Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) Biennial Convention 2017 by Charlotte Parkinson 

I had the privilege of being drawn to attend this convention through Local 115. Before giving you details of the week’s events, I would like to explain what CFNU is and does. 

CFNU is comprised of Canada’s provincial nurses unions and is a member of the International Congress of Nurses.  It is the national voice of nurses within the labour congress and wider community of nurses in Canada and the world. 

CFNU’s purpose includes: 

  • protecting the health of patients and families in a public health system 
  • advocating for and promoting better working conditions for nurses and their profession 
  • pressuring federal government to recognize professional skills and knowledge that nurses provide in their jobs 
  • informing all levels of government on issues pertinent to safe patient care and provide evidence for new policy making 
  • representing nurses to the media so their stories can be told 

The CFNU convention is held every two years in a different province.  The United Nurses of Alberta hosted this event from June 5-9 in Calgary at the TELUS Convention Center. The theme was Canada’s Nurses Speak Up – for quality patient care in a public health care system, stopping violence in the workplace, for development of a federal new seniors care standard, and for more funding for homecare and mental health.  

June 5 – Registration Day 

The events commenced in the afternoon with a healthy guided walk with CFNU president, Linda Silas, and the National Executive Board. This allowed visiting nurses and fellow Calgarians to experience the highlights of downtown Calgary.  

The TELUS Convention Centre was buzzing with excitement with nurses from across Canada meeting new people and reacquainting with old friends. Registration had begun – getting nametags, t-shirts, and, of course, cowboys hats! All provinces had provided their members with symbolic attire of where they came from.  

That evening, a welcome reception was held. There was excellent entertainment provided by the Calgary Fiddlers and Treaty 7 dancers. Both groups had members dancing and clapping. 

June 6 – Education Day I 

Allowed us to connect with nurses from other provinces, sharing stories and realizing our struggles are faced together. 


Linda Silas was the proud recipient of a white Smithbilt hat and is now a honourary Calgarian – a tradition to welcome visitors to Calgary. The morning plenary sessions included two speakers. Cpt. Stephanie Smith, a military nurse, expressed her experience nursing in a conflict zone. Her stories brought a new perspective about the dangers encountered in conflict zones. 

The second speaker, Leonard Rubenstein, founder and chair of safeguarding health in conflict coalition, provided information about frequent bombings of hospitals, injuries to medical professionals, and how medical responders dealt with this. Fearing for one’s personal safety was a reality of conflict zones. He encouraged all present to speak up for the protection of health care workers worldwide.  

Education Session – All participants chose of session of learning according to their own interest. Out of thirteen choices, I chose Conversations at Work – Strategies for Speaking Up. 

Fun Night – Western hospitality with barbeque, rodeo and musical entertainment. A great way to kick up our heels!  

June 7 – Education Day II 

The morning plenary sessions included three speakers who focused on Truth and Reconciliation-where we have come & what still needs to be done. 

Alice Blondin-Perrin spoke of her childhood in a residential school setting.  Her healing occurred once she had the courage to tell her story and forgive, but says she will never forget. Her book, My Heart Shook like a Drum, allowed her to experience peace and to heal.  

Flora Simpson, RN, grew up in Norway House, Manitoba where healthcare was lacking. She talked about being a public health nurse to provide care in her own community and becoming an advocate for Jordan’s Principle – child-first.  

Dr. Bernice Downey spoke about healthcare issues facing indigenous communities. 

For the 2nd education day, I chose Preserving Your Lifestyle – a retirement planning guide, which covered numerous topics about retiring and what to consider during this time.  

June 8 – Business Day I 

Commenced with an Aboriginal welcome and prayer, followed by O’ Canada.  

Heather Smith, president of United Nurses of Alberta, welcomed everyone. A video about nurses speaking up was viewed, and was followed by the introduction of Linda Silas and the National Executive Board. 

Her address focused on violence in the workplace, safe staffing, and Indigenous health. Survey of 2000 nurses reinforced issues that affect nurses and healthcare including excessive overtime and its link to quality patient care. It is unhealthy for the patients and nurses to be stretched to the limits.  Millions and millions of dollars are spent on illness and disability related costs. As well, millions are spent in unpaid and paid overtime. Our patients deserve the best nursing care, which means the nurses providing that care must be healthy and have a safe working environment. Zero tolerance to any form of violence within our workplace must be enforced. In closing, she reinforced that First Nations people also deserve access to safe health care and CFNU is committed to addressing Indigenous leaders’ concerns. 

The National Executive Board (NEB) discussed pressing issues for nurses and healthcare – both nationally and provincially. Nurses need to continue speaking up on these issues. 

The CFNU Bread and Roses Award is given to nurse members for outstanding contribution to policy, decision making, and raising public awareness on nursing concerns and patient advocacy. Congratulations to: Tracy Zambory – president of SUN, Jane Sustrick – 1st vice president of UNA, and David Harrigan – Director of Labour Relations for UNA.  

The day was completed with an amazing sit down dinner and entertainment by Paul Brandt, who is a former nurse and UNA member. He entertained his fellow nurses royally.  

June 9 – Business Day II 

The morning address was from Calgary’s mayor Naheed Nenshi. He stressed that we must stand and work together in our community, nation and worldwide. He thanked nurses for their care each day. He wears a pin on his lapel which reminds him to do 3 acts of kindness every day – a special idea to recognize Canada’s sesquicentennial. 

Pauline Worsfold, CFNU secretary/treasurer, presented the Treasurer’s Report.  

Speaker, Sir Robert Francis spoke about the freedom to speak up, and identified ten principles to building an environment for employees to feel confident to speak up, safe to continue to speak up. Employees must also have confidence in investigative process, and know that their concerns are received, and that speaking up makes a difference. This is a culture of safety transparency.  

Download the Speak-Up App!  

The Resolution Committee reported: Emergency Resolution #1 – paid clinical hours for nursing students, #2 – Enough is enough – putting a stop to violence in health care sector. 

Alberta’s Premier, Rachel Notley’s, speech was greeted with enthusiasm – she thanked nurses for what they do every day to help others. She discussed Alberta’s economy and the need for a balanced budget, but not through the cutting and firing of nurses. They, the NDP, are committed to build and hire. In conclusion, she emphasized that working together will be the best outcome for Canadians. 

Speak Up Rally at Olympic Plaza was a sight to behold! Armed with noise makers instead of syringes, nurses from nine Canadian provinces stood up for what they believe in, and work towards everyday—safe patient care! 

Big Daddy Tass, a comedian and guest speaker, spoke about where he came from and how he overcame his problems. Now, his favourite thing to do is make people laugh. His main message was to be kind – speak up for people stuck in the darkness by assisting them to look for the light. Teach them to use their voice and speak up.  

Overall, the CFNU Biennium in Calgary was a great success. It was an exciting and informative time for all. We were able to make new friends and reacquaint with old ones while still working towards the goals of CFNU. I encourage all nurses from Local 115 to consider attending the CFNU Convention in Fredericton, New Brunswick in 2019.   

Submitted By – Charlotte Parkinson 


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