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Nurses Celebrate Victory Against Violence

  • News Release; Health & Safety
BCNU applauds new federal legislation to protect health-care workers’ occupational health and safety

Nurses in BC and across the country are celebrating today’s adoption of Bill C-3 in the Senate. The legislation will amend the Criminal Code to recognize violence against health workers as an aggravating factor during sentencing. The bill was adopted at the third reading yesterday in the House of Commons.

“Today’s legislation represents the culmination of a long campaign to protect nurses and other health-care workers from the violent physical and emotional assaults that are all too common at work,” says BCNU Interim Vice President Danette Thomsen. “This is a critical step toward making health-care workplaces safer and keeping nurses in their jobs and in the nursing profession.”

Similar federal legislation already exists to safeguard workers in other sectors who perform high-risk jobs, including peace officers and transit workers.

“Nurses in BC can applaud the fact that the federal government has finally listened to our call to hold those who perpetrate violence against health-care workers accountable for their actions; we provide an essential service and deserve to be protected when providing the vital care that British Columbians deserve,” says Thomsen, adding that BCNU looks forward to working with health employers and the provincial government to ensure union members benefit from the legislative amendments.

BCNU was one of the first unions to call for Criminal Code amendments to help keep nurses safe. Our Violence. Not Part of the Job. campaign that launched in 2017 influenced public perception of nurses’ workplace violence, and our message was taken up by nurses’ unions across the country.

“I want to thank every member who took the time to send messages to the government or talk to family and community members about the workplace violence they’ve experienced,” Thomsen says. “This is a well-deserved victory for nurses in BC and across Canada.”

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.

“This new law will take us a long way toward ending violence in health care – and the culture of acceptance that surrounds it,” says Thomsen. “Safer health-care workplaces translate to safer care for patients, residents and clients our members care for.”

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