November 26, 2021 (OTTAWA, ON) – The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) welcomes the federal government’s announcement of new legislation intended to protect health care workers from violence at work.
Nurses are applauding measures outlined today aimed at protecting health care workers, including criminalizing activities blocking access to health facilities and amending the Criminal Code to recognize violence against a health worker as an aggravating factor during sentencing.
“Nurses’ unions are pleased that the government is committing to tackling rampant violence against health care workers with the introduction of Bill C-3,” said Linda Silas, CFNU President. “This is an essential measure that responds to longstanding calls for our federal leaders to step up and recognize the serious risks of assault and injury that health care workers face on the job.”
The CFNU spearheaded this effort targeting the Criminal Code, first calling for an amendment in 2017.
In 2019, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health included an amendment to the Criminal Code as one of the recommendations in its wide-ranging study, Violence Facing Health Care Workers in Canada. Other critical recommendations include the development of a national public awareness campaign to sensitize Canadians on the violence faced by health care workers and highlight the valuable role health care professionals play in providing care, along with collaborating with the provinces and territories to address staffing shortages by updating the Pan-Canadian Health Human Resources Strategy. Canada’s nurses urge the federal government to implement these key recommendations as well.
“This represents the culmination of a long fight to protect nurses and all health care workers from the very troubling physical and emotional assaults they experience all too often at work,” added Silas. “It’s a critical step toward making health care workplaces safer and addressing one of the underlying factors that is driving nurses out of their jobs and the nursing profession altogether.”
Similar federal legislation already exists to safeguard workers in other sectors who perform high-risk jobs, including peace officers and transit workers.
“Nurses are pleased to hear the government has finally listened to our call to hold perpetrators of violence against health care workers accountable and recognize that we provide an essential service and deserve to be protected as we do so,” said Silas.
Ultimately, safer workplaces for health care workers will translate to safer care for patients and residents.
The CFNU is Canada’s largest nurses’ organization, representing nearly 200,000 nurses and student nurses, and advocating on key health priorities and federal engagement in public health care.
For more information, please contact:
Ben René, CFNU communications officer