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President's Message

CONNECTING WITH MEMBERS
Aman Grewal

Summer is here, and after working long tireless, stressful shifts over the past few years, our members deserve a long overdue opportunity to enjoy some human connections once again with friends and family.

Summer solstice was on June 21, which was also National Indigenous Peoples Day. In honour of the day, we were proud to announce that our 2022 Indigenous Student Nurse Education Bursary was awarded to Candace Atwood from Cranbrook. The $1,500 bursary is an initiative of BCNU's Indigenous Leadership Circle and is one aspect of BCNU's steadfast commitment to a just reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. Candace has now finished her first year of LPN studies at the College of the Rockies. Congratulations Candace! We look forward to working with you soon.

As British Columbia continues to move through the changing phases of the pandemic, BCNU leaders and activists are once again connecting with our members through regional outreach events and at key meetings ahead of the provincial bargaining conference in the fall.

In May, your Council and I were joined in Victoria by hundreds of BCNU members and activists during National Nursing Week. While there, we connected at our Vigil to Heal Health Care, where we acknowledged and mourned our collective losses from the pandemic, the toxic drug crisis, and weather-related emergencies and disasters in BC. Our newly re-wrapped campaign bus was unveiled to the members and public.

We gathered on the front lawn of the BC legislature for a rally and raised our voices to demand respect from the government. We called for immediate increased supports to address the nurse staffing crisis, nurses' mental health, and continuing workplace violence – and we were heard! Our large gathering earned province-wide media coverage. Our presence and activism were acknowledged and impacted question period in the legislature, where nursing concerns dominated the MLAs' discussion for an entire afternoon session.

I was so proud of our members' commitment and enthusiasm on display in Victoria – as we came together to support each other while looking to the future and its inevitable challenges and envisioning something better ahead for nurses in our province. I look forward to more opportunities to hear our members' voices as union leadership teams meet with members at in-person events around BC this summer. 

It's also important to connect with the communities we serve to address issues that impact all of us. We did that in early July at the End Climate Delay event on Salt Spring Island, to help mark one year since the deadly BC heat dome. The event was also attended by Elizabeth May, member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands. I had the opportunity there to speak about the pressure on nurses during extreme weather events in 2021.

We have also connected our support with Moms Stop the Harm, a network of Canadian families impacted by substance-use-related harms and death. Thank you to all those members who signed the Moms Stop the Harm petition in support of Bill C-216, The Health-based Approach to Substance Use Act to decriminalize the personal possession of substances. Unfortunately, the government did not vote to support this important BC-based private member's bill. The proposed legislation had the potential to turn the tide in this ongoing and escalating public health emergency by moving from an approach that compounds the harms of substance use to one based on health, and which allows for the development and implementation of a national health-based strategy to address the rates of toxic drug poisonings by expanding access to safer supply, harm reduction services, and trauma-informed treatment options.

The toxic drug crisis has had a devastating effect on communities around BC. Six people are dying every day while our members do their best to provide care in difficult circumstances and with limited resources, so any action that has the potential to mitigate the harm to our patients is welcome. As such I welcome the recently announced federal exemption to decriminalize personal possession of small amounts of illegal drugs in BC. This is one small step in a much-needed move from punishing and blaming to supporting and healing. I recently spoke in July before the legislature's Select Standing Committee on Health about the opioid crisis, continuing to bring forward the need for a harm reduction perspective to dealing with this crisis, ensuring there is access to timely and much needed services and treatment centres.

In July I had the opportunity to be in Victoria with members of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU). I gathered with provincial nursing union presidents from across Canada to address the critical state of our national health-care system, at the Council of the Federation's 2022 summer meeting of Canada's premiers. To the premiers, we raised our concerns for the future of Canada's provincial public health-care systems including the challenges faced by our members with unsafe staffing levels, violence in the workplace, and the need for a pan-Canadian and provincial health human resources plan. BCNU and CFNU jointly supported the premiers, who were asking the federal government to increase its share of health-care spending with the provinces and territories, the federal health transfer payments, from 22 to 35 percent. There was a lot of disappointment expressed by the premiers when they had some resistance from the federal government, but that now seems to be improving. The premiers are hoping to meet with the prime minister at a first ministers' meeting, hopefully in September.

As we look ahead to this fall's provincial bargaining strategy conference, your regional executive members will be connecting with members to talk about issues like the role of stewards, job action, health and safety, or wages and benefits. To support this effort, we've developed NU Connections, a series of online learning resources to support and empower you, and help you become an active part of your union. Be sure to visit our NU Connections webpage, it's updated monthly to highlight specific areas of importance. We are a strong union, and your involvement makes a difference - we need U and I to be involved in the UNION.

Member-to-member connections will also be strengthened through various in-person opportunities to meet each other at face-to-face engagements this summer and fall. We are excited to be taking our updated BCNU campaign bus on the road to communities around the province. Keep your eyes open for the BCNU bus at community events like the Parksville Beach Festival in July or in Port Moody in September. Those are just a couple of the events planned – please see our Events Calendar for more details on where we are standing up for health care around the province.

This summer I heartily encourage all our members to look after yourselves and protect your physical and mental health. I hope you are taking some time for self-care and getting outdoors to enjoy some sunshine and fresh air as we prepare for a busy fall and bargaining.

Aman Grewal
President, BC Nurses' Union

Updated: 7/19/2022 12:27 PM

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