Canadian Medical Association elects first Indigenous president

The Canadian Medical Association has elected its first Indigenous president — a milestone that arrives as the health care sector grapples with its own racism problems.

Dr. Alika Lafontaine, an anesthesiologist in Grande Prairie, Alta., will begin his tenure in August 2022

A man wearing a suit smiles.
Dr. Alika Lafontaine practices anesthesia in Grande Prairie, AB and is of Anishinaabe, Cree, Metis and Pacific Islander ancestry. (Marni Kagan/CMA)

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has elected its first Indigenous president.

Members selected Dr. Alika Lafontaine, an anesthesiologist in Grande Prairie, Alberta, as CMA president for 2022-23. He will serve as president-elect until August 2022, after which he will become the official CMA president, says a news release from the CMA.

Lafontaine is from Treaty 4 Territory in southern Saskatchewan, and is of Cree, Anishinaabe, Metis and Pacific Islander ancestry.

His nomination comes as the health care sector in Canada grapples with issues of inequity, including racism. 

Earlier this year, the federal government committed to legislation that would aim to ensure Indigenous control over the development and delivery of Indigenous health services. 

Lafontaine said he will focus on addressing issues of inequity during his tenure, and on establishing national licensing for physicians.

"Mobility, employability and collaboration should exist in a post-pandemic world, along with the decreased stress, burnout and improved wellness that will result," Lafontaine said in the media release.

"It's also time to eliminate racism, sexism, ableism, classism and all other '-isms' that permeate health system culture."

The nomination is waiting on confirmation by the CMA General Council in August 2021.