First Indigenous president-elect nominated for CMA
March 3, 2021
OTTAWA – The Canadian Medical Association has nominated its first Indigenous president-elect. Dr. Alika Lafontaine (pictured) of Grande Prairie, Alta., is set to be confirmed as the CMA’s president-elect at an annual general meeting in August.
The association’s presidency is rotated among the provinces, and Alberta’s doctors chose Lafontaine, who has Anishinaabe, Cree, Metis and Pacific Islander ancestry. The CMA says he was born in Treaty 4 territory in southern Saskatchewan.
The association notes that Lafontaine co-led the Indigenous Health Alliance from 2013 to 2017, a “health transformation project” involving 150 First Nations and several national health organizations. Once Lafontaine’s nomination is ratified at the August meeting, he will officially become president-elect.
His presidency is set to begin in August 2022.
Four other candidates – Dr. Vishal Bhella, Dr. Michael Giuffre, Dr. Noel Grisdale and Dr. James Makokis – took part in the election, with electronic voting from Feb. 11 to 25.
This election cycle saw the inclusion of two Indigenous candidates for the first time, the second being Dr. James Makokis. Dr. Lafontaine will be the first Indigenous nominee for CMA president in its history, and the first nominee for CMA president of Pacific Islander descent.
Having witnessed the impacts of the pandemic on the lives of physicians, Dr. Lafontaine promoted the issues of healthy working conditions, the physician social contract and the creation of a culturally safe health system. Among the actions he emphasized was achieving national licensure, an important step in preparing Canadian physicians for future healthcare crises.
“Mobility, employability and collaboration should exist in a post-pandemic world, along with the decreased stress, burnout and improved wellness that will result,” said Dr. Lafontaine. “It’s also time to eliminate racism, sexism, ableism, classism and all other ‘-isms’ that permeate health system culture.”
As part of his advocacy, Dr. Lafontaine launched the Safespace Networks project with friendship centres across British Columbia. Safespace Networks is an anonymous reporting and learning platform that empowers marginalized patients to navigate health systems, supported by other patients, providers and stakeholders.
From 2013 to 2017, Dr. Lafontaine co-led the Indigenous Health Alliance, a health transformation project involving 150 First Nations and several national health organizations. In 2018, the federal government allocated $68 million to Indigenous communities involved in the project.
Dr. Lafontaine holds leadership positions with many organizations, including Alberta Health Services, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada. In 2021, he was also listed on the Medical Post’s “Doctors with Sway,” a list of the top 30 most influential physicians in Canada based on peer feedback.