Indigenous Midwifery Gathering in Thunder Bay

Cover Photo: Dave Enstrom

The Association of Ontario Midwives is hosted an Indigenous Midwifery Summit here in town from February 11th-13th at the Valhalla Inn. For those who are unaware, registered midwives are regulated primary healthcare providers who serve women and people providing parental and newborn care during the childbearing year. The midwifery model is based around three core principles: the first being continuity of care. Registered midwives provide courses of care throughout pregnancy, labour, birth, as well as the first six weeks after the birth. Secondly, the midwifery model focuses on informed choice. Registered midwives provide evidence-based information on routine medical procedures and explore the risks and benefits associated with each choice. Finally, the third principal is choice of birthplace. Midwives can medically manage labour and birth either at home, a hospital, or at one of Ontario’s three birthing centres.

In Ontario, midwifery as a profession was first regulated in 1994, which means that the title of “midwife” in any language or variation became protected by both the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 and the Midwifery Act, 1991. The legislation also recognized that Aboriginal midwives are exempt from this act and clearly outline they may continue to practice autonomously, being accountable to their individual communities rather than the provincial regulatory body, which is the Ontario College of Midwives. Aboriginal midwives are community health workers and helpers who specialize in delivering care to Indigenous women and niizh manidoowag (two-spirited) people throughout the parenting year and beyond. Aboriginal midwives are traditional knowledge keepers, holding teachings, medicines, and ceremonies for all stages of life. They may also provide specialized breast, chest, and infant-feeding services as well are parenting support. The National Aboriginal Council of Midwives is one body which has over 30 members in Ontario and specializes in advocating for and training Aboriginal midwives.

The Association of Ontario Midwives supports the autonomous renewal and restoration of Indigenous-led midwifery projects in First Nation communities by returning birth to the land. The Indigenous Midwifery Submit has panels, discussion and ceremony dedicated to the resurgence on Indigenous midwifery; topics for the conference include the current landscape of Indigenous midwifery in Ontario, educational pathways for Indigenous people to become midwives, and a review of the established northern Indigenous models of midwifery care and current research. Opportunities for ceremony and cultural engagement include a pipe ceremony, hand drumming, prayer, water ceremonies, as well as sunrise and sunset ceremonies at the sacred fire lit just outside of the Valhalla Inn.

The Indigenous Midwifery Summit is being held on the traditional lands of the Fort William First Nation, Signatory to the Robinson Superior Treaty of 1850.

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