CFNU 2017 Biennial Convention June 6 – 9, 2017 Calgary, Alberta

Monday, June 5, 2017: Canada’s Nurses Get Loud In Calgary as Convention Kicks Off

Healthy Walk

Thank you to all the delegates who joined us for some fresh air and exercise on Monday afternoon. What a great way to reconnect with old friends, meet new friends from across Canada, and see beautiful downtown Calgary.

Linda Silas, CFNU president, kicked off the 2017 CFNU Biennial Convention with the Healthy Walk to energize both the bodies and the minds of the delegates before we get down to business.

Welcome Reception

Hosted by the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA), the Welcome Reception was just a sneak peek into what the week holds for us.

Hassan Yussuff, Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) president, shared words of encouragement and solidarity from our brothers and sisters in the labour movement.

Yussuff opened with a clear and simple message, “nurses are the heart and soul of the healthcare system in this great country.”

“You are the backbone of the system that makes the system what it is. If you go back through the history of our country, the history of the healthcare system, and how it has change, how it has evolved and continues to change, nurses have been and will be leading change”.

“The work you do every day, your commitment at bargaining table, pushes others to do better….Your voice, your activism, your leadership has strengthened the labour movement…The work we [labour movement] are doing together, will make this country even better for the next 150 years.”

Inspiring words to start what is sure to be an amazing week.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017: Education Day Brings Inspiration & Solidarity

Can you feel it? The energy, the excitement, the encouragement, and the sense of solidarity that is starting to fill the air? Save some of that energy – we have got lots to do this week.

The day was built around connecting with nurses from other provinces, sharing ideas, empathizing with and learning from others’ experiences, and recognizing we are not alone in the struggles we face as nurses and as leaders in healthcare.

Meet Your National Executive Board (NEB)

YA – HOO! 

CFNU president, Linda Silas, is now an honourary Calgarian, following The White Hat Ceremony on the opening day of convention.

Silas was presented with a white Smithbilt hat, as part of the long-standing tradition in Calgary of welcoming visitors to the city. Since the 1950s, the White Hat has been a symbol of Western hospitality and good cheer.

Morning Plenary: Being a nurse in a conflict zone

Courage in the face of chaos

What kind of person willing goes into a conflict zone and risks his/her life to save others? During this morning’s plenary session, delegates met one of these health care heroes – Captain Stephanie Smith, a military nurse, who served in Afghanistan, as well as participated in several relief missions, including in Haiti. Captain Smith recounted her missions and shared stories that were both terrifying and inspiring.

“Imagine going to work and having to treat bombing victims that are your neighbours,” she said. “This is the reality of working on the front lines in a conflict zone.”

Leonard Rubenstein, founder and chair of Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition gave numerous examples of hospitals that were bombed in conflict zones and introduced delegates to the term “double-tap strike” – the act of bombing a hospital a second time, while first responders are already inside providing care.

“Nurses and hospitals have become targets for simply doing their jobs of providing impartial care,” he said. “There are lots of dirty hands on the UN Security Council has paralyzed progress for improving accountability and protection.”

Rubenstein called on the 1,000 nurses in the room to speak up for change. “Nurses can and do lead the way,” he said. “Let’s educate people on the scope and catastrophic scale of the problem of violence on health care workers.”


With so many great workshops to pick from, how do you choose? Here are but only a few samples of activities, information, things to think about as we take our new found knowledge and skills back to our workplaces.

Spotlight: Conversations at Work –  Strategies for Speaking Up!

This workshop on speaking up is billed as a highly practical and interactive workshop on interpersonal communication. Facilitator Gerard Murphy summed up his goal for the workshop this way: “I really want nurses to know that they can be assertive, in a respectful and professional way, in their practice and as activists.”

Murphy describes himself as a “high extrovert” and he is exactly that, as well as funny, engaging, and respectful. The workshop will give you lots of practical communication techniques to build your skills and many opportunities to practice what you are learning throughout. The time flies by with activities, reflection, and learning constantly interwoven.

One participant described the session as “totally worth it – I’m thinking about taking this education back to our hospital. The empathetic assertion techniques and using body language are really useful.”

This workshop will push you out of your comfort zone but never embarrass you, and you’ll go home with a handbook full of great ideas to try out.

Spotlight:  Global Café on the Social Factors Impacting Health

A fantastic and engaging session that equips and shows that nurses, from around the country, are ready to look at taking on upstream thinking.

Upstream thinking means investing wisely for future success rather than spending all of our time and resources responding to and perpetuating failure. If health for all is our goal, then upstream thinking is about addressing the things that have the greatest influence on our health, including income, employment, education, early childhood development, housing, nutrition and the wider environment.

An interactive workshop designed to have participants constantly engage with new perspectives, Global Café shows nurses from across Canada note the same factors causing them to take a new approach to creating positive changes as they turn to upstream thinking.

Spotlight: PTSD in the Nursing Profession

This informative workshop took a deeper look at Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the impacts on nurses and the profession as a whole.

PTSD, a psychiatric disorder most often associated with war veterans, has been silently working its way through the nursing profession. In fact, Canadian studies estimate that more than 30 per cent of nurses experience one of more symptoms of PTSD. It has been was found that, unlike most professions, it is typically the prolonged, cumulative exposure to trauma that can cause PTSD symptoms in nurses, as opposed to one acute event.

“Nurses normalize and expect trauma to be part of the job,” said Mikaela Brooks, MNU researcher. “This belief can impede upon a nurse’s ability to recognize triggering events and to determine if they are coping well.”

“Mental well being is not so different than physical well being,” said Jeff Psych, psychologist. “Yet, we have this idea that physical illness is somehow more acceptable than a mental illness.”

Nurses across the country, and their unions, are encouraged to continue to lobby for changes to their respective provincial legislation to recognize the impact of PTSD on nurses through the implementation of “presumptive legislation”. In short, “presumptive legislation” removes the need to prove that PTSD is a result of the work environment. To date, Manitoba is the only province to enact presumptive PTSD legislation that is inclusive of nurses.

Fun Night!

Which did you choose? The Western BBQ and Rodeo or the Segway Experience? Either way, there were laughs shared and memories made.

Girletz Rodeo Ranch…

Wednesday, June 7, 2017: Round Up
Another Great Day In The Books

The energy filled the room once again as we kicked off Day 3 of Convention 2017.

In The News!

(Photo: UNA Delegation). Click on image to read article.

UNA Local 115 Designates

Morning Plenary: Next Steps Post-TRC

Powerful, emotional, thought provoking and inspiring. Wednesday morning delegates heard stories of abuse, neglect, resilience, perseverance, forgiveness and triumph as we took a personal and in depth look at what lead us to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and what still needs to be done.

Residential school survivor Alice Blondin-Perrin courageously spoke of her childhood experiences while attending a residential school, St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic School, at the age of four. In an amazing show of strength, Blondin-Perrin had to overcome her nightmares and looked to heal herself by forgiving, not forgetting. “Only after I found the courage to tell my story, did I find peace of mind and begin to heal my insides. I had to forgive everyone, for that was true reconciliation to me.”

Blondin-Perrin’s book, “My Heart Shook Like A Drum”, is available for purchase in the Exhibitor Hall.

Registered Nurse (RN) Flora Simpson faced her own struggles growing up in the isolated community of Norway House, Manitoba. Simpson’s community struggled to maintain healthcare services in the area to treat and care for the people. Feeling frustrated and knowing something needed to be done, Simpson enrolled in the College of Nursing with the goal of providing care to her home community. In 2002, Simpson started her journey in public health at the clinic in Norway House and became a strong advocate for the child-first principle, Jordon’s Principle.

Simpson noted, “it is important for our children to learn of the residential schools and our past struggles, so we can learn from our past, so we can avoid history repeating itself.”

What can we do today to make tomorrow better? How do we begin to heal our indigenous communities and encourage others to respect and engage in their culture? We educate, we challenge, we become allies, and we take action – we speak up.

That was Dr. Bernice Downey’s message as we closed out the session. Speaking to the current healthcare issues facing indigenous communities, Downey said, “nurses are strong social justice advocates and agents for change. There are important health issues, such as suicide rates amongst indigenous youth.  We cannot be silent; healthcare professionals will play a critical role in overcoming these critical issues.”


Spotlight: Sexual Minorities – Providing Respectful Nursing Care

What do you do if you can’t determine whether your patient is male or female? What if the name is female, but the patient is male in appearance? How do you address this person? The answer is simple – you ask. This workshop explored these questions and the tools and strategies for creating a respectful environment.

“Asking means you’re being mindful and respectful,” said Chelsea Kelba, training centre coordinator at the Calgary Sexual Health Centre. “Silence is a choice and by not acknowledging, you can be extremely hurtful to the individual.”  Kelba recommended starting off the conversation by identifying your own pronoun e.g. “Hi, my name is Jane, and I identify as she/her,” and then inviting your patient to do the same. If your patient identifies as a gender you are not familiar with, you can follow up with, “what does that mean to you?” This method minimizes confusion and ensures that your patient will receive the best care, that is both tailored to and respectful of their specific needs.

In most cases, changes are being made to our educational systems, institutions and physical spaces to improve inclusiveness, but there is still a far way to go in terms of delivering health care to these individuals.

“We live in a culture where everyone is straight until proven otherwise,” said Blake Spence, manager at the Calgary Sexual Health Centre. “We need to allow people time to reflect and figure out who they are.” 

This workshop generated lots of discussion and questions, showing an openness from nurses to better understand the diverse needs of their patients. Many of the questions revolved around defining the various types of genders and orientations – lesbian, two-spirited, pan-sexual etc. – for which Spence had a simple answer.

“As a general rule, sex is between the legs, gender is between the ears and orientation is in the heart,” said Spence. “But at the end of the day, it’s not about gender – it’s about people. We’re all people.”

Spotlight: Nursing and Technology Impact

Talk about an eye-opening workshop. Topics ranged from a survey of trends in technology, to how courts would view recommending apps and Fitbits to patients, all the way to whether nurses will be replaced by robots and artificial intelligence in the near future!

The facilitators included a CBC radio host who has written a book demystifying technology, a nurse-turned-Ph.D. researcher who looks at technology in health care, to a lawyer heading up the Canadian Nurse Protective Society. Each offered a valuable perspective on considerations when approaching technology in health care and the rapid pace of change.

The bottom line: technology is most powerful when used in concert with people, rather than a replacement for people. As unions well know, if we are not at the table, we’re on the menu. The key is to be involved in guiding and shaping how technology will be used, so that it doesn’t change things around us without our input, because this is our nursing future. And time to start bargaining provisions to respond to new technology and methods of delivering health care.

In the meantime, don’t expect flying cars anytime soon (despite what Popular Mechanics promised us as kids) but self-driving cars are coming fast.

Spotlight: Domestic Violence at Work – A Union Concern

Did you know that one in three women have experienced domestic violence, and for the majority, it follows them to work? More than half of domestic violence victims receive harassing phone calls, emails or text messages while at work, while others are stalked or harassed at or near their place of work.

In some cases, abusers may even try to sabotage their victim’s work or prevent them from going to work as a way of keeping them economically dependent and isolated.

Everyone deserves to feel safe and supported at work, and this workshop was about arming co-workers and union leaders with the tools necessary to spot the warning signs of domestic violence, offer support and to help end the stigma associated with domestic violence.

It was noted that while both men and women are at risk of experiencing domestic violence, women with disabilities, racialized women, young women, indigenous women, LGBTQ women, immigrant women and women in rural communities face greater risk of serious injury or death, and extra barriers to support and healing.

The workshop was facilitated by the Canadian Labour Congress which has been a driving force, advocating for improved supports and protection for victims of domestic violence.

For more information and tips on dealing with domestic violence at work visit

Thursday, June 8, 2017: Let’s Get Down To Business

Day 4 brought the start of Convention business and of course…the banquet!

As we moved through out the day and the agenda, our strength and our solidarity as a collective only grew as we shared stories from across the country about current and past struggles, how we overcame the challenges, and realized we are not alone. We are all fighting the same fight; fighting for safe staffing, patient safety, protective legislation, and out collective bargaining rights. Coming to Convention only reaffirms what we already know – we are stronger, together.

There was lots happening today – check out below to review quick highlights from today’s events.

President’s Address 

Violence, safe staffing and Indigenous Health on the agenda 

CFNU president, Linda Silas delivered a passionate address to the 1,200 delegates, kicking off the first business day of the biennial convention.

Silas unveiled the results of a recent survey in which 2,000 nurses from across the country spoke up about important issues affecting health care, ranging from overtime to the rising incidents of violence.

“Nurses and policy-makers know that excessive overtime is eroding the safe, quality care of our patients,” she said. “Our patients deserve the best nursing care, and to provide that care, nurses cannot be stretched to unhealthy limits.”  

Public health care employers paid $989 million in 2016 in illness – or disability-related absenteeism costs. The total cost of unpaid and paid nursing overtime was an additional $968 million.

She added that as the acuity level of hospital patients continues to rise, cuts to nursing positions are driving nurses to rethink their career choice, just as they are needed most.

“Over the last year more than 60 per cent of nurses have had a serious problem with some form of violence at work,” she said. “Enough is enough! We will not accept violence as part of the job and are calling for a zero-tolerance approach to violence in health care workplaces.”  

She went on to speak about closing the gaps between non-indigenous and First Nations health care, particularly when dealing with substandard care provided to First Nations children.

“For too long Canada has ignored the plight of its First Nations people and there is no excuse for this. Quite frankly it’s shameful,” she said. “As nurses, we have a responsibility to ensure that all Canadians have access to safe health care. We are committed to working with our Indigenous leaders to better understand why these conditions persist and more importantly what Canada’s nurses can do in helping to address these inequities.” 

Click here to read today’s press release reflecting Linda’s address

Game Changers

Your National Executive Board (NEB) took to the stage today to talk about the pressing issues facing nursing and healthcare – provincially and nationally, and how the provinces are taking the issues head on.

Speak Up!

Download the Speak Up App today from your App Store.


Enough is Enough 

A new national survey of Canada’s nurses, released today in conjunction with the CFNU’s discussion paper, Enough Is Enough: Putting a Stop to Violence in the Health Care Sector, shows that workplace violence in health care is a serious and growing problem.

According to the survey, over the last 12 months, more than 60 per cent of nurses have experienced serious problems in the workplace, related to violence, including physical assault, bullying, verbal abuse and racial/sexual harassment.

“Nurses are more likely to be attacked in the workplace than prison guards or police officers,” said CFNU president Linda Silas. “How can we effectively care for our patients when we are constantly at risk of being attacked?” 

The discussion paper, Enough Is Enough, raises the alarm and highlights the need for urgent action to increase nurse staffing levels and implement an action plan to keep nurses safe on the job.

“Enough is enough,” said CFNU President Linda Silas. “We know that the cost of workplace violence in Ontario hospitals alone is $23.8 million annually. These funds would be better invested in patient care and safety for both our patients and our nurses.”  

The CFNU is calling for a zero-tolerance approach to violence in health care workplaces.

Congratulations! Bread and Roses Recipients 

At each CFNU convention, the Bread and Roses Award is given to a nurse member in recognition of outstanding contribution to policy and decision-making, and raising public awareness for nursing issues and patient advocacy.

Congratulations to Tracy Zambory, President of Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN), Jane Sustrik, First Vice-President of the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) and David Harrigan, Director of Labour Relations for UNA on receiving this year’s award.

Their commitment and dedication is truly inspiring and with their leadership we are confident that we can confront and conquer the serious challenges facing Canada’s health care system.

The Banquet!

Opps! Sorry, nothing to report here.  What happens at banquet, stays at banquet!

All we can say is, it was a great time! Thank you to the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) for hosting and a special thank you to our surprise guest, former nurse and UNA member, country artist, Paul Brandt!


Friday, June 9, 2017: That’s A Wrap

In the News

What an amazing week! So many memories and new friends. Fantastic workshops, great entertainment, and inspirational speakers!

THANK YOU Calgary for the great food, vibrant restaurants and bars, beautiful skyline, and of course….the shopping.

THANK YOU to the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) for hosting us this week and showing us a great time!

“It is wonderful to have had this inspirational time together. Although we do not know each nurse, or each town we come from, our theme is the same: Speak up for Health and the people we serve!” – Carmen Powers, ONA

Mayor Nenshi

The best way to start the morning, the day after the banquet, is with a few laughs.

Calgary Mayor NaHhed Nenshi delivered a light-hearted address which, at several times, caused the room to erupt in laughter. He also spoke about the need to stand together; to work together; for our community, our nation and our world. He thanked the nurses for their commitment to caring each and every day.

Sir Robert Francis

cfnu17 (55)

The Freedom to Speak Up – can you imagine? Being able to speak up for your patients safety, your profession, for healthcare issues and for yourself – without the added fear and stress of being reprimanded.

Keynote speaker, Sir Robert Francis QC, presented his findings from his 2015 report, Freedom to Speak Up, which examined the victimisation of whistleblowers in the National Health Service (NHS).

“The freedom to speak up is not the freedom to be bullied by your manager, the public, or your colleagues,” said Francis.

Francis’ report identified 10 principles for building a culture of “Freedom to Speak Up”, most to create an environment where:Employees to feel confident to speak up.

  • Employees to feel confident to speak up.
  • Employees to feel safe to speak up in the future.
  • Employees have confidence in the investigation process.
  • Employees see speaking up with make a difference.
  • Employees know their concerns are well received.

Click here to read the full report

Speak Up Rally

What’s the best way to end such an amazing week?  With 1,200 nurses marching through downtown Calgary  to celebrate 150 Years of patient advocacy!

Check out the CFNU Facebook page to relive the excitement!

Premier Rachel Notley

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley received a “so-so-so solidarity” welcome before she addressed the 1,200-nurse delegation.  She began her address by saying a big thank you to the nurses in the room for all that they do each and every day to make things better for others.

“There are few things in life that are more frightening than seeing someone you love in a hospital bed,” she said. “And, there are few things in life more reassuring than seeing the face of a smiling nurse ready to care for that loved one.”

She went on to speak about the state of the Alberta economy. She admitted that balancing the budget is necessary, but said that unlike some of the other provinces in Canada and despite calls from the opposition, her government will not “cut and fire”. The Alberta government has made a commitment to “build and hire”.

“We are building badly needed hospitals, long-term care homes. We are ensuing Albertans have the care they need when they need it,” she said. “We will work towards a balanced budget but what we won’t do is cut vital services that people depend on.”

She then told the story about Amanda who lost her job because she took time off to take care of her sick child.
“You should never have to choose between taking care of your family and protecting your job,” she said. “The law has since been changed with the introduction of Bill 17.”  

Under Bill 17—the Fair and Family-Friendly Workplaces Act, no one in Alberta will be fired for taking time off to take care of a seriously ill family member.

The bill also does things like providing unpaid job-protected leaves for things like spousal abuse, while it explicitly makes illegal the practice of making employees pay for dine-and-dashes and gas-and-dashes, and prohibits the practice of paying disabled workers less than others because of their disability.

Furthermore, Bill 17 modernizes the process of certifying or decertifying unions in a workplace, minimizing the opportunity for bullying and intimidation by either side, makes it easier for newly certified unions to secure a first collective agreement, and formalizes Alberta’s recognition of the Rand formula, whereby because all workers in a unionized environment benefit from the union’s bargaining, they are all required to pay dues.

She concluded by saying that we must all work together so that we can get the best outcome for all Canadians.

Big Daddy Tazz

After 30 years of denying he had the mental illnesses that were controlling his life, Tazz realized that being manic-depressive, attention deficit, and having mild dyslexia could either destroy or enhance his life… it was his choice. Tazz had us in stitches and tears as we listened to his rapid cycle ride down the never-ending road to recovery. Tazz spoke candidly about his struggles and ultimately his triumphs over, not only being diagnosed mental illness, but facing the terrifying stigma that surrounds it.

Photo Album

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