Reclaiming Birth, Health, and Community: Midwifery in the Inuit Villages of Nunavik, Canada


  • Vicki Van Wagner RM,

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    • Vicki Van Wagner, RM, is a midwife in Toronto and Nunavik, Canada, and is an Associate Professor at the Ryerson Midwifery Education Program.

  • Brenda Epoo,

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    • Brenda Epoo is a community midwife in Inukjuak, Canada, and past coordinator of Perinatal Services for Inuulitsivik Health Centre.

  • Julie Nastapoka,

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    • Julie Nastapoka was among the women who fought for the establishment of the Inuulitsivik birth centers and one of the first midwives to practice in Inukjuak, Canada.

  • Evelyn Harney BA, SM

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    • Evelyn Harney has a BA in Health Studies from McMaster University and is a student midwife at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Address correspondence to Vicki Van Wagner, RM, Associate Professor, Ryerson University Midwifery Education Program, 350 Victoria St., Toronto, Ontario M5B 2L4. E-mail:


This article describes the Inuulitsivik midwifery service and education program, an internationally recognized approach to returning childbirth to the remote Hudson coast communities of Nunavik, the Inuit region of Quebec, Canada. The service is seen as a model of community-based education of Aboriginal midwives, integrating both traditional and modern approaches to care and education. Developed in response to criticisms of the policy of evacuating women from the region in order to give birth in hospitals in southern Canada, the midwifery service is integrally linked to community development, cultural revival, and healing from the impacts of colonization. The midwifery-led collaborative model of care involves effective teamwork between midwives, physicians, and nurses working in the remote villages and at the regional and tertiary referral centers. Evaluative research has shown improved outcomes for this approach to returning birth to remote communities, and this article reports on recent data. Despite regional recognition and wide acknowledgement of their success in developing and sustaining a model for remote maternity care and aboriginal education for the past 20 years, the Nunavik midwives have not achieved formal recognition of their graduates under the Quebec Midwifery Act.