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Shaping Saskatchewan: Alika Lafontaine

Click to play video: 'Shaping Saskatchewan: Alika Lafontaine'
Shaping Saskatchewan: Alika Lafontaine
Dr. Alika Lafontaine, president of the Canadian Medical Association, sits down with Moises Canales-Lavigne in the latest episode of Shaping Saskatchewan – Oct 14, 2022

He has overcome adversity since his youth.

As a child, he was labelled as “developmentally delayed” and spoke with a stutter. He said there was a time in his life when he was afraid to speak. His teachers suggested he would never graduate from high school.

Now he is an award-winning physician, an advocate for improving Indigenous health care and the president of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) — among other roles and accolades.

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Dr. Alika Lafontaine, who represents more than 92,000 physicians across Canada and is the voice of the profession as CMA president, said his life experiences continue to motivate him to help people work past obstacles in life.

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“My parents spent a lot of time helping me work through that challenge, and ever since then, I’ve had this real desire to help people work through issues that I feel connected to,” said Lafontaine in his interview for Shaping Saskatchewan.

“When people feel excluded, when they feel that things are falling apart, or they feel like people are looking at them and saying that they can’t, I have a real drive to kind of help in that area. And I think as part of the Canadian Medical Association, I really get that opportunity to help patients and providers see each other again and work through the problems that they have in the medical system.”

Today, he works as an anesthesiologist in Grande Prairie, Alta.

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This past August, Lafontaine, who was born and raised in Treaty 4 territory in southern Saskatchewan, became the CMA’s first president of Indigenous heritage in the organization’s long history. To be specific, he has Métis, Oji-Cree and Pacific Islander ancestry.

Looking back on his own experiences as someone of mixed Indigenous ancestry, he says there were many times when he felt he couldn’t be part of something.

Lafontaine said he hopes he can inspire youth to follow their dreams so there is more representation in medicine and other fields.

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“I didn’t see people in those fields or doing those things that looked like me and it was an experience that followed me through medical training and into medical practice,” Lafontaine said.

“As I’ve gotten older and there are more Indigenous physicians across the country, more doing leadership like myself, I’m hoping that youth who see us see themselves in our positions. If I could do something, they can do something, too. We really do need Indigenous people to take the role around these tables, bring their perspectives and bring their wisdom in order to solve the problems that we have today.

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