This Superhero has Dedicated Her Life to Indigenous Midwifery

Claire Dion-Fletcher's mission is to see an Aboriginal midwife in every Aboriginal community to preserve Indigenous birth traditions and identity.

Dec 13, 2018

(Ryerson University)

Superhero midwife Claire Dion-Fletcher was honored last year with the first annual Lewirokwas Cape Award for Midwifery Heroes from the Toronto Birth Centre. This award was given for the significant contributions to midwifery and to her community. Dion-Fletcher who is Potawatomi-Lenape and works with Indigenous women absolutely deserves to wear the cape.

Becoming a midwife was never on the radar for Claire Dion-Fletcher. At least not until she was in college.

She first became interested in women's health as a high school student when she traveled to Guatemala as part of Hands of Hope for Children. One of her volunteer activities was in a medical clinic. But that was just the first spark.

The spark that made this her life's work occurred when Dion-Fletcher was in a women's studies class at Dalhousie University in Halifax. She wrote a paper on the medicalization of childbirth which led her to look at traditional midwifery for the first time.

"I was like, 'I wonder if people still do this,' and I started looking it up and found the Association of Ontario Midwives' website, and found the Midwifery Program at Ryerson," she told Ryerson Today. "I just felt like: I can do this. It was a good combination of my love of science and health and my feminism and interest in social justice."

The social justice aspect of midwifery really appealed to Dion-Fletcher because her goal was to help Indigenous women to take an active role in their health care. Unfortunately, Indigenous people often do not have the same access to comprehensive reproductive health care as other pregnant women in Canada and have the poorest outcomes, according to Dion-Fletcher.

This is especially true of women. She said that Indigenous women often get the shortest end of the stick due to the intersecting effects of the effects of colonization, race, sex, and gender.

Dion-Fletcher also believes that Indigenous women should have access to Aboriginal midwives if they want to so that their birth practices — in which birth itself is a ceremony — and Aboriginal identity can be preserved. She stressed that this is something that cannot be taught.

That is why Dion-Fletcher found the perfect medium to work to change these facts on the ground. She became a midwife in 2013 after graduating from Ryerson with a midwifery certificate. “It’s really a very rewarding, an exciting career,” she told Ryerson Today.

“Just seeing women from the very beginnings of their pregnancies, and really working hard to take care of themselves and their babies, and then being there when they’re having their babies and taking their babies home.”

Even though she loves her work, Dion-Fletcher does much, much more.

She works with Seventh Generation Midwives Toronto, a group of non-indigenous and indigenous midwives that offers maternity care to women from Toronto and the Aboriginal community. She is committed to the growth of Aboriginal midwifery in Ontario and the expansion of Indigenous content in the program at Ryerson University.

Dion-Fletcher holds the position of Ryerson's aboriginal student coordinator where she supports students through workshops, one-on-one mentoring, and events. "it's great that I have my position at Ryerson where I am able to provide additional support for students because not all universities have that," she told Ryerson Today. "And the number of community-based midwifery programs is very small."

She is also the co-chair of the Toronto Birth Centre Community Council and sits on the Core Leadership of the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives (NACM) where she works on projects to expand Indigenous midwifery and education and to make it easier for Indigenous women to become midwives.

The goal of NACM and Dion-Fletcher is to have at least one Indigenous midwife in every Aboriginal community. The organization advocates for the restoration of midwifery education, the provision of midwifery services, and choice of birthplace for all Indigenous communities.

Her mission is to recover Indigenous practices while trying to improve the overall health and wellbeing of Indigenous people. To achieve this, Dion-Fletcher actively lobbies for a fairer health care system in Canada and to make Indigenous midwifery more accessible.

She is definitely a superhero midwife.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:
4 Good Reasons to Practice Mindfulness During Pregnancy
Coffee Company Provides Indigenous People With Clean Water
This Husband Serenading his Pregnant Wife Will Melt Your Heart [VIDEO]

BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.

ADD A COMMENT