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.
The National Aboriginal Council of Midwives (NACM) defines an Aboriginal midwife as a primary health-care provider who cares for pregnant people, babies and their families throughout pregnancy and birth, and for the first weeks in the postpartum period. An Aboriginal midwife is also a person who is knowledgeable in all aspects of women’s medicine and 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 30 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 new parents 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, it is only recently that Aboriginal midwives have been able to access the same funding streams as registered midwives. Alongside 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.
This advocacy work has resulted in the government supporting Aboriginal midwifery and culturally appropriate care, by announcing new funding for care provided by:
- Dilico Family Health Team Clinic in Fort William First Nation
- K'Tigaaning Midwives in Powassan
- Kenhte:ke Midwives in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory
- Onkwehon:we Midwives in Akwesasne
- Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre in Sudbury
- Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre in London
Along with these investments, the government is also providing development grants to Indigenous communities across the province who are exploring the renewal and restoration of midwifery in their 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.
National Aboriginal Council of Midwives
Anishnawbe Health Toronto downloadable brochures about important Aboriginal healing and traditional teachings.
For more information about the First Nations of Ontario, see this provincial map detailing the communities with band numbers and cultural affiliations as well as associated tribal councils, reserves, treaty lands and political organizations. And check out this interactive map of North America to get more detailed information about the land you live and work on.
Aboriginal Healthy Babies Healthy Children is program specifically that provides health and social services for pregnant women, and children in the first 6 years of life and their families that is available on some First Nations reserves and in urban areas of Ontario
Created by youth for youth, the Native Youth Sexual Health Network advocates for sexual and reproductive rights of Aboriginal youth from across North America.