The B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives is investigating reports that a self-described “childbirth activist” from Vancouver Island has been offering unauthorized midwifery services, in violation of a decades-old court order.
Earlier this week, BCCNM investigators, accompanied by RCMP officers, conducted a search of Gloria Lemay’s home in Duncan, seizing evidence “related to her ongoing unauthorized practice of midwifery,” according to a public notice on the regulator’s website.
“BCCNM will review the evidence seized and determine the next steps to be taken against Ms. Lemay,” the notice reads.
Only people who are registered with the BCCNM – which requires completing an approved four-year undergraduate degree – are legally allowed to practice midwifery or call themselves midwives in British Columbia.
Lemay has never obtained registration in the province, but has a history of providing midwifery services anyway, which led to the college obtaining a “permanent court order” barring her from continuing to practice in February 2000.
According to court documents, Lemay went on to perform services such as “internal vaginal examinations, episiotomies and amniotomies” in the years that followed, despite that order. Episiotomies are surgical incisions and amniotomies involve the intentional rupture of a pregnant person’s amniotic sack.
In January 2002, a judge found her guilty of criminal contempt for assisting in 10 home births – for which she charged a fee of $2,500 each – and sentenced her to five months in jail.
Lemay’s website, Wise Woman Way of Birth, currently identifies her as a “birth attendant” and “midwifery educator.”
The title “midwife” is one of many protected under B.C.’s Health Professions Act, which doesn’t allow people to present themselves as such without proper registration. “Birth attendant,” “birth keeper” and “traditional midwife” are all considered unauthorized uses of the midwife title.
On her site, Lemay lists some of her “passions” as “holistic education of midwives and doulas,” “home birth,” and “keeping baby boys intact.”
CTV News has reached out to Lemay for comment on the college’s investigation, and on the search of her home.
The college has issued several notices about unauthorized midwives in recent months, including one last November that highlighted what the regulator described as the general risks associated with paying for a non-registered midwife.
Unregistered midwives do not carry malpractice insurance, and lack access to the same life-saving medications and equipment as registered midwives, the BCCNM said. They are also not integrated with hospitals.
At the time of that notice, college spokesperson Johanna Ward told CTV News the BCCNM was investigating 13 reports of incidents involving unauthorized midwifery, including some that had tragic outcomes for families, such as fetal and neonatal deaths.
The college said it could not provide any of the names of the unauthorized midwives involved, or details of the allegations, until the investigations are completed.
Parents looking for midwives can verify a provider’s registration status online.