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CMA voices support for residential schools commission

The work of the commission investigating the residential schools system in Canada – where thousands of aboriginal children were taken from their homes and died or suffered abuse – has been recognized by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA).

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is scheduled to present its recommendations this week after five years of research.

In an extraordinary motion brought forward by Northwest Territories physician Dr. Ewan Affleck and supported by CMA President Chris Simpson, the CMA Board of Directors acknowledged completion of the work by the commission “and the importance of recognizing and not forgetting the terrible impact that the residential school system has had and, as a consequence of ongoing intergenerational trauma, continues to have, on the health of many First Nations, Inuit and Métis people of Canada.”

“Some will ask if this is the role of the CMA, and indeed it is” said British Columbia board member Dr. Nasir Jetha.

Affleck said the legacy of the residential school system continues to have a huge impact in the North, with many individuals facing “massive health care issues” as a clear consequence of being residential school survivors.

He said he was presenting the resolution “in the spirit of truth and reconciliation.”

Quebec physician Dr. Laurent Marcoux was one of many board members who spoke in favour of the resolution, which passed unanimously.

After working with the Cree people for four years, Marcoux said it was clear to him that the residential schools are not just a bad memory; many people he saw “are living the impact.”

Simpson feels it is very important for national organizations such as the CMA to take a symbolic stand and recognize the work of the commission. He said the impact of the aboriginal schools had already been recognized internationally through a presentation by CMA former president Dr. Anna Reid at a recent London, UK, conference on the social determinants of health.

The CMA needs to give public support to the commission findings to aid in the healing process for Canada’s native peoples, Simpson and other board members affirmed.

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