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Federation of Medical Women supports CMA changes

Some argue that the Canadian Medical Association governance changes being voted on Sunday are a “threat to democracy” at the CMA. But Drs Charissa Patricelli, Gigi Osler and Clover Hemans of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada say that the changes are bold and threaten the status quo, not democracy.
Pic of three authors
Drs. Charissa Patricelli, Clover Hemans and Gigi Osler

The mission of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada (FMWC) is the professional, social, and personal advancement of women physicians. At its upcoming Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Sunday, Aug. 22 3-6 pm ET, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is proposing governance changes to improve equity and diversity in CMA leadership roles. The proposed changes will improve opportunities for the advancement of women physicians and encourage new and diverse medical leadership to better represent the communities we serve.

We encourage you to attend the virtual CMA AGM and vote to support the governance changes.

You may have heard some argue that the changes are a “threat to democracy” at CMA. The changes are bold and threaten the status quo, not democracy. In fact, the proposed changes include extending the ratification vote for CMA president-elect, board directors, and committees to all CMA members at the AGM. At present, voting rights are only given to a subset of members (appointed delegates) at CMA General Council.

Achieving equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) requires fundamental shifts in power. And performative allyship supports EDI until it requires those shifts of control and power.

We should welcome the CMA’s commitment to changing its own governance model to make the principles of equity and diversity a priority. The proposed changes include:

  • Extending voting for the CMA president to all members.
  • Providing coaching, support, and active recruitment to achieve diversity in the CMA president election.
  • Creating a Leadership and Diversity Search Committee to recruit and recommend candidates for the CMA board and committees.
  • Extending the ratification vote for CMA board and committees to all members at the AGM.

What would change in the CMA president-elect process:

  • All members would be eligible to vote to choose the candidate for the president-elect nominee position. This would replace the current voting process, which is restricted to members from the candidates’ province or territory of residence.
  • Traditionally under-represented groups would be actively encouraged and supported to express their interest, to promote a more diverse body of candidates (including women, physicians with disabilities and LGBTQIA+, BIPOC and non-urban physicians).

What would not change:

  • The CMA presidency would continue to rotate alphabetically among the provinces and territories.
  • The CMA would continue to collaborate with the provincial and territorial medical associations to promote this process and encourage members from the eligible province or territory to apply, making sure to notify them well in advance of this opportunity.
  • The role of the CMA president would remain as-is, to be the national voice of the medical profession in keeping with CMA strategy.

What would change to the selection process for the CMA board and committees:

  • The CMA would create a Leadership and Diversity Search Committee to recommend candidates for board and committee appointments who meet the requirements for these roles. The goal would be to broaden the search process and enrich the pool of medical leadership.
  • The CMA would introduce an evolving set of skills and diversity attributes, along with target ranges, for board and committee members to meet.
  • The CMA will collaborate with the provincial and territorial medical associations to share the search committee’s call for expressions of interest for board and committee positions.
  • Candidates for these positions would be ratified by CMA members attending the AGM (candidates are currently ratified by a subset of members at CMA General Council).

What would not change:

  • The size of the board would remain at 19: One member from each province and territory, excluding Nunavut; CMA presidents (current, past, and elect); one chair; one non-physician; one student and one resident.
  • The board and committees would still hold the same fiduciary duties and the same commitment to transparent reporting of their activities to CMA members.

Please share this message and join us in supporting the proposed governance changes at the 2021 CMA AGM.

Dr Charissa Patricelli is the president of FMWC. Dr. Gigi Osler is the president-elect of FMWC. Dr. Clover Hemans is past-president of FMWC.

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