Council of Yukon First Nations gets federal funding for birth worker program

The Council of Yukon First Nations received more funding for a birth worker program and to provide free menstrual products to those who need them.

Funding also provided to distribute free menstrual products

Peter Johnston, grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations (left), stands with Patty Hajdu, the federal minister of Indigenous Services Canada, and Tracy-Anne McPhee, Yukon's health minister, at a funding announcement in Whitehorse on Wednesday, July 27, 2022. (CBC North)

The Council of Yukon First Nations will be starting a birthing program later this year. 

Grand Chief Peter Johnston told reporters and government officials on Wednesday that the program will give pregnant First Nations people access to culturally-relevant supports before, during and after the birth of a child. 

The goal is to eventually reclaim cultural practices that have been lost to the advance of hospital births, he said. 

"When we talk about the birthing of a child, it's … not only a celebration of life, but also the process," Johnston said.

Federal funding

The program will be supported, in part, by Indigenous Services Canada, who is putting $200,000 towards the project. 

Minister Patty Hajdu was in Whitehorse to make the announcement with Johnston. In her speech, Hajdu reflected on barriers that Indigenous peoples face in Canada's current healthcare system. 

The council's upcoming program, she continued, is a step in the right direction to make sure Indigenous people across Canada have the same access to good, supportive care. 

"It is really Indigenous-led solutions that are going to lead to better and more culturally appropriate care for Indigenous people," Hajdu said in her speech. 

"I'm really excited to watch as this comes together."

The council is hiring two people for this program. They are hoping to have the hiring done by the end of August.

Free menstrual products

That wasn't the only funding announcement for the council this week. At the same time, Hadju said the Canadian government is contributing $525,000 so the council can provide free menstrual products to Yukon First Nations. 

That is on top of $100,000 set aside from the Yukon government in 2021. 

"What I'd like to see is we get to a place where in every workplace, in every school, in every public place, menstrual products are provided just as we do with toilet paper," Hajdu said. 

Products like pads, tampons and menstrual cups have already been distributed to some communities and will be arriving in others shortly. 

Tracy-Anne McPhee, the territory's health minister, said the funding helps with the Yukon government's goal of providing free menstrual products in all schools across the territory.