Policy Sectors

Indigenous Maternity Experiences Project

About the Research

This research is a 2-year SSHRC New Frontiers in Research funded national community-based research project, led by Principal Investigator Dr. Jennifer Leason at the University of Calgary, and the Native Women’s Association of Canada. In 2009, the Public health Agency of Canada released the Canadian Maternity Experiences Survey. The MES included 300+ questions on topics related to women’s perceptions, practices and experiences before pregnancy; during pregnancy, labour and birth; and in the early months of parenthood. Unfortunately, the MES excluded First Nations women living on-reserve, institutionalized (incarcerated) women, women whose children were not living with them (apprehended) at the time of the survey, and many other voices. Therefore, the survey did not fully capture Indigenous maternity experiences and further research is needed.

Through Indigenous participatory and community-based methodologies, the aim of this research is to engage Indigenous peoples, communities, healthcare providers and leadership in a conversation about how we could create an Indigenous Maternity Experiences Survey (IMES) that is more culturally and contextually relevant. By identifying the unique and complex context of Indigenous maternity experiences and identifying the gaps and barriers Indigenous women face, the research aims to improve perinatal, prenatal and postpartum health by understanding the experiences that contribute to maternal-child health disparities and associated inequities.

Are you:

  • Indigenous (First Nation, Métis, or Inuit)?
  • Currently pregnant, have given birth, or supported someone through a pregnancy in the last two years?
  • 16 years of age or older?

Join one of our virtual sharing circles to identify key issues, needs, gaps, priorities, and strengths relating to Indigenous maternal health!

Birth or Surrogate Parents

May 3rd: 12pm EST or May 6th: 4pm EST

Trans, Two-Spirit, and Gender Diverse folks

May 10th: 12pm EST or May 13th 4pm EST

Healthcare Providers

May 17th 12pm EST or May 20th 4pm EST

Birth Partners, Family, and Community Members

May 24th 12pm EST or May 27th 4pm EST


May 31st 12pm EST or June 3rd 4pm EST


Principal Investigator: Dr. Jennifer Leason(she/her/hers)

My name is Jennifer Leason and my Saulteaux name is Kessis Sagay-Yas Egett Kwé: First Shining Rays of Sunlight Woman. I am of diverse Canadian ancestry and self-identify as a Saulteaux- Métis Anishinaabek. My maternal Indigenous roots are from Duck Bay, Pine Creek First Nation and Camperville, Manitoba; and my paternal Ukrainian-Norwegian roots are from Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan. I would like to thank and acknowledge the peoples and Nations of Treaty Seven and Métis Nation Alberta where I am currently an Assistant Professor with the University of Calgary and recent Canadian Institute of Health Research, Canada Research Chair, Tier II in Indigenous Maternal Child Wellness.

Since 2003, I have been involved in multifaceted, interdisciplinary research, teaching and service that spans local, provincial, national, and international Indigenous communities. In 2017, I completed a PhD from the University of British Columbia and my research focus is Indigenous health and wellbeing, social determinants of health and wellness, and multiple intersections of gender and Indigenous population health. I am honored to have received recognition for my educational work towards Truth and Reconciliation through the PEAK Scholar Award, as well as for my investigation of disparities and inequities in Indigenous maternity experiences through a 3-year CIHR’s New Investigator’s Award in Maternal-Child and Reproductive Health. The scope and impact of my work has been strengthened through partnered research with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the First Nations Health Authority, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, as well as other grassroots Indigenous organizations.


Research Supervisor: Chaneesa Ryan, B.A, M.A(she/her/hers)

Chaneesa Ryan is a settler of Irish and Scottish descent. She is a proud auntie to three beautiful nieces and a dog mom to her Fench bulldog, Peppa. She is the Director of Health at the Native Women’s Association of Canada. Chaneesa has a double Honours degree in Health Studies and Gerontology with a minor in Indigenous studies and a Master of Arts degree in Health and Aging from McMaster University. For her master’s thesis she co-led a community based participatory research project in partnership with the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network, working with community partners, Elders, First Nations, Inuit and Métis people living with HIV to explore experiences of aging with HIV.

Chaneesa has worked with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities from all four directions. Her work with these populations has focused on health equity, sexually transmitted and blood borne infections, harm reduction, reproductive health, and healthy aging. As a non-Indigenous ally, Chaneesa takes her direction from Indigenous communities and recognizes the importance of utilizing Indigenous knowledge and decolonizing methodologies.


Research Coordinator: Jaisie Walker, B.A, M.A.(they/them/theirs)

Jaisie Walker is a queer, non-binary settler, researcher, activist, friend, and community educator. Jaisie was raised in the Highlands of Scotland and later found homes in Blackfoot Treaty 7 Territory (Lethbridge, Alberta), and unceded Algonquin territory (Ottawa, Ontario). They are currently the Senior Researcher in the Health policy team at the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) where they coordinate and support national grassroots research relating to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit health priorities.

Jaisie completed a Master of Arts in Gender Studies at the University of Lethbridge in 2020 where they led participatory research using PhotoVoice to explore intimate violence with queer non/monogamous communities in Southern Alberta. Outside of their graduate research, Jaisie has had the privilege of assisting research centered on trans primary healthcare, parental advocacy for trans and gender-diverse kids, and the intersections of gender and race in inheritance law. Jaisie’s research and work is guided by their decade of non-profit governance and frontline experience working in domestic violence shelters, harm reduction housing, sexual health centres, and 2SLGBTQ+ peer support and education.


Research Goals:

1. Identify needs, gaps, barriers, priorities, and strengths related to Indigenous women’s Maternal and child health and wellness.

2. Identify what is relevant to you and your community and ways to better support Indigenous women, parents, families, and communities throughout their pregnancy and early months of parenting.

3. Help identify and create more culturally and contextually relevant maternal child health and wellness research; through additional talking circles, conversations or through the creation of an Indigenous maternity experiences survey.

This research received ethics approval from the University of Calgary’s Research Ethics Board (ID: REB17-2388), and funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRFE-2018-01128).

Staff Contact

Jennifer Leason
Kessis Sagay-Yas Egett Kwé: First Shining
Rays of Sunlight Woman
Principal Investigator
University of Calgary
Email: Jennifer.leason@ucalgary.ca