This case concerned the use of state powers to mandate how women live and manage their pregnancies.
LEAF intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada.
D.F.G., a young Indigenous woman, was pregnant. She struggled with an addiction to solvents. Winnipeg Child and Family Services applied for an order placing D.F.G. in the custody of the Director of Child and Family Services, and detaining her in a health centre for treatment until she had given birth. The Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench granted the order. The order was set aside on appeal to the Manitoba Court of Appeal. Winnipeg Child and Family Services appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
LEAF argued that the case not only subjected a pregnant woman to an unprecedented, expansive court order designed to control her behaviour during pregnancy. It also once again represented the state objectifying an Indigenous woman to achieve its goals at the expense of her health, personal integrity and dignity. The issues raised by court-ordered interventions into pregnancy had ominous implications for the courts, and far-reaching consequences for all women, and particularly for Indigenous women. These interventions would radically depart from existing precedents, and infringe upon women’s equality rights in an unprecedented way.
A majority of the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the appeal, once again holding that fetuses were not legal persons and did not possess rights. The court did not have parens patrie jurisdiction (meaning jurisdiction over persons unable to protect themselves) over unborn children, and so the courts could not order the detention and treatment of a pregnant woman to prevent harm to the unborn child.
LEAF is grateful to Sheilah Martin and Sharon McIvor, counsel in this case.
Download the factum here.
Read the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision here.
Our records are imperfect, but we are doing our best to update them – if you were involved with LEAF on this case but your name is not reflected here, please email us at [email protected].