The midwives' struggle



Ontario recognized midwifery as a legal profession in 1994, after passing legislation in 1991 to regulate the practice of midwifery.

Québec did the same thing in 1999. To obtain legal recognition, it was necessary for midwives to construct a political discourse and shift this discourse into the public domain. Until now, research has focused on the claims and mobilization surrounding the issue, without examining the underlying political discourse that shaped the debate.

Even public policy that is explicitly "feminist" in nature can reproduce social hierarchies based on gender, race, social class, sexual orientation or ability.

Stephanie Paterson, a researcher in the Department of Political Science at Concordia University, compared the cases of Ontario and Québec to trace the shift of the midwifery debate from the private to the public sphere, and its emergence as a "policy problem". Her work illustrates the role of discursive politics and dialogue in the re-emergence of midwifery in Québec and Ontario.

In a wider sense, Paterson's research offers insights into the conditions and effects of feminist mobilization, networking and public policy changes. It also shows how media representation defines what types of problems are dealt with and the ways in which these problems are addressed. Even public policy that is explicitly "feminist" in nature can reproduce social hierarchies based on gender, race, social class, sexual orientation or ability.

Paterson's findings have been published in Critical Policy Studies, Journal canadien de science politique, Revues d'études canadiennes and Policy Studies, and have been the subject of a number of book chapters and conference presentations in Canada and Switzerland.