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CMA - 3 - 2021 AGM

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As the CMA AGM for 2022 is upcoming shortly, .....

I have been trying to recall the events of the AGM from last year. (I have to record this for myself, otherwise I can't remember - everything seems to take 10 minutes to come out of long-term storage these days.) Here it is - a long wade if you are interested.  I may have remembered incorrectly or inadvertently made errors - corrections and comments are welcome.

The 2021 CMA AGM was a Zoom meeting held on August 22nd. I recently asked (at the info session) as to the whereabouts of the minutes of that meeting as I was unable to find them on the CMA website, and the process for approving the minutes at a subsequent AGM as is common at most meetings I attend. Of course, there was no immediate response to those questions (I did comment previously as to the apparent lack of preparation/knowledge of some of the speakers).

I had a response Sunday from some anonymous sender ("") to the effect that those minutes were available online: ( (They are dated only June 2022. Why so long to get out?)

Interesting to note a couple of things. The minutes record only what the CMA people said: the board chair, CMA president, Francophone spokesperson, Chair of the Governance Committee. There is absolutely no record of the extended discussion that took place prior to the vote which eventually rejected the proposed Bylaw amendments - this would be helpful to help members understand why the changes proposed by the CMA Board were rejected by the CMA members.

I consider this unfortunate. I know I differ from some, who like minutes to be brief, optimally fit on one page, and record only decisions. Others, like the parliaments in many jurisdictions, record all contributions and publish them publicly in instruments such as Hansard. I favour the latter, and I don't really understand why our organization might not choose to utilize some version of this international standard.

Well, I do know why, actually. The CMA Board does not want to be embarrassed by the publication of such criticism of their actions, as constructive as it was.

The minutes do not record anywhere the actual bylaw amendments but rather only the vote. These were:

The bylaw amendments related to the national presidential election included in Appendix B of the Canadian Medical Association 2021 Report to Members are hereby adopted as the bylaws of the Association. Defeated

The bylaw amendments related to the leadership diversity model included in Appendix B of the Canadian Medical Association 2021 Report to Members are hereby adopted as the Bylaws of the Association. Defeated.

The proposed changes (sourced online) were labelled "Promoting Equity and Diversity". The thrust of the bylaw changes were, firstly, to change the system for voting for the CMA President-Elect from one where the CMA members from the province hosting the rotating presidency to a 'full membership' vote. It is a CMA tradition to rotate the CMA presidency among the provinces - I'm not sure whether this is a tradition or a bylaw (on quick scan I don't see it in the Bylaws, or Operating Procedures document, but I didn't search too hard).

The second change was to change the nominations process from a local/provincial process to one where the CMA Nominations Committee (or a similar new committee would control the nominations process, described this way:

Introduction of an evolving set of skills and diversity attributes, along with target ranges, for board and committee members; Creation of a Leadership and Diversity Search Committee tasked with recommending candidates for board and committee appointments who meet the requirements for these skills and diversity attributes.

I think the general feeling was that this was an attempt to bring under central, CMA admin control, the access to CMA physician leadership positions.

The members - those few - at the CMA Zoom - rather soundly defeated these propositions. It was expressed by members that, while EDI (equity, diversity, inclusivity) goals were laudatory, there was no obvious lack of this in the CMA leadership, and the proposed changes were merely window dressing to other, understated, regulatory changes. These discussions were not, as I noted, recorded in the minutes of the meeting.

There appears to be no official, or public response to these events. I've done my own duty and scanned the minutes of the CMA Board (it didn't take long - these hew to the "one page" philosophy of minute reporting) and there is no record of discussions.

The CMA Board Chair published this response which says it all - and perhaps it is the official position as it is stated to come from the CMA Board Chair. Sad story.

That was 2021

Just by the by, I did inquire why the Minutes of a previous meeting are not presented and voted for 'approval' at a subsequent meeting. This is a pretty common practice, and is indeed mentioned (albeit not mandated) in Robert's Rules. The CMA response (note above) included the comments:

"The CMA By-Laws do not require that the minutes of the AGM be approved by the members at the next AGM. There is no legal requirement to pass a motion approving the AGM minutes by the members. The by-laws do not require that the AGM minutes be approved by the members at the next AGM. A formal motion is not required to approve minutes (RRO, para 41:10). The minutes from the AGM were reviewed from 2016 - 2021 and there are no motions approving previous years minutes. "

So, basically, we don't do it because we don't do it.

If they were presented to this upcoming AGM for approval, I would vote against approving them because they are incomplete. Perhaps a motion (would need to be presented 6 months or so in advance) for the next AGM could be to require the CMA to present and vote on the minutes of the previous AGM. This would provide an incentive to be accurate and complete.



CMAJ an "editorialized" view of 2021 AGM

While the minutes lack details there is still the publicly available view, that some may consider to be heavily editorialized, on the CMAJ website - Minority of doctors block CMA diversity overhaul:

....only 300 or so of the association’s 86,000 members were present at the meeting

... the motions failed to win the two-thirds majority required to pass.

... Housekeeping changes outlined in the CMA 2021 Report to Members were also defeated. These included tweaking language to reframe the role of the “general council” of delegates appointed by provincial-territorial medical associations as just “one body” among others guiding CMA policy.

... Tensions came to a head during the ratification of leadership nominations for board positions and the incoming president-elect.

... Ultimately, the motion ratifying the nominations passed with 87.5% in favour and 12.5% opposed.

... “I’m sure the CMA Council and the board are well aware of the concerns that were made during this meeting, and they will need to take them into consideration when we next meet,” Dr Hemans added.

... Throughout the nearly four-hour meeting, there were delays, confusion and disruptions from a few physicians repeatedly making points of order and privilege.

Many physicians took to social media to express disappointment with the proceedings.


A Doclounge tweet put the numbers into perspective this way:

Unfortunately, this article is not a fair or accurate representation of the AGM.

Less than 0.25% #CdnDoctors tried to remove elections and embed appointments and were stopped by just over 100 docs

Another doctor replied:

Because the other 99.6% checked out years ago now as they could not see the relevance of being involved in an organization that had become increasingly tone deaf to their reality as physicians.


The Content and Approval of Minutes

Is it even legitimate to assume the interpretation that approval of minutes is not required? And to base this on a reference to RRO para 41:10 without the title or the content, especially, considering that the 12th Edition is a copyright work that is not readily available to the ordinary member.

However, looking at commonly available materials on Roberts Rules including "Roberts Rules for Dummies" it suggests:

Dispensing with the minutes: You don't want to dispense with the minutes; you want to dispense with the reading of the minutes. Minutes must be approved in order to become the official record of the assembly's action. Dispense with their reading if you must, but ask for corrections and approve them at some point in order to have a complete and official record of your meetings.

Note the words: "Minutes must be approved in order to become the official record of the assembly's actions."

While it may be that:

A formal motion to approve the minutes is not necessary. (41:10)

There are several variants on what may happen. There does not have to be a formal motion to approve the minutes. The Chair might simply assume a motion that the minutes are approved as presented. Or it may be that the minutes are approved by a committee.

However, it is probably not correct to say that minutes don't need to be approved.

What should minutes contain are the subject of this summary on the Content and Approval of Minutes, based on the 12th Edition. Among various other things, it includes:

all points of order and appeals, whether sustained or lost, together with the reasons given by the chair for his or her ruling;

While it may be desirable to have minutes that include enough substance to understand a decision, it is not recognized as a requirement under Roberts Rules of Order. RRO appears to take a strong stand against including extra details. Some may consider this a short-coming and question how fitting it is for parliamentary rules of order.

My own interpretation from

My own interpretation from this is that it is proper and appropriate to record minutes, to present them at a subsequent meeting so that they can be viewed by those attending to help ensure their accuracy and completeness, and to offer at such meeting the opportunity to comment and/or vote on the record so made.

I think, therefore, that while the comments I received and quoted to the effect that "we traditionally do not present and vote on minutes" is not "wrong" it does not represent the best practice  (which, as physicians, we always strive for).  However, the Bylaws of the Association do state, "The rules contained in the current edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised shall govern the Association in all cases to which they are applicable and in which they are not inconsistent with these bylaws, with the Operating Rules and Procedures, and any special rules of order the Association may adopt."  As such, I think that it is right and proper that in the absence of a good reason otherwise the statement quoted above to the effect that the Minutes of the meeting should be presented in order to ensure that a complete and official record of the meeting is accurately entered.

I shall point this out at the upcoming AGM at an appropriate point, and I shall see how to accomplish this in the future:  likely by a motion at the subsequent AGM that this practice be introduced and enforced.  Shall I also point out that the lack of such an official, public document could subtly suggest that those currently running the association do not, in fact, wish to have such a complete and accurate document in the public record?  Or would that be petty and or pointless, or over the top?

Cease fire banner, you don't speak for the people.