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OPINION: Canadian Medical Association candidate is not fit for leadership

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

On Thursday, February 11-25 voting will be open to elect the President of the Canadian Medical Association. Out of the seven candidates two of them are Indigenous. You may know them as Dr. Alika Lafontaine and Dr. James Makokis. It’s thrilling to have evidence that the times are changing. However, there are concerns surrounding the relationships with the Indigenous community and Dr. Makokis. that only one has a good relationship with Indigenous communities and has truly earned the trust to lead.

Dr. Makokis who has been terminated from past employers that he worked with. He worked at the Saddle Lake Health Care Centre, but appears to have been let go. Saddle Lake First Nation went on to serve Dr. Makokis with a cease-and-desist order. Saddle Lake First Nation are the people who know him best and yet, even with the high demand for physicians, they chose to let him go.

It was a similar situation for Dr. Makokis while working at Enoch Cree First Nation. Dr. Makokis announced a departure date, but the health clinic pushed up his end date because it was better for the community that Dr. Makokis leave abruptly. Even though this meant dropping files, it was seen as necessary because he was found to be difficult to work with. Although there isn’t more in depth information available to the public, Dr. Makokis himself had posted his side of the story on his twitter feed.

Dr. Makokis talks a lot about representing communities. He is a major advocate for the LGBTQ+ and has become a specialist in working with transgendered care. He is also opening his own clinic to offer better services. Although this is very admirable work one can’t help but wonder why he would have been but kicked out by the communities that know him best and in which he has a poor reputation? How can he lead the CMA where one is required to bridge divides and bring competing stakeholders and communities together?

In a stark contrast Dr. Alika is known and respected for sticking to his word and not only representing Indigenous communities but also marginalized people as he was once the President of the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada. If you think that is impressive, Dr. Alika also sits on more than a dozen Indigenous committees and boards. He, himself, has said. “I’m pretty active in advocacy both within and outside of medicine, with a special focus on childhood education, anti-racism and Indigenous health systems.”

Safespace Networks is a program that was created to make health systems in Canada more safe. An example is that this program allows a place for victims who have been abused or neglected by their doctor a place to report their experience and have support in the next steps. The project was not only co-founded by Dr. Alika, but was also the recipient of a $100,000 innovation grant.

Dr. Alika has also been able to identify the poor quality of health care the Indigenous people were receiving versus the healthcare that Non-Indigenous people were receiving in Saskatchewan. Dr. Alika was able to co-lead the project until the government committed $68 million to improving this gap. Afterwards he stepped away from the project to allow it to be led by the Indigenous community members. For his service in this area he was awarded the Sir Charles Tupper Award.

In terms of representing the Indigenous community through reconciliation Dr. Alika says it best. "Common misconception is that reconciliation is one sided. One side changes while the opposing side declares a victory. This runs parallel to the polarization we see in our political system and in the advocacy work we deploy to influence these systems. True reconciliation isn’t about winning, it’s about understanding the fuller picture. It’s acknowledging each other's truths and trauma moving toward a broader buy-in to what we are actually trying to work toward and not simply what solution to apply.”

Dr. Alika also has friends in high places such as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Yet, it does not seem to affect his drive for standing up for any individual who needs a voice and especially the community that he represents and is endeared to.

Our health system, among all the other systems in our country, is delicate. Leadership at the CMA impacts the health of everyone in Canada. A choice leader would be one who earns trust, serves people, can get along with those around him, understands the meaning of leadership and most importantly, is able to build bridges instead of burning them down. Being the first Indigenous President of the Canadian Medical association is an honor that also bears a large weight to represent a community that is in much need of far more compassion, understanding and inclusion. We at the Buffalo Tribune encourage our readers to take a hard look at all the candidates so Alberta makes the right kind of history.

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