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GDI Graduates Its Inaugural Class of Indigenous Birth Support Workers

Nov 6, 2019

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The first class of the Dumont Technical Institute (DTI) Indigenous Birth Support Worker program graduated this month. They included Delores Dumais, Jennifer Gardiner, Katelyn Gamble, Keara Laverty, Kiona Sanderson, Raegan Stanley-Nippi, Christine Theoret, Angela Tomkins, and Dalanie Wahobin.


A graduation luncheon was held in honour of the graduates on October 25, 2019 at the Cave Restaurant in Saskatoon. The graduates were invited to say a few words as they received their certificates and gifts.


A common thread in the speeches of the graduates was joy, gratitude, and the fact that it was not just a graduation, but rather an experience that had a personal significance to their lived experiences as Indigenous women and mothers.


Raegan Stanley-Nippi noted, “I was a teen mom and a Doula was there. I want to help other mothers.” Jennifer Gardiner said “Because of this program, I will be better able to help protect the memory of birth.”


Christine Theoret stated, “I have always wanted to help other and to make a career that involves supporting other women. This has been a beautiful program.” Keara Laverty asserted that “This program is one of the best things that ever happened to me. It is a great feeling knowing that I will be able to help other women.”


Angela Tomkins said, “I am very grateful for this program and I love all these women.”


Kiona Sanderson, who has an infant son, thanked Dumont Technical Institute, Saskatchewan Health Authority, and the Saskatoon Tribal Council for starting the program. She expressed “gratitude to Dumont Technical Institute for the opportunity and support.”


Delores Dumais said how, “As a grandmother and the oldest student in the program, I was nervous at the beginning. But, you are never too old to learn or to help mothers who are having babies. The program enabled me to go through a healing process.”


“Trauma can have a lasting impact on labour and child delivery,” said Jennifer Gardiner, adding that “if we can help these women and families work through that to avoid having extra trauma added on through labour then I think we’re doing the right thing.”


Dalanie Wahobin stated that an effective and culturally responsive support system is a key part of empowering mothers and helping heal intergenerational trauma.


Marilyn Black, who heads the Indigenous Birth Support Worker Program at Dumont Technical Institute, described how important the program has been to her. “I was gifted this program when I came to Dumont Technical Institute. A bigger gift has been getting to know these amazing women.”


Historically, Indigenous birth support workers were integral to the labour, delivery and postpartum care for women and their babies. Today there is an increasing acknowledgement, within the SHA, of inadequate support for Indigenous women and parenting.


The Indigenous Birth Support Worker program is a collaboration between Dumont Technical Institute, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), and the Saskatoon Tribal Council and is delivered by Dumont Technical Institute in Saskatoon.


Representatives of our partners in the program attended the graduation lunch and brought gifts, messages of congratulations, and a commitment to strengthen the partnerships. From the Saskatchewan Health Authority were Leanne Smith (Director of Maternal Services); Darcie Sparks (Clinical Manager, Maternal Services); Jordyn Parenteau (Coordinator of Practicums); Talia Pfefferle (First Nations & Métis Relations Consultant); Andre Letendre (Cultural Systems Advisor); Penny Bourassa (Manager, Workforce Planning & Employment); and Shelley Lofstrom (Director, Workforce Planning & Employment).


Brian Attig (Senior Program Coordinator) and James Woods (STC Accountant) represented the Saskatoon Tribal Council, while Ashley Goy, Marilyn Black, and James Oloo appeared for Dumont Technical Institute.


Leanne Smith stated that “for the first time, birth support workers will be part of the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s maternal services,” adding that “We will work together to support Indigenous mothers, families, and workers.” Brian Attig noted that the program registered a 100% completion rate and expressed his best wishes to the graduates as they start their careers.


The program is a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Actions through increased support for Indigenous expectant mothers, families and communities. It also helps fulfill recommendations of the SHA’s Tubal Ligation External Review Committee.


The impetus behind the program includes media reports on forced/coerced tubal ligation cases involving Indigenous women (see for example, a Washington Post article, “End forced sterilization of Indigenous women in Canada.”

By James Oloo

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