Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavik November 09, 2012 - 11:15 am

Quebec ombudsman investigates Nunavik’s policy on midwife-assisted births

"The Quebec ombudsman will be keeping an eye on how things turn out for the women of Nunavik”


A complaint to the Quebec Ombudsman from an unhappy resident of Kuujjuaraapik has launched an investigation into how well Quebec’s health and social services department respects Inuit culture and “the way of life in the North.”

The Quebec Ombudsman investigates complaints and reports from individuals, groups, organizations or enterprises about a Quebec government department or agency, or an institution in the health and social services network.

The Kuujjuaraapik complainant contacted the ombudsman, saying that in Kuujjuaraapik Inuit women with low-risk pregnancies must use the services of a midwife when they give birth even when they want doctor-assisted births in Montreal.

The complainant said that highlights “the lack of respect for these future mothers’ choices and the fact that they are not reimbursed for their travel costs if they opt for the big city,” says information on the ombudsman’s website.

In its investigation of the complaint, the Quebec ombudsman investigators spoke to the health professionals in Nunavik and examined data on midwife-assisted births.

“It found that birthing occurs under perfectly safe conditions and, in fact, the statistics on mother and child health are particularly reassuring,” says the ombudsman’s account.

However, the ombudsman said Quebec’s health and social services haven’t lived up to its vow to adopt polices in line with Inuit culture and “the way of life in the North.”

“Four years later, the Quebec ombudsman notes that this has not happened, and so it has asked the department to keep its word and to provide it with a timetable with deadlines,” the ombudsman notes. “1,800 km to the south, the Québec ombudsman will be keeping an eye on how things turn out for the women of Nunavik.”

Under the Public Protector Act, the Quebec ombudsman can exercise all the powers of an investigation commissioner, which means ‘it can use all legal means at its disposal to get at the truth.”

It can:

• ask to speak with any Quebec public service employee (government department or agency, health or social services institution);

• oblige anyone to testify as part of the investigation; and,

• see any document it needs for the purpose of the investigation.

None of those Quebec organizations “can meddle with an investigation, refuse to cooperate or restrict contact with staff, or use any procedure or directive that could hinder the investigation,” the website says.

In 2010, Nunavik’s health and social services board decided to stop paying transportation and housing bills for women who want to deliver in Montreal, as well as for their patient escorts, unless there were urgent medical reasons for them to travel to Montreal.

That policy change caught some pregnant women by surprise, Nunatsiaq News reported at the time.

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