Six Nations to be part of midwives study

A midwife from New Brunswick is looking to promote the practice in Indigenous communities and Six Nations will be one of many across the province involved in a study looking at birth evacuation in Indigenous communities.

Birth evacuation refers to a policy created by Health Canada where Indigenous mothers are required to leave their communities to go to urban centres to birth their children.

The practice makes Indigenous mothers leave their communities, culture and practices to birth children but Diane Simon, a Mikmaq Indigenous Midwife since 2013, wants to encourage more midwifery practices in Indigenous communities across the province.

She came to Six Nations Elected Council last week with an ethics application, which was granted, to study midwifery and evacuation practices on Six Nations.

Once complete, the data from the study would belong to Six Nations and be used to obtain more funding for programs and services on-reserve.

Simon will be looking at birthing data from the community from 2012 to 2018 and will use the results to highlight health funding disparities on Six Nations.

“We all know where we live impacts what access we have to programs and services,” said Simon. “We want a better understanding of those programs and services and the health outcomes linked with First Nations across Ontario. If we want to talk about health equity, we need this baseline to know how to measure programs and services.”

She said they want First Nation communities to use the data to help inform decision-making and to advocate for funding needed for those services.

“We know that pregnancy and birth are vulnerable times for people. We want to enhance the cultural safety for our women and families. Even though birth alerts have been removed, clouds of child welfare still remain. We know that anti-Indigenous racism in healthcare still exists and there’s still the fear of forced and coerced and involuntary sterilization that happens.”

Research partners already received a letter of support from the Six Nations Birthing Centre.

Midwives facilitate about 15 per cent of all births across Ontario.

“We know that First Nations are not accessing these programs and services to the same degree as the rest of the province,” said Simon. The status quo is you just leave the community to have your baby.”

She said with hospital closures and travel times for rural communities, those are some of the factors they want to better understand in terms of accessing midwife services.

“The information from this project is going to be amazing.”

The study would look at pregnant women from the time of pregnancy to six weeks postpartum.

Eventually, said Simon, the hope is for midwives to have billing numbers to prescribe ultrasounds and medications.

“We should be able to have access to midwives of our community. Right now, in Ontario, there’s about a thousand midwives and only about 50 aboriginal midwives for the entire province.”

In her home community she’s one of two aboriginal midwives.

“We don’t have local education program. We want to create a stronger, sustainable midwifery program for all communities. People want this change. They want something holistic that’s rooted in culture and community.”

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