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Police search home of B.C. woman with long history of illegal midwifery

Gloria Lemay announced her retirement from attending births in 2018 after the B.C. Supreme Court renewed an injunction permanently banning her from acting as a midwife. (Gloria Lemay/Facebook - image credit)
Gloria Lemay announced her retirement from attending births in 2018 after the B.C. Supreme Court renewed an injunction permanently banning her from acting as a midwife. (Gloria Lemay/Facebook - image credit)

Mounties joined investigators with the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives on Tuesday as they searched the home of a woman who's been the subject of numerous court orders and spent time in jail for acting as an illegal midwife.

A public notice from the college says it obtained an order last week allowing it to search the Duncan, B.C., residence of Gloria Lemay and seize evidence of unauthorized midwifery.

The college alleges that, despite a permanent court injunction first issued against Lemay in 2000 and updated in 2018, it has received reports that she continues to hold herself out as a birth attendant and may be acting as a midwife.

"Gloria Lemay is not, and has never been, a registrant of BCCNM and is not entitled to practise midwifery in British Columbia," the notice says.

"The BCCNM will review the evidence seized and determine the next steps to be taken against Ms. Lemay."

CBC has contacted Lemay for comment.

Lemay has a long history of defying court orders related to the illegal practice of midwifery, which has resulted in jail time for contempt of court. She's also come under scrutiny related to the deaths of a newborn and a fetus in her care.

On her website, Lemay describes herself as a "childbirth activist." She currently advertises doula training sessions and blogs about her opposition to regulated midwifery.

Jail time, death investigations

The 2018 B.C. Supreme Court injunction order says Lemay is permanently prohibited from calling herself a midwife or acting as a midwife.

After the decision came down, she announced on Facebook that she was retiring from assisting with births, explaining that she was now in her 70s.

That followed more than two decades of defying B.C.'s regulations for midwives.

Lemay has said she refuses to become a licensed midwife because she doesn't agree with the college's policies, which include recommending vitamin K for newborns and inducing labour in certain patients.

In 2002, she was sentenced to five months in jail for taking part in 10 home births after a conviction for criminal contempt of court. At the time, she was charging $2,500 per birth, according to the college.

Gloria Lemay speaks to reporters after her 1991 win at the Supreme Court of Canada, where her conviction for criminal negligence causing death was overturned.
Gloria Lemay speaks to reporters after her 1991 win at the Supreme Court of Canada, where her conviction for criminal negligence causing death was overturned.

Gloria Lemay speaks to reporters in 1991 after her conviction for criminal negligence causing death was overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada. (CBC)

She was also found guilty of contempt of court in 1995 for refusing to answer questions during a coroner's inquest into the death of a newborn she had delivered. The three-day-old baby, Eli Foidl-Gosnell, died from an E. coli infection.

Lemay was charged with criminal negligence causing death after a fetus died during delivery in 1985. She was found guilty in B.C. Supreme Court, but later acquitted on appeal after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled she couldn't be convicted because a fetus isn't a legal person.

News of this week's search at Lemay's home comes after the college issued a warning in November about the unauthorized practice of midwifery.

The public advisory said the college has seen a spike in complaints, and some reports of "tragic outcomes — including death" related to unqualified practitioners.

It has also issued a number of notices about women believed to be offering illegal midwife services across B.C. The most recent concerns Lucy Hope Crawley, who may be operating in the Fraser Valley.