My name is Lisa Morgan, and last Friday I was the director of the school of midwifery at Laurentian University. Today, I come to you as Lisa Morgan, registered midwife, after 14 years as tenured professor at Laurentian.
I speak today not as one voice. I also bring the voices of Dr. Kirsty Bourret and Dr. Karen Lawford, who are francophone and indigenous midwives and scholars, as well as a group called SOS, Save Our Sages-Femmes, a group of francophone, indigenous and northern stakeholder midwives who come from across Ontario.
Throughout the world, midwives provide essential, cost-effective, person-centred health care services. Investing in midwifery globally could save 4.3 million lives annually by 2035. In Ontario, midwives deliver nearly 20% of all babies as a regulated, funded and insured health profession. We are autonomous primary care providers, and we're in high demand across Canada and across Ontario. In many instances, midwifery clinics cannot keep up with this demand.
Unfortunately, Laurentian University unilaterally decided to close its school of midwifery, effective April 30, 2021, and all faculty contracts were cancelled. In a communiqué to students on April 12, university president Robert Haché stated that the midwifery program was cut due to low enrolment.
The midwifery program has been full ever since its inception in 1993. This year, there were over 300 applicants for the 30 available seats. We are financially viable because midwifery education programs are envelope-funded by the provincial government, with additional student tuition contributing to overhead.
The school of midwifery at Laurentian University was one of only six midwifery schools in all of Canada—there are only five now—the only francophone midwifery school outside of Quebec, as the Quebec midwifery school does not admit anyone who is not a resident of Quebec, and the only bilingual midwifery school in the country.
We provided focused northern indigenous programming, which attracted indigenous midwifery students from across Canada. Since 1993, over 400 midwives have graduated from Laurentian, and 25% of these midwives are francophone. In fact, 60% of midwives working in northern Ontario are Laurentian graduates, and 60% of these graduates are francophone or provide services in French. As well, 20% of Laurentian's graduates are also members of the National Aboriginal Council of Midwives. This demonstrates a critical contribution to reproductive services in northern Ontario, and that Laurentian was more than meeting its mandate to increase services in northern francophone and indigenous communities.
Closing the program will substantially negatively impact northern Ontario women and birthing people and their families, and it accentuates an already sparse health care human resource environment.
The francophone midwifery program in Ontario is essential to the continuity of a francophone workforce. Francophone midwifery outside Quebec needs to serve the 744,000, or 5%, of the total population of Ontario. Studying exclusively in French is a right in order for the students to achieve linguistic, cultural and social well-being and competency. Receiving services in one's mother tongue is crucial and increases the quality and the safety of the care.
Currently in Ontario, the lack of French services persists, with 50% to 55% of francophones having little or no access to health services in their mother tongue. In addition, the francophone minority intersects with indigenous, black and persons of colour. Francophone visible minorities are mostly clustered in central and eastern Ontario and 16% of francophones identify as visible minorities. As with visible minorities in the general population, they live primarily in central and eastern Ontario.
I'd like to hold up l'Hôpital Montfort in Ottawa as a unique example, with its obligation to maintain the French language, embody French culture, foster solidarity with the Franco-Ontarian minority and protect the Franco-Ontarian community from assimilation. In order to achieve its objectives, it must hire francophone midwives. Of the 25 midwives who maintain privileges at l'Hôpital Montfort, greater than 60% are graduates of Laurentian University's midwifery program.
We do not believe the only locations for midwifery education should be in the universities of southern Ontario. We appreciate that Ryerson and McMaster stepped forward in a crisis and they're doing their best to support our current students, but this can only be short term.
Historically, decisions about the location of the third midwifery school were careful to consider the values of decentralization. There were concerns expressed about two out of the three schools being located within one hour of each other. We are now in a position, 28 years later, of having only these two closely located schools available for midwifery education in Ontario.
Ontario needs a bilingual midwifery education program. It's critical for indigenous, francophone and northern communities. We need more midwives, not fewer.
We are, and will continue to be, the indigenous and francophone midwives of northern Ontario.