In swift policy change, pregnant Nunavut women to get escorts when travelling to give birth

In swift policy change, pregnant Nunavut women to get escorts when travelling to give birth

Starting now, pregnant Indigenous women in Nunavut travelling out of their communities to give birth won't have to go alone. The situation is less clear for Indigenous women in the N.W.T. and Yukon.

Earlier this week, Health Canada announced it would be making changes to the Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) for Inuit and First Nations to fund non-medical escorts for pregnant Indigenous women. It was not immediately clear whether that benefit extended to Indigenous women living in the territories. 

Ron Wassink of the Nunavut Health Department said in an email that changes to the territory's non-medical escort policy will be effective immediately. He said all health centres in the territory have been advised.

Until now, governments declined to pay for travel escorts for northern women with uncomplicated pregnancies who had to travel to give birth. In Nunavut, women were often forced to travel hundreds of kilometres to deliver their babies without the support of their partners or family.

No clarity in the N.W.T., Yukon

A similar change won't be happening immediately in the Northwest Territories. 

"At this time we do not have clarity on what parameters or restrictions Health Canada may impose on this benefit," N.W.T. Department of Health and Social Services spokesperson Damien Healy told CBC in an email.

That includes whether the benefit would apply to N.W.T. residents who are not Inuit or First Nations. 

"Health Canada is working with the department to develop the required policy guidelines to support this change," Healy said. 

The department did not say when those policy guidelines will be made.

The Yukon government is also looking into how the change will affect Indigenous women there.