A Lac La Ronge Indian Band member has created an information package for new Indigenous mothers to help them navigate the healthcare system during and after birth.

Valerie McLeod, who will soon be graduating with a master of governance and entrepreneurship in northern and Indigenous areas, used her master research project to explore the systemic inequalities Indigenous women face when giving birth in hospital in cities.

McLeod, also a registered nurse, said this project was to provide a voice for Indigenous mothers.

 “For me, it’s all about advocating for those that normally would not have that voice,” she said. “That voice has always been restricted or completely taken away from them.”

The information package includes forms to get the baby health and status cards, but it also includes a list of support services for the new moms and the code of ethics for doctors, nurses and social workers.

McLeod said she has seen the inequities first hand, such as when tubal ligation was pushed on Indigenous mothers by health care professionals.

“For me, as an Indigenous registered nurse, someone who’s seen the inequities, someone who’s known how wrong that is to make that decision on behalf of someone else, to take their ability to birth and to bring life into the world. For me, that was why I wanted to do this kind of research.”

McLeod said she decided on the topic for her project with the help of Elder Gilbert Kewistep and the community of Yellow Quill First Nation. She said research should always involve community.

“The biggest impact doing this research has had on me is knowing that research needs to be driven and led by community in order for it to be effective. And in order for it to create that change that we want, it needs to come from community.”

McLeod said her and the communities’ research and advocacy helped stop three children from being taken away from their Indigenous mothers.

(PHOTO: Valerie McLeod will be graduating with spring with her masters degree. She is a registered nurse and a mother to a four-year-old. Photo by Brandon White for the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.)