February 25, 2024

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Apology process announced for harms to Indigenous Peoples in health care

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) announced it will start the journey toward reconciliation with a commitment to an apology for the harms caused to Indigenous Peoples in the health-care system.

That apology will address the harms such as forced sterilizations, birthing alerts, forced medical experimentation and systemic racism.

“We’ve known for a long time about the history of maltreatment of Indigenous Peoples by the Canadian health-care system,” said Alika Lafontaine, CMA president.


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“There’s a lot of stories out there that haven’t made their way into the news that I think people within communities talk to each other about and really form a basis for a lot of the mistrust that people have when they go to the health-care system.”

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This announcement is part of the CMA’s long-term strategy and health system advocacy which was guided by Indigenous leaders, experts and knowledge keepers. Lafontaine said when they were talking about how they could approach finding solutions and moving past the current state of Indigenous health, where physicians and patients could connect in a different way, the idea of an apology was formed.

“The apology is a necessary step to go further into fixing problems,” said Lafontaine. “We can’t have reconciliation unless we have truth, and you can’t have truth without trust. And that’s a big reason why we formed this in a process. So, this is not the end. This is a continued step in something that began years ago.”

Veronica McKinney, Northern Medical Services director, says it’s a good first step.

“I think it’s through some of these processes that we will see some change in it,” said McKinney. “It feels like it’s slow in coming … but I really am encouraged to see that there is some change and that we’re seeing more Indigenous people in leadership that I believe are helping to incite that change. And that’s a wonderful thing for everybody.”

Lafontaine is the first Indigenous president for CMA and says he stands resolute with this organization to take these next steps in a good way.

The CMA is looking to 2024 to deliver the apology where CMA will involve stakeholders across the country within the medical community.

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