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January 17, 2018

“Kicked, punched, spat on, sworn at, or worse”: Canada’s nurses convene union roundtable to tackle the crisis of violence in health care

Media Release

OTTAWA, Jan. 17, 2018  — As violence rates in the health care sector continue to escalate, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) has convened a two-day roundtable of 17 unions representing health care workers from across the country.

“Every day nurses and frontline care providers go to work knowing they may be kicked, punched, spat on, sworn at or worse,” said Linda Silas, President of the CFNU. “This reality can no longer be tolerated, and we are gathering over the next two days to build towards a plan of action.”

In a recent CFNU poll, 61% of nurses reported a serious problem with violence in the past year, including bullying, emotional or verbal abuse, racial or sexual harassment, or physical assault. A full two thirds (66%) pondered leaving their job to work for a different employer or in a different occupation.

“It’s a pressure cooker out there for workers on the frontline,” said Silas. “Violence is intensifying as staff is cut to the bare bones and left to manage more and sicker patients than ever before.”

The number of violence-related lost-time claims for frontline health care workers has increased by almost 66% over the past decade, three times the rate of increase for police and correctional service officers combined.

The roundtable will take place over the next two days, featuring experts in occupational health and safety, and profiling success stories from the Ottawa Hospital, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and Michael Garron Hospital, three facilities that have undertaken comprehensive efforts to proactively prevent incidents of violence. The roundtable will culminate in a collaborative strategy session among participants.

“As individual health care unions, we have been talking about violence in the workplace for more than two decades,” said Silas. “It’s time to move beyond discussions towards a plan of action that governments, employers, unions and frontline workers can implement together.”

The unions participating in the roundtable are: Canadian Labour Congress, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec, Manitoba Nurses Union, New Brunswick Nurses Union, Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union, Ontario Nurses’ Association, Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Prince Edward Island Nurses’ Union, Public Service Alliance of Canada, Registered Nurses’ Union of Newfoundland & Labrador, Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, SEIU Healthcare, Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, Unifor, Union of Health and Environment Workers (PSAC) and United Nurses of Alberta.


The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) is Canada’s largest nurses’ organization representing nearly 200,000 nurses and student nurses. The CFNU advocates for national discussions on key health priorities, such as a national prescription drug plan, a comprehensive approach to long-term and continuing care, greater attention to health human resources, and federal government engagement on the future of public health care.

For further information please contact:
Lauren Snowball, CFNU Communications Officer, (613) 868-5702, lsnowball (at)