Interveners allowed in appeal of nurse fined $26K for criticizing long-term care home

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Interveners allowed in nurse’s appeal of fine for criticizing long-term care home
WATCH: Three parties will be able to make freedom of expression arguments as a nurse appeals a decision to uphold a $26,000 fine for criticizing a long term care home. – Jun 4, 2019

Prince Albert nurse Carolyn Strom will have her appeal over a hefty fine for criticizing her grandparent’s care home supported by three organizations.

The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN), B.C. Civil Liberties Association, and the Canadian Constitution Foundation will be arguing Strom’s freedom of expression was violated, and her punishment may set precedent for other nurses or other individuals.

“I’m glad that they were all allowed. It’s a really important case. We just need everybody’s perspective on it,” Strom said.

“It’s going to affect not just nurses, but all professionals and any other Canadians that have something to say.”

In 2015, Strom took to Facebook to level complaints about the standard of care her grandparents received in their Macklin, Sask. long-term care home. The posting was public, and Strom forwarded it to the health minister.

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In response, the Saskatchewan Registered Nurse Association (SRNA) found Strom guilty of unprofessional conduct for publicly calling into question the ability of other SRNA members to perform their duties.

Strom was fined $1,000 for the offence and an additional $25,000 to cover the cost of the investigation. A GoFundMe page in support of Strom raised $27,000 to help cover costs.

Last year, a Court of Queen’s Bench judge upheld the ruling saying the SRNA acted within their legislated powers.

SUN and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association also acted as interveners in that case.

SRNA’s legal representation, Johnathan Martin and Roger LePage, argued Tuesday that the interveners should not be allowed in the appeal, as the punishment only applies to Strom’s specific case and would only affect others if they took the same actions.

The SRNA position is that Strom should have taken her concerns to the professional association instead of airing her grievances publicly.

Legal representation for the interverers argued they should be allowed to take part in the case, as there could be precedent-setting implications that a professional association could punish a member for criticizing a public institution.

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LePage anticipated the three-judge panel would decide to allow the interveners.

“I’m not surprised as the interveners are quite often seen as helpful if they can advance the case, some of the arguments, especially when there are charter arguments,” LePage said.

The case is set to be heard during the week of Sept. 16 in Regina.

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