Open letter in support of Midwifery program at Laurentian University
Please sign this letter! We will be sending it to administration, political representatives and the media. Feel free to use the body of this letter to send to stakeholders near to you.

Friends of midwifery, Midwives, Colleagues, Students, and Community members;

Due to insolvency proceedings, Laurentian University has unilaterally terminated the School of Midwifery / École de profession des sages-femmes by the end of April 2021. All full time faculty contracts have been terminated. All women academics. We are one of only 6 midwifery programs in Canada, the only francophone program outside of Quebec and the only bilingual program in Canada. We graduate Northern, rural, Indigenous and Francophone midwives.

President of LU Robert Haché, communicated that our program was cut due to low enrollment. However we view this as misinformation and distortion of the truth in order to justify this closed-door decision.We are a program 100% funded by the Ontario government , meaning it costs LU nothing to house our program. In fact, our students’ tuition contributes to the University’s overhead.The government caps our program at 30 students per year. But what Haché won’t mention is that we have hundreds of applicants apply to Laurentian to fill these spots every year. In 2021, we had over 300 applicants. With a 10:1 demand to be in our program, we argue that we are likely one of the TOP popular programs at this university.

The 30 students a year we admit makes us the largest School of Midwifery in Canada, sharing this distinction with Ryerson and McMaster Universities. They are not considered under-enrolled in either of those institutions. In fact they are valued and protected as rare and necessary. This does not demonstrate a lack of interest but rather makes it clear that there is room for growth.We are not able to understand the financial advantages of closing our school as we took no funds from LU and paid LU a significant portion of our envelope funding annually. We are provided with money by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities to run our program every year, in two languages. All salaries, instruction, equipment, staff, and supplies come from this budget. LU collects tuition money from our 120 students total, enrolled in our 4 year program, and supports our activities. We are also required to pay LU a portion of our budget to cover the 'real estate' we occupy, seats in non-midwifery courses, and a contribution to overhead costs such as Admissions, Registration, library, health services, etc. The money has never flowed in the other direction.

Midwives provide 18% of ALL births in Ontario. Since the year 1999 we have graduated over 400 midwives, 25% of these being Francophone. These midwives are now providing essential health services and make up 30%, or one third, of ALL midwives in Ontario and Canada. 100% of our graduates have been hired and we graduate 5-7 Francophone midwives every year. Midwifery is an essential service recognized globally by bodies such as the United Nations and by our Federal government in Canada. Investing in midwifery globally will save 4.3 million lives annually by 2035. In Ontario, midwives fill important gaps in reproductive health care. This is especially true for Northern Ontario, where midwives are sometimes providing maternal care for up to 30% or all of the community’s population and offering services in French.

This is why for the past three decades the government of Ontario has committed to funding the midwifery programs in order to increase the number of midwives practicing in the province. Graduating midwives who originate from the North of Ontario improves the likelihood that they practice in the North, and we have proven this to be true, as most practices in Northern Ontario are composed of our LU School of Midwifery graduates. Services are in high demand and these midwifery clinics must already turn people away who seek their care. Closing this program will directly impact Northern Ontario women/birthing people and their families and an already sparse health care human resources pool.

The midwifery program has worked alongside the Northern Ontario School of Medicine running a pelvic teaching program. This important program provides training in pelvic examinations and pap smears and has trained ALL NOSM students, Nurse Practitioners, nurses from the Sexual Assault Program at Health Sciences and student midwives to conduct respectful pelvic exams and pap smears since 2008. Without this important training, many healthcare providers could be forced to learn this aspect of healthcare on cadavers or on unconscious patients without their explicit consent, as has been done in the past in some places.

During COVID-19 our midwifery students and graduates have continued to provide front line care, and filled gaps in the health system by providing postpartum care follow up for physician’s patients after public health closed their programs.Our midwifery faculty at LU have been internationally recognized as leaders and researchers in the field of reproductive and sexual health and rights, winning research awards and have made important contributions to policy and standards for international funding of midwifery programs globally with Global Affairs Canada. We are now being forced to take our funding and research outside of Northern Ontario, not to mention our clinical skills and practice elsewhere, further draining human resources.

Despite international, federal and provincial recognition; despite that our program is FULLY funded by the government, despite receiving 300 applications for admission to our program for this fall, we have been terminated. This will have collateral impacts on the Northern health system and Francophone communities and this disregard of reproductive health rights in the North cannot go unnoticed.

LU needs to continue to offer learning opportunities to midwifery students in the north so they stay in the north and continue to grow Indigenous and non-Indigenous midwifery practices and offer services in French for more of the north’s population.

Laurentian and the Ministries of Colleges and Universities, of Francophone Affairs and of Health can still do the right thing.
Join us in demanding that:

Laurentian University maintain its commitment to offering the School of Midwifery / École de profession des sages-femmes;Commitments to Midwifery / sage-femmes students and women/birthing people and their families throughout Sudbury and northern Ontario be honored and sustained;

Alternatives be explored immediately to allow Midwifery / sage-femmes to be housed in northern Ontario

Will you support us? The future of high quality healthcare for women/birthing people in the North and Canada is in your hands.

We acknowledge the Robinson-Huron Treaty of 1850 and recognize that Laurentian University is located on the traditional lands of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek. The City of Greater Sudbury also includes the traditional lands of Wahnapitae First Nations.

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