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Saskatchewan Court of Appeal quashes fine against nurse who made critical Facebook post

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WATCH: Saskatchewan’s Court of Appeal ruled registered nurse Carolyn Strom did not act unprofessionally when she took to Facebook to raise concerns about her grandfather’s care – Oct 6, 2020

Saskatchewan’s highest court has overruled a disciplinary decision and $26,000 fine levied against a nurse who criticized her grandfather’s care on Facebook.

The Court of Appeal quashed the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association‘s finding of professional misconduct against Carolyn Strom, a registered nurse from Prince Albert, Sask.

Read more: Political parties mining your social media data for targeted ads, online experts warn

A few weeks after her grandfather’s death in 2015, Strom wrote on Facebook that some unnamed staff at his long-term care facility in Macklin, Sask., were not up to speed on delivering end-of-life care.

Strom made the post as a private citizen, and had lost two previous decisions.

Still, she wouldn’t give up. She said she didn’t start out fighting for freedom of speech, but over the years she realized how important this fight was.

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The association’s lawyer argued that Strom personally attacked an identifiable group without attempting to get all the facts about her grandfather’s care.

Justice Brian Barrington-Foote wrote in his decision that Strom’s freedom of expression was infringed and she had a right to criticize the care her grandfather received.

The judge ruled that criticism of the health care system is in the public interest and when it comes from frontline workers it can bring positive change.

It’s a win for a Prince Albert nurse, one that some are calling a victory for freedom of speech.

“I’ve learned so many stories about other nurses and other families who feel that they had concerns that weren’t addressed, or nurses that were treated unfairly,” Strom said on Tuesday.

“I’ve had so many people reach out with their stories so it was important to have this case and to be successful.”

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

Canada’s Federal Nurses Union praised the decision on Twitter Tuesday afternoon, calling it a victory.

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In an email to Global News, the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses’ Association, which took Strom to court, said “we need time to analyze the decision and study its repercussions” and would not comment at this time.

Strom’s lawyer said regulatory bodies across Canada have the same power as the association. He said it was trying to keep nurses like Strom from talking about health care.

“For all of us in Canada the discussion is better when nurses are in, just as it’s going to be better if doctors are in it and all those other professions that have been sitting watching trying to decide ‘Do we have the right to speak, do we have the right to go forward?’ The Court of Appeal of Saskatchewan today says ‘Yes you do,’” Marcus Davies said.

Strom is still working as a registered nurse. In fact, she works Wednesday.

Strom said she’s excited she won’t have to worry about this decision anymore and can focus on her work.

The Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association said it’s figuring out what to do next.

-With files from Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi

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Freedom of expression or personal attack? Nurse appeals fine for Facebook post – Sep 17, 2019