, fearing retaliation, according to a court filing.

According to the suit, the bureau’s instructors are mostly men and they penalized and dismissed female trainees at a significantly higher rate than male trainees.

Some of the litigants accused the instructors of making inappropriate jokes and making multiple sexual advances on at least one of the female trainees.

The lawsuit asked that the bureau review its training evaluation process, pay $300,000 to each of the women for emotional stress, and that it hire more female instructors.

The FBI said in a statement to the New York Times, which first reported the lawsuit, that it was “committed to fostering a work environment where all of our employees are valued and respected.”

A representative for the bureau could not be reached early on Thursday by Reuters.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Nick Macfie)

NRA sues Los Angeles over law requiring that contractors reveal ties to gun group

An attendee speaks to representatives of the National Rifle Association (NRA) at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) annual meeting at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland

(Reuters) – The National Rifle Association sued Los Angeles on Wednesday over a new law requiring that contractors seeking to do business in the second most-populous U.S. city must disclose their ties to the gun rights group.

The NRA said the law violates its First Amendment free speech and association rights and its equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution, according to its complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court.

Mayor Eric Garcetti was also named as a defendant.

The Los Angeles City Attorney’s office and Garcetti’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit challenges an ordinance passed on Feb. 12 by the Los Angeles City Council that requires companies that want city contracts to disclose NRA contracts or sponsorships.

That ordinance was passed in the wake of a series of recent mass shootings in the United States.

The NRA said Los Angeles adopted the ordinance “intending to silence NRA’s voice, as well as the voices of all those who dare oppose the city’s broad gun-control agenda.”

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Judge upholds New York City’s mandatory measles vaccination order

FILE PHOTO: Materials are seen left at demonstration by people opposed to childhood vaccination after officials in Rockland County, a New York City suburb, banned children not vaccinated against measles from public spaces, in West Nyack, New York, U.S. March 28, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A Brooklyn judge on Thursday ruled against a group of parents who challenged New York City’s recently imposed mandatory measles vaccination order, rejecting their arguments that the city’s public health authority exceeded its authority.

In a six-page decision rendered hours after a hearing on the matter, Judge Lawrence Knipel denied the parents’ petition seeking to lift the vaccination order, imposed last week to stem the worst measles outbreak to hit the city since 1991.

The judge sided with municipal health officials who defended the order as a rare but necessary step to contain a surge in the highly contagious disease that has infected at least 329 people so far, most of them children from Orthodox Jewish communities in the borough of Brooklyn.

Another 222 cases have been diagnosed elsewhere in New York state, mostly in a predominantly ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Rockland County, northwest of Manhattan.

The New York outbreaks are part of a larger resurgence of measles across the country, with at least 555 cases confirmed in 20 states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health experts say the virus, which can cause severe complications and even death, has spread mostly among school-age children whose parents declined to get them vaccinated. Most profess philosophical or religious reasons or cite concerns – debunked by medical science – that the three-way measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine may cause autism.

The judge rejected the parents’ contention that the vaccination order was excessive or coercive, noting that it does not call for forcibly administering the vaccine to those who refuse it.

Under the public health emergency declared last Tuesday by Mayor Bill de Blasio, residents of certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods who refuse orders to obtain an MMR vaccine face fines unless they can otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles or provide a valid medical exemption.

The court challenge was filed in Brooklyn’s Supreme Court on behalf of five mothers and their children in the affected neighborhoods. Their identities were kept confidential to protect the children’s privacy, their lawyers said.

They told Knipel in court on Thursday the city had overstepped its authority and that quarantining the infected would be a preferable approach.

Robert Krakow, an attorney for the parents, estimated that just 0.0006 percent of the population of Brooklyn and Queens had measles. “That’s not an epidemic,” he said. “It’s not Ebola. It’s not smallpox.”

The health department’s lawyers argued that quarantining was ineffective because people carrying the virus can be contagious before symptoms appear.

The judge cited 39 cases diagnosed in Michigan that have been traced to an individual traveling from the Williamsburg community at the epicenter of Brooklyn’s outbreak. The surge in measles there originated with an unvaccinated child who became infected on a visit to Israel, where the highly contagious virus is also running rampant.

Krakow later told Reuters he was reviewing the judge’s dismissal of the case – brought under special proceedings for the appeal of administrative actions – to determine how his clients might respond.

The number of measles cases worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first quarter of 2019 to 112,163 compared with the same period last year, the World Health Organization said this week.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Bill Berkrot and G Crosse)

New York City defends measles vaccination order in court

FILE PHOTO: A sign warning people of measles in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg, two days after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency in parts of Brooklyn in response to a measles outbreak, is seen in New York, U.S., April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City’s Department of Health defended its mandatory measles vaccination order in a state court on Thursday after a group of anonymous Brooklyn parents sued, arguing that the order was unconstitutional.

The department issued the order last week, saying it was an unusual but necessary step to contain the worst outbreak of the highly contagious virus seen in the city since 1991. The outbreak has infected 329 people so far, most of them children from Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn.

The order, which was extended this week, requires unvaccinated people living in certain affected Brooklyn neighborhoods to get the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine if they cannot otherwise demonstrate immunity to measles, or face a $1,000 fine.

Five people who said they were parents living in the affected neighborhoods sued the department this week in Brooklyn’s Supreme Court, filing their lawsuit anonymously in order, their lawyers said, to protect their children’s privacy.

Their lawyers told Judge Lawrence Knipel that the city had overstepped its authority, saying 329 confirmed cases so far did not constitute an epidemic. They argued that quarantining people with measles would be a preferable approach.

“It’s excessive, it’s coercive,” Robert Krakow, a lawyer for the parents, said in court. He said he estimated that 0.0006 percent of the population of Brooklyn and Queens had measles. “That’s not an epidemic,” he said. “It’s not Ebola. It’s not smallpox.” He said even vaccinated people could spread the virus and that the vaccination carried a “risk of injury,” which the city disputed.

The department’s lawyers argued that this is a serious outbreak and that quarantining was ineffective because infected people can be contagious before symptoms appear. They said the lawsuit relied on bogus or discredited science.

Lawyers for the Health Department said three or more cases constituted an outbreak, given the United States had declared the disease eliminated in 2000, meaning it is no longer present year round. Measles can lead to serious complications and death.

“The percentage is irrelevant,” Sherrill Kurland, a lawyer from the city’s Law Department, told the court. “The rates of transmission has continued to increase. These areas remain serious for concern.”

The Brooklyn outbreak has been traced to an unvaccinated child who became infected on a visit to Israel, which is also grappling with an outbreak.

The number of measles cases worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first quarter of 2019 to 112,163 compared with the same period last year, the World Health Organization said this week, while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported measles cases in at least 20 U.S. states.

Judge Knipel said he would release his decision on whether to temporarily block the city’s order by the end of the week.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Chicago will sue actor Jussie Smollett after he refuses to pay for police overtime

FILE PHOTO: Actor Jussie Smollett makes a court appearance at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 14, 2019. E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/Pool via REUTERS

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Chicago will sue actor Jussie Smollett for the costs of police overtime spent investigating his claims that he was the victim of a hate crime, which prosecutors say were false, a city official said on Thursday.

The lawsuit was being prepared after Smollett, 36, refused a demand by the city for $130,000, said Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Law.

“Mr. Smollett has refused to reimburse the City of Chicago for the cost of police overtime spent investigating his false police report on January 29, 2019, McCaffrey said. “The Law Department is now drafting a civil complaint that will be filed in the Circuit Court of Cook Country.”

Smollett, who is black and gay, touched off a social media fire storm by telling police on Jan. 29 that two apparent supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump struck him, put a noose around his neck and poured bleach over him.

But the actor, best known for his role as a gay musician on the Fox Television hip-hop drama “Empire,” was charged in February with staging the incident himself and filing a false police report.

Last week prosecutors dropped all charges against Smollett, infuriating police and outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Prosecutors said they stood by the accusation but that an agreement by Smollett to forfeit his $10,000 bond was a just outcome.

The case file was sealed by a Chicago judge, which critics suggested was evidence of a cover-up.

The actor’s criminal defense attorney, Mark Geragos, could not be reached for comment.

On Monday, some 300 people, including off-duty Chicago police officers, took to the streets to protest, calling on Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to resign over her handling of the case.

Foxx, who recused herself from the case before charges were filed, citing conversations she had with one of his relatives, has defended her actions and those of her prosecutors.

Smollett was written out of the final two episodes of “Empire” this season after he was charged with staging the hate crime. Fox executives have not said if he will return should the show be renewed for another year.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Lisa Shumaker)

Several U.S. states sue Trump administration over school lunch rules

Students eat a healthy lunch at Marston Middle School in San Diego, California, March 7, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Blake

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Several U.S. states sued the Trump administration on Wednesday, seeking to undo its recent decision to relax standards for restricting sodium content and requiring whole grains in school breakfasts and lunches.

In a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court, the states accused the U.S. Department of Agriculture of acting in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner in easing rules championed by former first lady Michelle Obama to make school lunches healthier.

The lawsuit was filed by New York, California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

The Agriculture Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)

Facebook looks to place restrictions on who can go live after Christchurch attack

FILE PHOTO - People gather to form a "ring of peace" around a local mosque to show solidarity with the victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks in New Zealand, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said on Friday the company was looking to place restrictions on who can go live on its platform based on certain criteria in the aftermath of the Christchurch massacre.

The company will monitor who can go “Live” on Facebook depending on factors such as prior community standard violations, Sandberg said in a blog post https://instagram-press.com/blog/2019/03/29/by-working-together-we-can-win-against-hate.

A lone gunman killed 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand on March 15, while live streaming the massacre.

Facebook has identified more than 900 different videos showing portions of the 17-minutes of carnage and has used its existing artificial intelligence tools to identify and remove hate groups in Australia and New Zealand, the blog said.

Last week, the social networking giant said it removed 1.5 million videos globally that had footage of the New Zealand mosque attack in the first 24 hours after the attack.

Earlier this week, one of the main groups representing Muslims in France said it was suing Facebook and YouTube, accusing them of inciting violence by allowing the streaming of the video.

Facebook, the world’s largest social network with 2.7 billion users, has faced growing discontent over its approach to privacy and user data amid increasing concerns over its advertising practices.

(The story corrects headline and first paragraph to say restrictions on who can go live, not restrict live videos.)

(Reporting by Sayanti Chakraborty in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

CNN hit with $275 million defamation suit by Kentucky student

FILE PHOTO: Nicholas Sandmann, 16, a student from Covington Catholic High School stands in front of Native American activist Nathan Phillips in Washington, U.S., in this still image from a January 18, 2019 video by Kaya Taitano. Kaya Taitano/Social Media/via REUTERS/File Photo

By Keith Coffman

(Reuters) – A Kentucky teenager sued CNN on Tuesday for defamation, saying the cable network falsely conveyed to viewers that he was the “face of an unruly hate mob” confronting a Native American activist at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington in January.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann in federal court in Kentucky, seeks $275 million in compensatory and punitive damages over the videotaped incident in the nation’s capital.

Sandmann and other Covington Catholic students had been in Washington to attend a March for Life anti-abortion rally.

In photos and videos that went viral from the incident, Sandmann is seen standing face to face with Native American activist Nathan Phillips. Sandmann stares and smiles at Phillips while Phillips sings and plays his drum.

The footage sparked outrage on social media, with many viewers saying that Sandmann and a group of fellow students seen gathered around Phillips appeared to be mocking the activist.

The complaint said CNN, a division of Turner Broadcasting System Inc-owned Warner Media LLC, aired four “defamatory” broadcasts and nine online articles falsely accusing Sandmann, 16, and his classmates of “engaging in racist conduct”.

“The CNN accusations are totally and unequivocally false, and CNN would have known them to be untrue had it undertaken any reasonable efforts to verify their accuracy before publication,” the complaint said.

A CNN spokeswoman said the network declined to comment.

A private investigation firm commissioned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington in Park Hills, Kentucky, to review the incident concluded last month that there was no evidence the students provoked a confrontation.

Instead, the report found that the teenagers were met at the Lincoln Memorial by offensive statements directed at them by several African-American protesters from a group known as the Black Hebrew Israelites.

According to this account, the students responded with permission from the teacher chaperones by shouting “school spirit” chants before Phillips waded into scene playing his drum.

The complaint said CNN exhibited a bias against President Donald Trump by focusing on Sandmann and other Covington students because they were wearing red caps emblazoned with the president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

Trump has a contentious relationship with CNN, frequently calling it “Fake News”.

Last month, Sandmann sued the Washington Post for $250 million over its reporting of the same incident.

The newspaper said in a statement that it would “mount a vigorous defense,’ and later published an “Editor’s Note” explaining how its coverage of the incident evolved as new information came to light.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Steve Gorman, Robert Birsel)

War memorial or religious symbol? Cross fight reaches U.S. high court

A concrete cross commemorating servicemen killed in World War One, that is the subject of a religious rights case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, is seen in Bladensburg, Maryland, U.S., February 11, 2019. Picture taken on February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Lawrence Hurley

By Lawrence Hurley

BLADENSBURG, Md. (Reuters) – When Fred Edwords first drove by the 40-foot-tall (12 meters) concrete cross that has stood for nearly a century on a busy intersection in suburban Maryland outside the U.S. capital, his first reaction was, “What is that doing there?”

To Edwords, who believes there should be an impermeable wall separating church and state, the location of the so-called Peace Cross – a memorial to Americans killed in World War One situated on public land, with vehicles buzzing by on all sides – seemed to be a clear governmental endorsement of religion.

“It’s so obviously part of the town and a centerpiece. It just popped out at me. There was nothing about it that made me think it was anything other than a Christian cross,” Edwords, 70, said in an interview.

Edwords and two other plaintiffs filed a 2014 lawsuit challenging the cross as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from establishing an official religion and bars governmental actions favoring one religion over another.

A concrete cross commemorating servicemen killed in World War One, that is the subject of a religious rights case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, is seen in Bladensburg, Maryland, U.S., February 11, 2019. Picture taken on February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Lawrence Hurley

A concrete cross commemorating servicemen killed in World War One, that is the subject of a religious rights case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, is seen in Bladensburg, Maryland, U.S., February 11, 2019. Picture taken on February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Lawrence Hurley

The conservative-majority court will hear arguments in the case next Wednesday, with a ruling due by the end of June.

While the Establishment Clause’s scope is a matter of dispute, most Supreme Court experts predict the challenge to the Peace Cross will fail, with the justices potentially setting a new precedent allowing greater government involvement in religious expression.

The Peace Cross, now aging and crumbling a bit, was funded privately and built in Bladensburg in 1925 to honor 49 men from Maryland’s Prince George’s County killed in World War One. The property where it stands was in private hands when it was erected, but later became public land.

Its supporters include President Donald Trump’s administration and members of the American Legion veterans’ group, who hold memorial events at the cross. At a recent gathering at a nearby American Legion post, veterans and their relatives said the monument has no religious meaning despite being in the shape of a Christian cross, calling the lawsuit misguided and painful.

To Mary Ann Fenwick LaQuay, 80, the cross respectfully chronicles the war sacrifice of her uncle Thomas Notley Fenwick, one of 49 honored.

“It hurts people who have family members there. Every time I go by there, I think of my uncle. It hurts to think people would take it away,” she said.

Stan Shaw, 64, a U.S. Army veteran, said it appeared the challengers were going out of their way to take offense.

“If you don’t want to see it, take another route,” Shaw added.

Aside from its shape, the cross has no other religious themes or imagery. At its base is a barely legible plaque listing the names of the dead. Every year, ceremonies with no religious content are held at the site, lawyers defending the cross said.

Edwords, who is retired, is a long-time member and previous employee of the American Humanist Association, which advocates for the separation of church and state. He and his fellow challengers said they support veterans and that the lawsuit concerns only the symbolism of the cross, not the fact that it honors war dead.

The Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the cross was unconstitutional, reversing a Maryland-based federal judge’s decision allowing the monument.

The Supreme Court will hear appeals by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the public agency that owns the cross, and the American Legion, which is represented by the conservative religious rights group First Liberty Institute.

TEN COMMANDMENTS

The Supreme Court has sent mixed messages about the extent to which there can be government-approved religious expression, including in two rulings issued on the same day in 2005.

In one case, it ruled that a monument on the grounds of the Texas state capitol building depicting the biblical Ten Commandments did not violate the Constitution. But in the other, it decided that Ten Commandments displays in Kentucky courthouses and schools were unlawful.

More recently, the court in 2014 ruled that government entities do not automatically violate the Constitution when they hold a prayer before legislative meetings.

In some other recent cases, the court has taken an expansive view of religious rights. In 2014, it ruled that owners of private companies could object on religious grounds to a federal requirement to provide health insurance that included coverage for women’s birth control.

It ruled in 2017 that churches and other religious entities cannot be flatly denied public money even in states whose constitutions ban such funding. In a narrow 2018 ruling, the court sided with a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, citing his Christian beliefs.

The American Legion’s lawyers are asking the court to decide that government endorsement of religion is not the appropriate test in the Peace Cross case. Instead, they said, courts should conclude that the government violates the Constitution only when it actively coerces people into practicing religion.

Such a ruling would give public officials “carte blanche to have symbols anywhere,” said Marci Hamilton, a University of Pennsylvania expert on law and religion who joined a legal brief supporting Edwords.

Edwords conceded that the lawsuit could end up backfiring on his side with a ruling against him but stands by his decision to challenge the cross.

“We are not trying to be revolutionary here,” Edwords said.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

Dozens of indigenous women forcibly sterilized in Canada, U.N. committee hears

People take part in a smudging ceremony organised by the First Nations Indigenous Warriors and the American Indian Movement on the Cote First Nation, near the town of Kamsack, Saskatchewan, Canada, August 6, 2017. Smudging is a common practice among some indigenous peoples in North America and is believed to cleanse a person or place of negative energy. REUTERS/Zachary Prong

By Chris Arsenault

TORONTO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Dozens of indigenous women were forcibly sterilized by Canadian health authorities, including as recently as in 2017, said the lawyer leading a class-action lawsuit against the government.

Alisa Lombard was speaking on Thursday after appearing in Geneva at the U.N. Committee against Torture during hearings into Canada’s human rights record.

More than 90 indigenous women in the western province of Saskatchewan contacted lawyers to join the lawsuit over forced sterilization, said Lombard of Maurice Law, the indigenous-run firm spearheading the case.

“This practice needs to stop,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding that she knew of cases in 2009, 2011 and 2017.

“If it happened then and nothing was done to prevent it, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be happening now,” Lombard said.

A government spokeswoman said officials were still gathering information on the issue, and could not say with certainty that the practice had stopped.

The U.N. committee will publish its findings on December 7.

“This class action is there to stop it (forced sterilization), punish it and prosecute it,” Lombard said of the suit, which was filed last year.

Health experts and human rights campaigners said the forced sterilizations, which the United Nations considers a form of torture, are symptomatic of the discrimination and abuse that Canada’s indigenous women face.

The government does not deny coerced sterilizations took place. However, a spokeswoman for the minister of indigenous services told the Thomson Reuters Foundation she could not comment on allegations in the lawsuit as the matter was before the courts.

‘SERIOUS VIOLATION’

Earlier this week, minister of indigenous services Jane Philpott told lawmakers the “coerced sterilisation of some indigenous women by medical professionals is a serious violation of human rights”.

“We know that indigenous patients can face systemic barriers in accessing medical services, including discrimination and racism,” Philpott said.

It remained unclear how many indigenous women were forcibly sterilized in Saskatchewan or elsewhere in Canada, said Alex Neve, secretary-general of Amnesty International Canada, who also testified at the U.N. committee hearings.

“It is impossible not to conclude that this arises from a context of deeply entrenched racism and colonialism. This is tied up with stereotypes of indigenous women as being incapable mothers,” he said.

Indigenous people comprise about 5 percent of Canada’s 36.5 million people and are disproportionately affected by poverty. Nearly half live in western provinces such as Saskatchewan, according to government census data.

During his testimony, Neve called on the government to appoint an independent investigator – ideally an indigenous woman, he said – to conduct a review to determine the scale of the problem and recommend solutions.

“Under international law, it is very clear forced sterilization is torture,” Neve said.

DECADES-LONG PRACTICE

The lawsuit, which Lombard said could go to trial in 2019, names the Saskatchewan government, provincial hospitals, several doctors and national authorities. It is seeking C$7 million ($5.3 million) per plaintiff.

Forced or coerced sterilization – which is defined as sterilizing women without their proper, informed consent – began in Canada in the 1930s and continued until at least 2017, the suit states.

The lawsuit cites a woman with the initials M.R.L.P. as the lead plaintiff. It said the Saskatchewan resident was sterilized without proper, informed consent immediately after her second child was delivered by emergency cesarean section in September 2008.

Health professionals suggested she undergo a tubal ligation – a surgical procedure in which a woman’s fallopian tubes are blocked, tied or cut – when she was “particularly vulnerable”: in labor and about to undergo emergency surgery.

“Her written consent was sought by health professionals moments before emergency surgery was affirmed, contemporaneously with the administration of opioids, and while she was incapacitated by the pain associated with active labor,” the statement of claim said.

When she later sought to have the procedure reversed, health professionals told her she would be unlikely to fall pregnant. Her relationship with her then-partner ended due to her sterility, the suit said.

“Canada and the province were aware of these policies and practice and their disproportionate impacts on vulnerable Aboriginal women, historically and currently, and have done nothing to prevent them,” the statement of claim said.

Canada’s universal healthcare is largely funded by the national government and provided by provincial authorities.

The lawsuit said coerced sterilizations were an example of cruel and unusual punishment, which is illegal under the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The provincial health ministry told the Thomson Reuters Foundation it had launched an independent review last year after indigenous women came forward saying they had been pressured into having tubal ligations after giving birth.

It changed its policies after that review, a ministry spokeswoman said.

“It (the government) now requires that a woman must have had a documented discussion with her healthcare provider before coming into hospital,” she said in emailed comments.

“Otherwise, a tubal ligation would not be provided during the patient’s post-partum experience … Our priority is to engage, understand and better serve the health needs of all indigenous residents of Saskatchewan.”

The provincial ministry said it was implementing cultural training for all maternal services staff and was working with indigenous leaders and elders to improve the consent process and healthcare in general.

The spokeswoman could not comment on specific claims made in court documents as litigation is ongoing.

Marcia Anderson, a professor of health sciences at Canada’s University of Manitoba, said it was difficult to hold healthcare providers to account as the country did not gather data on health-quality performance by race.

“There is very little (even no) ability to monitor the expression of racism in the healthcare system,” Anderson said by email.

“Racism is as present in healthcare as it is in our broader society, but it is acted out in different ways.”

(Reporting by Chris Arsenault; Editing by Robert Carmichael and Zoe Tabary. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories.)