Prenatal Evacuation: Addressing the Birth Customs and Perinatal Care Needs of Indigenous Women in Northern Canada


  • Chelsea Amundsen
  • Arlene Kent-Wilkinson


Expectant Indigenous women in northern and remote communities across Canada are often subject to forced prenatal evacuation to give birth in urban health centers. The historical background of Health Canada’s prenatal evacuation policy is lined with elements of colonial practices as traditional birth practices and customs diminished under its implementation. Using the medicine wheel as a framework to review the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health impacts of prenatal evacuation on childbearing Indigenous women, it is evident they suffer from adverse birth outcomes, mental health issues, emotional distress, and cultural degeneration in part due to Health Canada’s prenatal evacuation policy. Federal reports, including the Mental Health Strategy of Canada, 2012 from the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), 2015’s Calls to Action neglect to address health issues experienced by Indigenous childbearing women, leaving healthcare providers ill-equipped to address concerns specific to this population. By expanding on the Calls to Action from the TRC with current research, the healthcare provider’s role in providing culturally safe care to Northern childbearing women is in advocating for change within the Health Canada policy to allow for culturally safe care through the integration of education, social support systems, and Indigenous advanced practice healthcare professionals.