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Local midwives join province-wide messaging effort

Julie Corey is part of the St. Jacobs Midwives team that joined colleagues from across Ontario calling on the province to honour a ruling in support of pay equity. [Sean Heeger / The Observer]

After seven years of waiting, midwives across the province are again urging the government to take action to address the pay gap in their industry.

In 2013, midwives took their case to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, alleging the government discriminated against what midwives were compensated based on gender.

In early 2020, the ruling came down in their favour.

Now, the province has applied for a judicial review of the tribunal’s decision, delaying action on an issue that dates back to the previous government.

In response, midwives from across the province visited their MPPs’ offices February 28 to deliver a message, with the hopes of pushing them to start the process of bridging the gap.

Julie Corey, a midwife with St. Jacobs Midwives who is also an adjunct assistant clinical professor with the McMaster School of Medicine, said she is pleased with the tribunal’s ruling, and is now hopeful things can move forward with the government.

The group hopes the province realizes their constituents – both midwives and everyone else – are putting pressure on them, telling them that reviewing the tribunal ruling is a waste of tax dollars and we want them to come to the table, then they’ll be able to negotiate a remedy, said Corey

 “This is of course in our optimistic moments what we’re hoping for.”

In pessimistic moments, the Association of Ontario Midwives believes the government may be stalling and trying to use whatever legal means they have to push aside and not address the issue, she added.

In addition to finally settling the issues within their industry, Corey says this could be precedent-setting for those in similar careers where pay discrimination is prevalent.

“If there’s a precedent set, that this large female-dominated profession was able to get the HRTO to give them a ruling that says, ‘yes, there is a pay gap here that needs to be addressed’ … and if we have that, we’re hoping that could have a positive impact maybe on other groups that are fighting for this as well.”

While the review runs its course, local politicians do hold the midwives in high regard and hope to remedy the situation.

Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris says he is a strong advocate of midwifery and looks forward to working with midwives in the community.

“Our government values the contributions that midwives make in providing safe and accessible 24/7 care for Ontario families,” said Harris. “This includes my family, as four out of five of our children were born by midwives. I have been a strong advocate for midwifery care in Waterloo Region, including inviting the minister to announce additional funding for St. Jacobs Midwives, engaging local hospitals to increase their access, and sponsoring their advocacy day at Queen’s Park.”

Corey says she hopes the outcome shows the work they do is valued, and whether it goes their way or not, she and the rest of the midwives she works with will continue to serve the community, ensuring the health of mother and baby.

Currently, there are more than 900 midwives working in the province of Ontario.

Midwives are regulated health professionals who take care of women during their pregnancy as well as six weeks after a child is born. They are considered specialists in normal birth.

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