In 1978, somewhere in the China Sea, a boat was set adrift at sea. On board were 2,564 Vietnamese refugees that no country wanted to welcome. Desperate, they raised a banner that read: “We are threatened with famine and epidemics. United Nations, save us!” A group of doctors, including Dr. Bernard Kouchner, along with academics and journalists, left on a hospital ship, The Isle of Light, to treat but also to bear witness to the plight of these boat-people. And on February 1, 1980, Doctors of the World was born. The association has three objectives: to go where others don’t go, to bear witness to the intolerable, and to work voluntarily. According to one of the founding doctors, it is above all “to create a structure that is ready to respond to emergencies in the shortest time, which is not always possible for international institutions.” The Canadian delegation of Doctors of the World was founded in 1996.
HISTORY OF DOCTORS OF THE WORLD CANADA
Dr. Réjean Thomas is a cofounder of Doctors of the World Canada and was President from 1996 to 2007. In the 90s, Dr. Thomas went on multiple humanitarian missions in various countries, including Haiti, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan. Dr. Thomas is also cofounder and President of the Clinique médicale l’Actuel, a centre of excellence for HIV, STI and hepatitis in Montreal. The recipient of several awards, Dr. Thomas is a member of the Order of New Brunswick, the Order of Quebec, the Order of Canada and a Knight of the Order of La Pléiades of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie