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June 12, 2017

CFNU Biennial Convention - Day 3: Another Great Day In The Books

2017 Convention

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!

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.”

Alice Blondin-Perrin


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