Only bilingual midwifery training program in Canada victim of Laurentian University cuts
SUDBURY -- Laurentian University's four-year midwifery program, one of only three offered in the province and the only one offered in French, was one of the many cuts made during the university's restructuring announcement on Monday.
"The only reason I went to Laurentian was because I was francophone and cutting it completely, it's just going to have a domino effect," said midwifery student Gaelle Nyamushara Ishimwe.
Many inside the midwifery program at Laurentian are puzzled by the cut, since the demand for midwife care in the north continues to be high.
"We have waiting lists in excess of 90 people for a couple of months," said midwife Buffy Fulton-Breathat.
Fulton-Breathat was part of the first graduating class at Laurentian, and was most recently a master lecturer at the school. She has been practising midwifery for 25 years and says she, along with faculty and students in the program, are reeling.
"The reason cited for canceling the program was low or limited enrollment and I don’t know if you’re aware but we have 300 applicants for 30 spots," she said.
"Our limits are put in place by the Ministry of Health because they guarantee employment for every graduating midwife. We are actually the largest midwifery program in Canada, which is rather ironic."
According to the Association of Ontario Midwives, it’s not just the north that is impacted by this change. Many students who take the midwifery program go on to provide services across the country
"Half the people who want midwives are not able to get them," said Jasmin Tecson, Association of Ontario Midwives president.
"So if you have 10 people, four of them are not going to be able to have midwives. Midwives serve a real value in the community in that they are able to provide both community-based and hospital-based care and to bridge between the two."
Midwifery is also offered at Ryerson and McMaster universities, but officials said the program at Laurentian is unique and is important to keep. It is the only bilingual program in the country.
"I recognize that there are many programs that are being cancelled, but given the direct impact to maternity care in the north that the cancellation of this particular program be reconsidered," said Tecson. "The fact that it's being cancelled will have incalculable impact to communities in the north, francophone communities, and Indigenous communities."
Faculty members said the government funding that was allocated for the Laurentian program will now be split between McMaster and Ryerson in order to help current midwifery students graduate.
They said they are hopeful this will only be a temporary solution and that another university will bid to pick up the program because of its value.
Laurentian University's midwifery program is the only bilingual program in Canada, not the only Francophone program as initially reported.