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Orange Shirt Day and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

September 29, 2021

September 30, 2021 marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation observed in Canada.

The day honours the lost children and Survivors of residential “schools,” and their families and communities. Public commemoration of the tragic and painful history and ongoing impacts of residential “schools” is a vital component of the reconciliation process.

Here at the College of Midwives of Ontario, we are also reflecting on how Canada’s legacy of colonization has impacted the practice of midwifery in Indigenous communities, harming the health and wellbeing of Indigenous parents and their newborns for generations. 

“Indigenous midwives were once a cornerstone of every Indigenous community. It has only been in the last hundred years that this practice has been taken away from our communities. Indigenous midwives were silenced and ordered to stop their important work. The silencing of Indigenous midwifery occurs as a result of colonization and the ongoing medicalization and systemic racism in the Canadian health care system.”

National Aboriginal Council of Midwives

In the late 19th century, the Canadian government began evacuating pregnant Indigenous people from their communities to give birth in federally-operated hospitals as part of a broader campaign of forced assimilation—a campaign that included residential “schools.” 

Today, pregnant people living in remote Indigenous communities are still often required to access medical treatment in facilities thousands of kilometres away from their homes. This separation from their families, which can last for weeks or months, can cause distress, premature birth, birth complications, and a lack of continuity in post-natal care—as well as a profound sense of cultural upheaval. As a result, Indigenous people giving birth, and their newborns, still face far poorer health outcomes than other populations.

Yet there is a growing revival in Indigenous midwifery, and many Indigenous midwives in Ontario are returning birth back to communities and protecting their cultural practices. Indigenous midwives residing in Ontario may choose to be registered with the College of Midwives of Ontario, or they may choose not to be registered and to use the title of Aboriginal Midwife. 

Out of respect for the sovereignty, autonomy, and self-determination of Indigenous midwives, the College does not regulate health professionals who use the title Aboriginal Midwife. However, we recognize and support the practice and growth of Indigenous midwifery across the province.

Learn more about Indigenous midwifery in Canada. 

Bring Birth Back: Aboriginal Midwifery Toolkit
This toolkit, created by the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives, is a resource for communities to explore, learn, strategize, and work towards the return of birth and Indigenous midwifery.

Association of Ontario Midwives – Indigenous Midwifery
The Association of Ontario Midwives is dedicated to advancing the clinical and professional practice of Indigenous/Aboriginal and registered midwives in Ontario.

Conceptualising cultural safety at an Indigenous-focused midwifery practice in Toronto, Canada: qualitative interviews with Indigenous and non-Indigenous clients.
Cultural safety is an Indigenous concept that can improve how healthcare services are delivered to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. This study explored how Indigenous and non-Indigenous clients at an urban, Indigenous-focused midwifery practice in Toronto(Seventh Generation Midwives Toronto) conceptualized and experienced culturally safe care.

Podcast: Voices from the Field 11 – Supporting Indigenous Midwifery during COVID-19
This podcast episode spotlights Carol Couchie and Claire Dion Fletcher, co-chairs of the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives, as they discuss how Indigenous midwifery has been impacted by COVID-19.

Mental health supports available.

Residential “school” Survivors can call 1-866-925-4419 for emotional crisis referral services and information on other health supports from the Government of Canada.

Indigenous peoples across Canada can also access counselling and crisis intervention at The Hope for Wellness Help Line. Call the 24/7, toll-free helpline at 1-855-242-3310, or connect to the online chat.