Addressing Anti-Indigenous Racism in Health Service and Education

The National Council of Indigenous Midwives (NCIM) has been at the forefront of a federal strategy to address anti-Indigenous racism (AIR) in health service and education since the tragic death of Joyce Echaquan. Joyce Echaquan’s death in 2020 raised national outcries about anti-Indigenous racism in healthcare and Joyce’s Principle was created, which demands safe and equitable healthcare for all. As Indigenous midwives, we provide a protective force against racism in healthcare settings as advocates and witnesses for clients. We have resources for Indigenous lifegivers, caregivers, and allied midwives and healthcare professionals to reduce the harms of anti-Indigenous racism

Dreaming for Change: Disrupting Anti-Indigenous Racism in Primary Health Care Education

In May 2021, NCIM, the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada (IPAC) and the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association (CINA) organized a virtual roundtable on Indigenous primary care education. Approximately 180 participants from nursing, midwifery, and medicine discussed disrupting anti-Indigenous racism within healthcare and health education systems.

The report, “Dreaming for Change”, summarizes the discussions and the subsequent themes and priority actions for Indigenous primary health care education. NCIM strongly recommends that to affect cross-system change, health educators, professionals, and government stakeholders need to read and implement actions from this report.

“We don’t just have intergenerational trauma—we have intergenerational strength as well. Indigenous patient navigators or midwives can support by changing healthcare policies and taking action.”

Stephanie George

“Anti-Indigenous racism exists in our healthcare system. But we can do something about it. Indigenous midwives can help nurses, doctors, midwives, and social workers to change.”

Kerry Bebee

Resources for Indigenous Lifegivers and Caregivers

Everyone deserves to be free from racism and discrimination. These resources are to help Indigenous lifegivers and caregivers reduce the harms of racism within healthcare settings. Whether you are an Indigenous lifegiver, a partner or auntie, or an Indigenous midwife these are for you!

Tips for Caregivers

Support people will be your daily sounding board, offering coping strategies, providing comfort, and a sense of belonging. Peer networks of Indigenous health care professionals and students allow for social connection, validation of your experiences as well as healing outlets for collective action.

Connect with an Elder, auntie, or friend who understands the daily challenges and impacts of racism. If you are experiencing racial trauma, professional support can be helpful. Look for someone with specific identities and background who can best address your needs. Look after your body by eating regularly, getting adequate rest and physical movement. Make time to do things you enjoy: being outside, working on a project, cooking, or participating in community events. Consider defining new boundaries with your exposure to social media and news, as these can be sources of distressing information.

An Indigenous midwife mentor can offer shared experience and navigation through the political and bureaucratic obstacles. They are role models that believe in you and facilitate relationship building. Non-Indigenous mentors who speak up against injustices and lift you up into new leadership spaces are also beneficial.

Mentoring invites you into the circle of responsibility of growing and sustaining your profession. You can help mitigate racial trauma and injustice, increase self-awareness and comfort discussing racial content, and be a safe and trusting advocate to support healing. Together you are redefining the necessary support to innovate within reproductive care and justice. These unique perspectives will undoubtedly improve the standards of client care.

Internalizing rather than addressing racism is damaging and does not advance necessary change. Reach out to your mentor or association about how to handle these issues. Learn about safe ways to address your colleagues’ biases to improve healthcare. Report racism to leadership and/or regulatory bodies. Consider seeking legal advice.

It is the responsibility of institutions to have a policy regarding expressions of racism and discrimination. These systemic policies underpin cultural safety and diversity training and are a mechanism to address racism, power, and privilege on individual or institutional levels. The implementation of such policies requires a desire to change the status quo as well as develop the skills and capacity to address the racist behavior. It is imperative that these policies include mental health and additional supports to address the harms to those affected.

It is not reasonable or ok to have only Indigenous people doing the work to address anti-Indigenous racism work.  We need allies who step into shifting social consciousness, understand the harms related to inaction, do the work and demand accountability. We need everyone. These injustices are denying our basic human rights as Indigenous peoples. It is time for Indigenous people, including Indigenous midwifery students and midwives, to be valued and respected.

What we are working on:

NCIM receives funding through the Department of Indigenous Services Canada (DISC) and Health Canada (HC) for advocacy and policy work on addressing anti-Indigenous racism (AIR). This important work has supported NCIM to take significant actions to address AIR in health and education.
Our thematic areas of work include:

  • Growing Indigenous Sexual and Reproductive Health Leadership
  • Redesigning Health Education Frameworks
  • Inspiring Everyday Resurgence of Indigenous Midwifery (IM)
  • Highlighting Sexual and Reproductive Health Equity Data

Some of our key activities right now include:

  • Develop and disseminate AIR resources and tools
  • Actively participate in National AIR planning work with DISC
  • Advance NCIM’s Indigenous midwifery education strategy: ex. Supporting community placements for students and hosting IM student workshops
  • Implement NCIM’s AIR evaluation framework within university-based Midwifery Education Programs and work alongside them to strengthen their programs.

How to get involved:

If you are an Indigenous midwifery student or an Indigenous midwife, you can register with NCIM to become a member and indicate how you would like to get involved.

It you are not an Indigenous midwife or student, and you want to take action to address AIR within health and education, you can follow us on social media and stay up to date with NCIM on opportunities, events, and resources.

More questions or comments? Requests for printed versions of these resources for your health centre, community, or clinic? Reach out to

Partners/Other Resources

Learn more about related work that our partners are doing!

Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada

Indigenous dental association of Canada

Indigenous Pharmacy Professionals of Canada

Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association

First Nations Health Authority of BC