An election no one won. Is it finally time for electoral reform?

We’ve recently come through a federal election where there appear to have been very few winners.

Certainly not the Liberal party, who saw their seats in the House reduced and must now attempt to govern with no majority and little support from the three prairie provinces.

Certainly not the Conservatives who failed to capitalize on what many saw as a golden opportunity to unseat the incumbent government.

Certainly not the NDP who saw their number of seats reduced drastically despite having a charismatic and articulate leader.

Certainly not the fledgling People’s Party of Canada, who won no seats, not even the one contested by their leader.

Probably not the Green party, although they did gain a seat outside British Columbia.

In fact, the only party that could be assessed as having emerged with a positive result is the Bloc Quebecois, whose main goal is to protect the interests of a single cultural group within a single province, even if it means breaking up the country.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this election is the voter turnout or, perhaps more accurately stated, non-turnout. Fully 34% (that’s one in three!) of eligible Canadian voters decided to take a pass on this election. This is not exactly new. Voter turnout in the 43 Canadian federal elections that have been held since confederation has averaged 70.3%, ranging from highs of 79% in the early 1960s to a low of 58.8% in 2008. In that light, our current results might not seem too disappointing, if not that they appear to be part of a concerning downward trend which seemed to begin in the late 1980s.

And so, we must ask, what is it that keeps folks from exercising their right to influence our country’s government in the only way that will be available to most of them? It’s certainly not any lack of significant contemporary issues or a sense of satisfaction with the conduct of our current government. It’s certainly not that voting isn’t as easy as possible, including widespread availability of advanced polls. So what is it?

That very question was the subject of a 1989 Royal Commission on Electoral Reform. The authors identified a number of factors that prevent people from voting. Many are very practical, logistic issues such as illness, being away from home at the time, or just being too busy. However, a leading cause that emerged was simply labeled simply as “wasn’t interested”.  A leading author of the document, Jon H. Pammett, described what he termed “administrative disenfranchisement”, meaning that the procedures involved in the voting process inhibit participation.

The results of the recent election highlight another cause of voter discontent that has been the focus of increasing attention and political lobbying over the past few years. Our parliamentary, party-based system combined with the marked variations in population density that exist in our country gives rise to a disturbing disconnect between the popular vote and final outcome.

For example, the Liberal party’s 33.1% of the popular vote translated into 46.4% (157) of the seats in the House of Commons. The Conservative party, which actually received a higher percentage of the popular vote (34.4%), won 26 fewer seats (121 or 35.8% of the available seats). The NDP’s 15.9% of the vote, in a proportional sense, should have earned them 54 seats, but they’ll go into the next parliament with only 24 seats, whereas the Bloc Quebecois’ 7.7% of the vote yielded 32 seats in voter rich Quebec. Perhaps the most egregious injustice relates to the Green Party. In an evenly distributed system their 6.5% share would translate into 22 seats, rather than the 3 seats they won. Even the fledgling People’s Party, which won no seats at all, can cry foul given that their 1.6% of the voting share would proportionately correspond to 5 seats.

Regardless of your political affiliation or preferences, it’s easy to understand why so many people are finding this disturbing, and why voters, particularly those is less populated parts of the country, are left feeling frustrated, discouraged and the sense that their individual votes are devalued or even meaningless. Adding to all this electoral confusion is the persisting problem that, in a parliamentary system, the voters don’t directly elect the highest political office in the country. This brings, with every election, the perennial and vexing conundrum of whether to vote for the local candidate on the basis of their personal capabilities, or the party they represent. In a democratic society, should voters be forced to make that choice? Might that be contributing to their frustration and apathy?

Changing such a deeply established process will, of course, not be easy. It would require determined action from the very politicians who have benefited from the status quo. Nonetheless, it seems that the time has come for at least an open debate on the issue. Those with the courage to take this on might be worth voting for!

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Students enthusiastically endorsed Dr. James Makokis as inaugural M. Nancy Tatham & Donna Henderson Lecturer

Public Lecture on Decolonizing Medicine is October 23 at 5 p.m.

Creating an inclusive space for transgender and Two-spirit people in medicine will be the focus of the inaugural Dr. M. Nancy Tatham & Donna Henderson Lectureship October 23 at the Queen’s School of Medicine Britton Smith Lecture Theatre (Room 132 at 15 Arch Street), at 5 p.m.

Dr. James Makokis, a Two-spirit Cree Family physician (and recent winner of the Amazing Race Canada with his partner Anthony Johnson) is the first Dr. M. Nancy Tatham & Donna Henderson Lecturer. The lectureship is organized by the School of Medicine’s Undergraduate Diversity Panel.

Dr. James Makokis

The students of the medical school class of 2022 who participate in the Diversity Panel enthusiastically put forward Dr. Makokis to be the first speaker for this lectureship. The students felt that inviting Dr. Makokis to speak would promote important conversations about equity, diversity and inclusion in medicine. They see this as an opportunity to learn from the experience and work of Dr. Makokis as it relates to indigenous and LGBTQ+ communities, intersectionality, and making medicine a safe space for all patients.

The students who are organizing and supporting this talk are doing so in order to promote safe, equitable care for all patient populations. It is known that diversity is an important factor in medicine, as different patient populations have different experiences and viewpoints. The goal of providing excellent compassionate care for all in medicine, can be hindered by biases and lack of awareness, and events such as this increase awareness and bring to light our biases.

The diversity panel and the generous donors promoting this event see this as a chance for students, faculty, and members of the community to come together and learn, to take a step toward making the practice of medicine more inclusive. Dr. Mala Joneja, Director of Diversity and Equity for the School of Medicine invites everyone to attend and be a part of this step forward. She invites everyone, students and faculty in the Faculty of Health Sciences to come and simply listen and understand. Events such as these are important for members of marginalized groups but also for those who wish to be allies. An ally is someone who, though not a member of an underrepresented group, takes action to support that group. She emphasized that all physicians can be allies to underrepresented and marginalized communities and attending the upcoming lecture is a great first step towards allyship.

Dr. Makokis holds a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Food Sciences, a Master of Health Science in Community Nutrition and a Doctorate in Medicine. He also received certification from the Aboriginal Family Medicine Training Program. He is a leader and well-known expert within the Indigenous, LGBTQ2 and medical community.

Dr. Makokis has maintained his cultural beliefs and spiritual practices in all areas of his life. His strong connections to preventative health, spirituality, and Two-spirit perspective has helped him save lives within the LGBTQ2 and First Nation communities. He also leads one of North America’s most progressive and successful transgender focused medical practices. 

Donna Henderson and M. Nancy Tatham

The Dr. M. Nancy Tatham  & Donna Henderson Lectureship was established in 2018 through a donation from Dr. Tatham and Ms. Henderson to support bringing speakers to campus on issues related to diversity and inclusion, specifically in areas related to LGBTQ+ topics, Indigenous issues, and other areas of diversity relevant to the practice of medicine. Although the primary intended audience is medical students, everyone is very welcome to attend.

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Cervical Cancer Awareness Week: Fourth annual Pap Party event will take place October 21-24th

By Hayley Hill (Meds 2021), Zoe Hutchison (Meds 2021), Eva Bruketa (Meds 2022)

A unique partnership between Queen’s University Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology program and the South East Regional Cancer program out of the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario (CCSEO) is helping to minimize barriers and ensure adequate access for all individuals with a cervix to receive cancer screening. Known as Pap Party, this collaboration offers free pap smear clinics across Southeastern Ontario for any individual with a cervix who may not have access to a primary care provider.

The most recent Cancer System Quality Index notes that only 63.6% of screen-eligible individuals in the South East region are up to date with their cervical cancer screening. As a result of the Pap Party campaign, in 2018 four clinic dates were held and 92 individuals received a pap smear. The highest number of individuals screened since the initiation of the Pap Party in 2015!

This year, the fourth annual Pap Party event will take place October 21-24th, during Cervical Cancer Awareness week. Any person with a cervix aged 21-70 who has not had a pap smear in the last three years is welcome. To increase accessibility to cervical cancer screening, individuals without primary care physicians, with or without a valid health card are encouraged to attend the Pap Party events.

The clinics are run by a team of medical students, and residents and physicians from the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at HSCH in collaboration with the Federation of Medical Women of Canada (FMWC). The first Pap Party in 2015 took place in Kingston and has since grown to offer clinics in Bancroft, Napanee, and Tyendinaga as well. 

The 2019 Pap Party schedule is below:

  • Monday October 21 5:30pm – 7:30pm: HPEPH Bancroft
  • Tuesday October 22 5:30pm – 7:30pm: Community Well Being Centre, Tyendinaga, Mohawk Territory
  • Wednesday October 23 5:30pm – 7:30pm: Kingston Health Sciences Centre, (KGH site) Kingston
  • Thursday October 24 5:30pm – 7:30pm: Kingston Community Health Center, Napanee

Anyone interested in attending a Pap Party is encouraged to book an appointment by contacting Rachel at 1.800.567.5722 extension 7809 or CancerCareSE@KingstonHSC.ca

To further expand Pap Party and combat declining cervical cancer screening rates, we have also reached out to primary care clinics in the Kingston area encouraging them to host their own pap smear clinics during Cervical Cancer Awareness Week. They will also be encouraged to offer the HPV Vaccine. Clinics that register with the FMWC receive a kit that includes a tip sheet, colour poster, news release template, and patient education brochures.  To register your clinic and contribute to reducing cervical cancer rates, please visit https://fmwc.ca/events/pap-campaign/.

The FMWC website also has more information for individuals and will help them find a registered clinic nearby.

Thank you taking the time to learn about the Pap Party initiative. Please feel free to contact us if you would like any additional information and please spread information about the Pap Party event to any individuals you feel may benefit from this initiative in your life! We would be grateful and thrilled!

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Disorientation can be the first step to learning

Have your ever found yourself in a new course or job and wondered how the heck you got yourself into this terrible situation? It could be something you strived for actively for years and sought out for yourself. (Yes, I know that describes many medical students, but also people in new jobs, and students in other graduate programs like the one I’m in at the Faculty of Education).

Often, in a new situation – even one we’ve chosen – we can feel less competent than we did in our previous circumstances, and scramble around to figure out why something we wanted has turned out so poorly right off the bat. Generally, adult learners are used to feeling competent in their lives, work, and previous educational endeavors. New situations can rob (or mask) that previously-developed competence.

Using Taylor’s Model of the Learning Cycle can help with these feelings and ensure you stay focused on moving ahead, rather than getting stuck in the “I’ve made a terrible mistake” self-talk.

First articulated by Marilyn Taylor in 1979, then refined in 1987, this cycle explores learning from the learner’s perspective.

Taylor described the learning cycle as one of Disorientation, followed by Exploration, then Reorientation, culminating in Equilibrium – then, for lifelong learners, a new period of Disorientation as the cycle begins again. Within each of these four stages are other predictable and/or possible stages, opportunities and solutions.

Although Taylor focused on inquiry-based learning, I’ve found the model can apply to any new learning situation for adults including, as mentioned above, starting a new job or new professional role.

Here’s Taylor’s Model of the Learning Cycle in a nutshell, based on a chapter from Dorothy MacKeracher’s Making Sense of Adult Learning (2004) (Disclosure of potential for bias: I was introduced to this model by Dr. MacKeracher during my BEd studies and she was later my supervisor for my master’s degree).

Disorientation

The model begins with the learner entering a new situation, often described as a “disconfirming event or destabilizing experience” which highlights a “major discrepancy between expectations and reality”. The change can be starting a new course or program, starting a new job, new technology being introduced at work, or a change of circumstances related to aging or health.

The disorientation comes about when the new situation isn’t routine. The learner no longer feels competent or capable, which can result in a crisis in self-confidence. (The questions of “why did I sign up for this?” or “who thought I’d be good here?” are common in this phase.)

When a learner experiences confusion, anxiety and rising tension, the learner frequently withdraws from others because of feelings of inadequacy.

As MacKeracher notes: “in formal learning programs, the person most frequently blamed is the facilitator” for things such as not providing enough direction or clear instructions, or “not being helpful”.

Some people get stuck in this phase and focus on immediate – but misguided – solutions. For example, assuming the problem is lack of control, so trying to be more organized, but not really moving forward. (I’ve called this my “rearrange the chairs on the Titanic” mode. It’s not a productive place).

Exploration

The exploration phase begins when the learner “can name the central issue and make contact with others,” MacKeracher explains. “The individual becomes engaged in searching for information or ideas that could assist in resolving the identified problem.” The key here is to look for information or ideas that will make things better, not a superficial quick fix. This could involve exploring new study habits, identifying training gaps and solutions, or considering new points of view or attitudes (depending on the learning situation).

Towards the end of the exploration phase, the learner may withdraw from others somewhat to think things over, but this is not the avoidance of the disorientation phase, rather a time for thoughtful reflection and planning to make a transition.

Reorientation

The transition to the reorientation phase is characterized by “integrat[ing] ideas and experience to provide a new understanding of the issue [or circumstance]” that caused the disorientation in the first place. “The learner consciously acknowledges that learning is a process in which he or she is the agent.”

Equilibrium

As implied by its name, this phase is far more settled than the previous three, or, as MacKeracher writes: “this phase involves a much reduced emotional intensity.” Learners may consolidate, refine, and apply their new perspective and skills and share them with others in different context “or tested out as new behaviour in new settings.”

(And then back to disorientation…)

Sometimes people move through these phases instinctively, but if you’re feeling stuck – disorientated – working through Taylor’s Learning Model consciously can be helpful. Sometimes, it’s just reassuring to know “this is a phase” and you’ll come out the other side stronger, resilient, and competent in your new circumstances.

This is, admittedly, a simplified overview of Taylor’s Learning Cycle Model. Feel free to drop by my office for further discussion or to borrow my copy of MacKeracher’s Making Sense of Adult Learning.

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