Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence

  Northwest Saskatchewan Métis Women's Health

Research discussion paper for the Northwest Métis Women's Health Research Committee


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The research and publication of this study were funded by the Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence (PWHCE). The PWHCE is financially supported by the Women's Health Contribution Program, Bureau of Women's Health and Gender Analysis, Health Canada. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the PWHCE or the official policy of Health Canada.

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Lisa McCallum-McLeod with Kay Willson


The Northwest Saskatchewan Métis Women's Health Research Discussion Paper provides a summary of the ideas gathered from community meetings and individual interviews conducted in the four Northwest Métis communities of La Loche, Buffalo Narrows, Ile-a-la-Crosse, and Beauval. Over 250 Métis women participated in these discussions to explore the health needs for Métis women in Northwest Saskatchewan and to share their ideas for new directions for community-based health research.

The Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence (PWHCE) provided assistance with facilitation and support for this process of community dialogue, working in partnership with local women leaders and service providers in Northwest Saskatchewan Métis communities. This process helped to provide space and time for Métis women to identify research ideas that could contribute to Métis women's physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.

This process of community dialogue had the following objectives:
  1. to hear Métis women identify issues impacting their own and their families' health,
  2. to identify potential research issues for further study, and
  3. to discuss the benefits and risks of such research.

The Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence (PWHCE) has invested in developing women's health research through a community-based process that draws upon the knowledge, skills, and experience of local Métis women.

In June 2003, the PWHCE Aboriginal Women's Health Research Coordinator made contact with local Métis women during visits to Northwest Saskatchewan communities and began to discuss possible interest in a project on Métis women's health. In the following months, the Research Coordinator approached the Métis leadership of five local communities and built upon her already established relationships with local Métis women who were community leaders or service providers in the selected communities. The Research Coordinator followed the local protocol for securing community support to develop a Métis women's health research initiative. The Research Coordinator then contacted the Northwest Métis Council to inform them of the plans to develop a women's health research project and to explore the potential for collaboration.

In October 2003, local Métis women leaders and service providers helped to organize and facilitate four community meetings in La Loche, Ile a la Crosse, Buffalo Narrow and Beauval. Fifty-eight Métis women participated in these community discussions. The discussions were tape-recorded and transcribed for later analysis.

The local Métis women guiding the process of community dialogue felt that it was important to gather ideas from a wider range of Métis women in their communities. Local women who were able to speak Cree, Dene, Michif and English were hired to conduct individual interviews with other women who had not been able to participate in the community meetings. During these interviews women were asked to identify their health issues and their ideas for research that would benefit their health. Two hundred women were interviewed and their responses were recorded on a simple form. Interviews were conducted with women of all ages and diverse backgrounds, including Métis women who speak Dene, Cree, Michif and English as their first language.

The PWHCE Research Coordinator reviewed the transcripts of the community meetings and the responses from the individual interviews. The responses were documented, analysed and collated into theme areas. This Discussion Paper provides a summary of the ideas gathered from both meetings and individual interviews.

An earlier draft of this Discussion Paper was taken back to the Northwest Métis Women's Research Committee, i.e. the local women leaders and service providers who had helped guide the process. They were asked to review the document and give their feedback and direction for further development project. The committee plans to meet again to discuss the further clarification of the research question, and to examine models of research process that are appropriate for community-based research in Métis communities.

Throughout this process of developing a community based research project in partnership with local women, the PWHCE Aboriginal Women's Health Research Coordinator has relied upon the Ethical Guidelines adopted by the Saskatoon Aboriginal Women's Health Research Committee. Central to these ethical principles is the value of respect - respect for Métis communities and local leadership, and respect for women. Part of this respect is a commitment to ensuring that their voices are heard. Another guiding principle is the importance of relationships with people, and not treating people just as sources of data. Good relationships are built on trust, communication and shared responsibility for decision-making.

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