Canada’s government once pressured Inuit women to travel south to give birth. Now, they can have their babies at a hometown maternity clinic led by Inuit midwives.
INUKJUAK, Quebec — The woman’s moans of pain mingled with the intermittent beeping of the fetal heartbeat monitor. Her midwife gently coached her in their mother tongue, Inuktitut, as the morning sun cast a cool light across the floor.
Finally, a baby’s wail broke through. His shrill cry was a reminder of what Inuit midwives have reclaimed — the right of pregnant women to choose to give birth in their hometown after years of being pressured to travel south to have their babies.
As Canada tries to make amends for its brutal history of relations with its Indigenous population, midwives and other members of the community in Inukjuak, a town of around 1,800 people in a remote region of Quebec, point to the clinic as an example of a way forward. Today around three out of four pregnant women in the town give birth in its clinic, attended to by Inuit midwives.