Aboriginal Midwives - transforming care and healing communities
Sara Luey, a midwifery client with Seventh Generation Midwives Toronto, shares her insightful story of the healing power of women-centred and culturally appropriate care.
In 1994, following regulation of midwifery in Ontario, the title “midwife” became protected through legislation, meaning those who practice as midwives in Ontario must be registered with the College of Midwives of Ontario (CMO).
At the same time, this legislation recognized Aboriginal midwives and stated they may continue to practice autonomously, being accountable to their communities rather than the CMO.
According to the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives (NACM), an Aboriginal midwife is a primary health care provider who cares for pregnant women, babies and their families throughout pregnancy and birth, and for the first weeks in the postpartum period. She is also a person who is knowledgeable in all aspects of women’s medicine and she provides education that helps keep the family and the community healthy. Midwives promote breastfeeding, nutrition and parenting skills. A midwife is the keeper of ceremonies for young people like puberty rites. She is a leader and mentor, someone who passes on important values about health to the next generation.
Across Ontario, close to thirty Aboriginal midwives are engaged in the profound work of returning birth to their people. Some are working as registered midwives, others practice as Aboriginal midwives. All of these passionate and committed midwives are transforming maternal and child health by providing culturally appropriate care to their people and reviving Indigenous knowledge.
When it comes to providing primary care for women and babies on their territories, Aboriginal midwives face unique challenges. While the province’s Midwifery Act acknowledges their right to practice autonomously in their communities, Aboriginal midwives aren’t able to access the same funding streams as registered midwives. With the support of NACM, midwives are advocating for changes to the health care system that will eliminate barriers to practice and ensure that more Indigenous babies are born on their own land, with their births attended by Aboriginal midwives.
At the Association of Ontario Midwives, we’re working as allies with NACM and Aboriginal midwives, adding our voices to a movement which honours the critical, restorative and deep healing work of Indigenous midwives.
Birthing Through First Nations Midwifery Care (from the National Aboriginal Health Organization)
Improving Access to Midwifery Care for Aboriginal Women Living in Ontario: A Proposal for Funding Aboriginal Midwives
Aboriginal Midwifery Engagement Consultation (Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care)
The Extension of Funding for Aboriginal Midwives in Ontario: Report to the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care from the June 22, 2015 meeting.