Canadian Medical Association

As part of our journey of reconciliation, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is committed to a formal apology to Indigenous Peoples, on behalf of the CMA and as the national voice of physicians, for the medical harms to First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples.

The medical profession’s history aligns with Canada’s history. This includes the devastating impacts of Indian hospitals and forced medical experimentation on Indigenous Peoples, as well as systemic racism, neglect and abuse continuing today. 

Our hope is that honest reflection on both the past and the present can advance healing as well as meaningful change in health care and in the relationship between physicians, medical institutions and Indigenous Peoples. 

The path to an apology

Dr. Alika Lafontaine, the CMA’s first Indigenous president, announced work toward a public apology during our 2023 Fireside Chats series on Indigenous health.

Video Transcript

Dr. Alika Lafontaine, CMA past president: “And with that in mind, I will acknowledge, tonight, that the CMA is going to take a vital step in our reconciliation journey towards a formal apology to Indigenous people, rooted in an accurate shared history about what happened and what matters most to Indigenous people. The path to an apology will be informed by an honest examination of our 150-plus year history here at the CMA, and I expect it's going to take us to many uncomfortable and painful conversations. But the hope is that, through this process, the CMA can be a part of reconciling and transforming the relationship that the medical profession has with Indigenous peoples and actually bring us closer to true reconciliation.”

The commitment to an apology is part of our response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) Calls to Action. It is also a specific call to action made by the CMA’s first Indigenous Guiding Circle, comprised of 16 First Nations, Inuit and Métis leaders, experts and knowledge-keepers convened to identify our Indigenous health goal, that will serve as the North Star to steer our work over the next two decades.

Read more about the CMA’s announcement of a formal apology process

As part of the apology process, and to better understand the CMA’s role and the role of physicians in harms caused to Indigenous Peoples — both through action and inaction — the CMA is conducting an in-depth review of more than 150 years of archives, including its code of ethics, governance structures and social media content. As well, we are reviewing the content of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, in partnership with the National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health.

I am pleased to hear that the CMA is looking deeply at their history and the role that physicians have played in the history of Canada. Recognition of the truths of the traumas inflicted, as well as the ongoing harm and racism occurring today in health care, will be essential if we are to support healing through partnered action rooted in a common understanding.

— Tammy White Quills-Knife, member of the CMA Patient Voice and Indigenous Guiding Circle

Walking the path of truth and reconciliation together

The CMA will deliver a public apology with an associated ceremony in September 2024.

This will follow months of “national conversations,” where the CMA will engage with Indigenous organizations, groups and communities to: 

  • share our reconciliation journey and our commitment to an apology on behalf of the CMA and as the national voice of physicians;
  • listen and learn to further inform our reconciliation journey and our work on Indigenous health and to advance the TRC Calls to Action; and 
  • foster and strengthen relationships with a view to building trust.

The CMA’s ongoing journey toward reconciliation

A formal apology will build on the CMA’s work to improve Indigenous health outcomes and advance truth and reconciliation.

The CMA also continues to build awareness of the impact of colonization on Indigenous health through training for employees, and through educational projects such as the film The Unforgotten.

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