Heather Heinrichs

June 9, 2023

Red River Métis midwife to represent the National Council of Indigenous Midwives at the ICM Midwives Triennial Congress

Red River Métis midwife Heather Heinrichs will be representing the National Council of Indigenous Midwives at the ICM Midwives Triennial Congress.

Red River Métis midwife Heather Heinrichs will be representing the National Council of Indigenous Midwives at the 33rd annual ICM Midwives Triennial Congress in Bali, Indonesia, from June 11-14. Heinrichs will be one of two delegates sent from associations within the Canadian Association of Midwives in hopes of representing Canada's interests.

"I feel very honoured, and I hope that I will be able to adequately represent Indigenous midwifery and speak to what's important for our communities from a global level," she said.

Historically, the practice of midwifery has played a crucial role in Métis birthing practices. With most births still taking place in hospitals located in urban centres, individuals in remote communities are often relocated to these centres to give birth, which can cause undue emotional and financial stress. The practice of Indigenous midwifery upholds traditional birthing practices by acknowledging the sanctity of the event and delivers care through the protection of culture, languages, and traditions.

Heinrichs has been an active member of the National Council of Indigenous Midwives (NCIM) since 2014. The NCIM advocates for the promotion of Indigenous-focused reproductive health care for Inuit, First Nations, and Métis people across Canada.

"We're advocating for Indigenous midwifery and for Indigenous midwives to be serving Indigenous communities to return birthing back to our communities, whether that's returning birthing services to remote communities or even in urban centres," she said.

Addressing community-based needs is a crucial part of returning birthing practices to northern communities, giving a voice to those who have been previously overlooked. The NCIM supports community-based training initiatives, making midwifery programs more accessible to individuals currently living in remote communities or those who hope to practice midwifery in northern communities.

The NCIM is partnered with the Canadian Association of Midwives to represent Indigenous midwifery practices at a national and global scale, supporting different grassroot initiatives and furthering Indigenous midwifery education all over the world.

"The fact that so many Indigenous people are actually forced to physically leave their communities and leave their families to give birth really struck a chord with me," said Heinrichs. "So my work at the National Council of Indigenous Midwives and CM is really important.

"I really believe that the answers to how to improve the health of our people need to come from our people and it can't be other organizations that are figuring these solutions out," she said. "I think that the work NCIM is doing is really important when it comes to advancing Indigenous midwifery and advocating, especially at the federal level, to increase funding for Indigenous midwifery."

The ICM Midwives Triennial Congress was unable to meet during the COVID-19 pandemic, making this year's topics more relevant than ever. The theme, Together Again: from evidence to reality, captures the excitement for in-person engagement and acknowledges the work that is being done to implement evidence proving the investment case of midwives around the world.

The ICM Midwives Congress will also discuss how governments, health leadership, and those accessing midwifery services can help to ensure the professional autonomy and decision-making authority of midwives at an international level.

"All our nations are very different, but we do have similar challenges that we're facing and so finding community amongst Indigenous midwives has been really valuable to me and in the work that I do," said Heinrichs.


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