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McMurray Musings

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Not Your Usual Suspect… Vilia Tosio.

“I have never really fit inside the box,” she says with a smile and an infectious laugh. Vilia Tosio, a resident of Fort McMurray since 2007 who has lived in locations around the world including her country of origin, South Africa, as well as the Netherlands and New Zealand, is most definitely not your usual suspect, particularly given her passion for an issue many may not lend much thought: breastfeeding.

Tosio has become well-known in the region for her advocacy for breastfeeding and her support of mothers. Her recent presentation at TEDx Fort McMurray focused on this mission and spread the message of the need for support and advocacy just a bit further, including a video on YouTube that has prompted individuals from around the world to contact her seeking more information on the topic.

“In my TEDx talk I tried to give some insights as to why women do not breastfeed, or don’t breastfeed as successfully or as long as they should. I tried to address the fact that while medicalization is a good thing the pendulum has gone too far and we set up women for failure. A simple example is that to “breastfeed for six months” is the Canadian health guideline, but we don’t even think of what we doing in the first three days after birth, let alone the last weeks leading up to the birth,” says Tosio of the challenges she faces in her advocacy.

Tosio feels Fort McMurray in particular is fertile ground for this advocacy, given the demographic of the region. “We have high birth rates because we are such a young community. We need to help women not only here in Fort McMurray but around the globe to trust their bodies again. Their confidence has been eroded and they have been disempowered,” says Tosio.

Tosio came to her ardent advocacy for the most natural of human behaviour based on the simple need for something to be done. She feels this is an ideal place to not only raise families, but to be part of a worldwide movement to help women reclaim their confidence.

“If you have an open heart and an open mind, you will be pleasantly surprised what this city has to offer for young families. There are many misguided and misinformed perceptions of this city, giving a very inaccurate reflection of what we are all about here in the north. It has a very rich, vibrant and varied culture,” she says when asked what she would tell those considering a move to the Wood Buffalo region. She adds: “We have a wonderful opportunity here in this fast growing and youthful city to be an example of what is possible. We have done this in so many areas already. We could be the breastfeeding capital of Canada, but to do this we need to discard the box of rules and embrace love, understanding and compassion. Breastfeeding has a positive impact on physical and emotional health and many people do not realise the lifelong influence it exerts.”

Tosio, a determined advocate for breastfeeding and for mothers from all walks of life, has added her experience, skills and passion to the mix in Fort McMurray, a place ideal for out-of-the-box thinking and unusual suspects who are committed to making a difference in the community in which they reside.


A freelance writer, blogger and professional communicator who is passionate about her child, her work, her pets, her community and the power of words, Theresa Wells believes perfection in life is achieved when she is surrounded by amazing people, fantastic stories, cold gin and really hot shoes.