Reclaim 'Death Midwife' in Canada

$1,830 of $7,000 goal

Raised by 22 people in 28 days
The Problem

This dual role of midwives lasted till the early 20th century, when midwifery almost disappeared.   Then later in that century both parts of the dual role were revived separately.

After the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation aired a series of interviews  on "DIY Funerals" in 2016, Pashta MaryMoon and other Canadian 'death midwives' received 'cease and desist' letters  threatening legal action and forbidding use of the term 'death midwife' — in Pashta's case, coming from the College of Midwives of British Columbia (CMBC) and the Canadian Midwifery Regulatory Council (CMRC).  

Most of the Canadian death midwives chose to comply, for personal or professional reasons.  Pashta decided that she couldn’t in good faith obey this request. Now the CMBC is going to court to get an injunction to stop her from using the word "midwife" or any variation.  Though it seems unlikely to happen, the petition for the injunction also made a mention of the possibility of jail time.   Nevertheless, she felt a personal obligation to fight the injunction in court.

Although some of her work is for pay, a great deal of Pashta's time and energy goes into pro bono death-midwifery work, including education and running CINDEA.   She has found an enthusiastic lawyer who is willing to do the legal work for a reduced fee, however he is not able to do it for free.

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The Nitty-Gritty Details (skip this part if you wish)
Historical evidence shows that for thousands of years, the role of a midwife — whether or not the word ‘midwife’ was used — included deathcare.  In the late 19th and early 20th century, this dual role was split between the domain of obstetrics and the funeral industry.  Birth midwifery was revived in the mid-to-late 20th century, with death midwifery following about two decades later.

According to the letter of the law, in BC and most other provinces, the word 'midwife' itself  is a reserved title to be used exclusively by birth midwives who are registered with their provincial college.  The legislation makes it clear that it was only intended to govern birth midwives; and there is no reference whatsoever in the law to death midwives, although this role and its name were beginning to be reclaimed before the legislation was passed.

The CMBC has claimed that the public might be confused between birth and death midwives, and could mistakenly assume that death midwives are 'professionals with membership in a regulatory body' (specifically the CMBC). They were concerned that either of these perceptions would present a 'danger to the public safety' — however, they have since removed these claims from their petition, presumably because there is no evidence of either situation happening.

The obvious solution, used by many other health professionals, is to add a qualifier — such as 'registered', 'licensed' or 'certified' midwife — since the average person recognizes these qualifiers as ones that indicate the person is 'a professional within a regulatory body.’  This distinction would contribute to the public safety (in particular, pregnant mothers) more than the present reserved-title status could.

In the long run, the most important issue is not that practitioners be allowed to use the term "death midwife" for themselves, but that there is a recognizable term for the public to find alternative deathcare options.

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Pashta's Appeal — Support the Right to Use the Term ‘Death Midwife’
I’m seeking your help with my court challenge that will include two main requests:

1.      Addressing the unreasonable limits made on the use of 'midwife', as being arbitrary and overly broad in scope.  My lawyer and  I believe this is an issue of 'freedom of expression' as defined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — and yes, this is a Charter challenge. 

2.      An exemption to the BC Midwives Regulation which presently excludes the use of the term 'death midwives' — such as existing exemptions for systems engineers, who do not fall under the reserved title of "professional engineer".

I have collected $3,000 already, but my lawyer tells me the total, including court costs, may come to as much as $10,000.  Your donations will help to pay the lawyer and other legal fees, as well as any associated travel costs.

Please forward the link to this GoFundMe campaign to anyone who may be interested.  Also, even if you can't afford to donate, it would be helpful to me if you could share the link with your own social networks.

Thank you!

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Hi supporters,
CMBC (college of midwives BC) have chosen to continue with the case -- there was some chance that they might drop it (which they could have done). It looks like they intend to supply more affidavits -- in response to the almost 100 documents (some multiple pages) of documentation that we gave in our response. Fair enough -- I suspect that they didn't expect such as broad and detailed response from us. However, this lengthens the process -- so it could be that the case won't go to court until the fall or winter.
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Hi Contributors -- May 8 We just finished the affidavit and exhibits today -- close to 300 pages of affidavits, statements and exhibits (supporting docs), and it all goes off to CMBC and the Canadian and BC Attorney Generals. I will let you know when the court date is. Blessings to all of you
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Hi everyone -- many thanks again. Just a gentle reminder to pass the GoFundMe URL on to anyone who might be interested.
We are now over $1000 in donations, with more coming in each day.
All blessings
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Raised by 22 people in 28 days
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