Convention 2023: Unstoppable Together

Convention 2023: Unstoppable Together

OUT IN FORCE Hundreds of BCNU members march to raise awareness about the province’s dire health staffing crisis.

The streets of downtown Vancouver echoed with the lively chants of hundreds of nurses on May 31. They were in town for the BC Nurses’ Union annual convention and took time from their meeting to march to Jack Poole Plaza and rally to call attention to the province’s desperate nurse staffing crisis.

“Safe staffing saves lives!” was the message heard by all.

“Every single day, in health-care settings around the province, nurses are juggling dangerous workloads,” said BCNU President Aman Grewal. “The moral distress that many of our members are experiencing as they try their best to provide safe patient care amidst a severe nurse shortage has gone on for far too long.

“The pain you feel when you hear patients asking for help – but can’t get to them right away – has a lasting impact,” she said to the group. “Many of you know too well what it’s like to run from patient to patient on a shift, barely getting a break and doing your absolute best to do your job under extraordinary conditions.

Grewal told members and the assembled media that nurses and patients deserve better. She also said minimum nurse-patient ratios are needed to retain nurses and save our health-care system, and referenced the agreement reached in April between the Nurses’ Bargaining Association (NBA) and the province to implement nurse-patient ratios across health-care settings.

“This commitment by the provincial government is historic and BCNU is ready to roll up our sleeves to work with all parties on the implementation of this transformative staffing model,” she said.

BCNU Vice President Adriane Gear also spoke to members emphasizing that nurse-patient ratios simply cannot come soon enough.

“Nurses are doing their absolute best to do their job under extraordinary conditions.”

- BCNU President Aman Grewal

“We are in the midst of a severe health-care crisis in this province and around the country,” she said. “The current staffing situation is unacceptable, and recruiting as many nurses as possible into the health-care system must be our government’s top priority.”

Gear called on members of the public to hold their government accountable and do whatever they can to stand up for their health-care system. “With your support – nurses can continue to provide safe patient care for years to come,” she said. “You deserve it. Your family members, and future generations deserve it.”


The rally was one of the main highlights of BCNU’s 41st annual convention that began the previous day. Grewal opened convention by speaking about the organization’s achievements over the past year, including re-joining the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU), negotiating a new provincial collective agreement and securing a government commitment to nurse-patient ratios.

Aman Grewal - Convention 2023
OPENING REMARKS BCNU President Aman Grewal welcomes delegates to the union’s 41st annual general meeting.

The theme of this year’s convention – “unstoppable together” – was reflected throughout Grewal’s address. She said the union continues to work hard to make sure members are informed about issues that affect them, and protected when workplace conflicts emerge. She also told delegates that BCNU’s ongoing advocacy means nurses’ voices are respected more than ever by government decision makers and members of the public.

Grewal said ratifying the new three-year NBA provincial collective agreement with historic compensation gains was her proudest achievement. She praised the efforts of the elected bargaining committee and reported that a total of 40,526 members participated in the ratification process, with 61 percent voting in favour.

Grewal reported that securing a government commitment of $750-million dollars in funding for minimum nurse-patient ratios was another historic achievement, and said she looks forward to help implement a staffing model that will help create the practice conditions needed to retain nurses in the profession and improve patient care.

“It is through collective action that we will continue to achieve gains for nurses.”

- BCNU President Aman Grewal

Grewal talked about BCNU’s advocacy on behalf of members at worksite rallies in local communities like Port Moody and Nanaimo to raise awareness of the ongoing nurse staffing crisis. “The media exposure we earn helps us educate the public about the state of health care in BC and raise the issues that are important to nurses,” she said.

Grewal told delegates that BCNU will continue to ring alarm bells about the dire nursing shortage that has led to temporary emergency room closures across the province, and push for solutions like streamlining the licensing process internationally educated nurses.

“It is through collective action that we will continue to achieve gains for nurses and start to fix this health-care staffing crisis we find ourselves in,” she said. “We need to work on building this union up, listening to our members, supporting their activism and helping them become involved in our grassroots movement.”


BCNU convention delegates welcomed special guest and Canadian Federal of Nurses Unions President Linda Silas on the first day of their annual meeting.

Silas began her address by acknowledging that BCNU’s more than 48,000 members have re-joined CFNU to unite with nearly 200,000 other unionized nurses and nursing students across the country.

She also congratulated BCNU’s recent success at the bargaining table and said BC’s competitive compensation and commitment from the province to a staffing model that includes nurse-patient ratios is now the envy of nurses across the country.

She said this success was no accident. “Nurses are the best labour movement in BC and we are the best labour movement in Canada because we are strong and we are credible,” she argued.

“We are the best labour movement in Canada because we are strong and we are credible.”

- CFNU President Linda Silas

“We know how to bargain and represent our members.”

Silas said there was cause for celebration, but also spoke to the struggles nurses are facing in BC and across the country, noting that keeping nurses in the profession is the number one priority facing policy makers.

“It’s worse today than it was during the pandemic,” she remarked. “Before, we were working as if we were all intensive care nurses. Now, we are an aging, burnt-out workforce looking for the exit sign.”

Silas cited CFNU’s latest national survey, which found that 24 percent of nurses are considering leaving their job.

“We have to get back the joy of loving our job, the joy of loving nursing,” she said.

Silas told delegates that nurses must be part of the solution and reported that CFNU’s advocacy is focused on the three “Rs” of nurse workforce sustainability: retain, return and recruit.

She noted that CFNU is now working on research with Queen’s University into the impact of agency nursing as a major problem, and not a solution to the crisis.

“We need to ensure nurses are no longer working 24-hour shifts while also ending the use agency nursing.”


BCNU Vice President Adriane Gear also spoke from the podium on day one to outline the grassroots advocacy that’s part of her portfolio as the union’s provincial lobby coordinator.

She also took a moment to recognize the work of BCNU’s stewards, who received loud applause for their dedication in their roles. “Stewards are the backbone of our union,” she said.

Adriane Gear - Convention 2023
PROVINCIAL LOBBY COORDINATOR BCNU Vice President Adriane Gear tells delegates about the union’s political engagement and advocacy efforts on behalf of members.

She noted that stewards have been at the forefront of the union’s member engagement efforts over the last several months, and praised the work that has gone into organizing several rallies at worksites across the province, including Nanaimo, Port Moody and Prince George, where chronic staffing shortages and increased patient needs of have led to untenable conditions in emergency departments.

Gear also highlighted the important work of BCNU’s regional lobby coordinators, including a meet-and-greet with MLAs from all three political parties last March. The trip to Victoria offered the group a chance to discuss the nurse staffing crisis in the province with Premier David Eby, Health Minister Adrian Dix and opposition health critic Shirley Bond.

“We were able to speak to them about issues in their constituencies and bring stories from the front lines directly to the decision makers,” she said.

Gear also congratulated the nurse activists in the room on the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision ending for-profit health promoter Dr. Brian Day’s 14-year legal attack on our publicly funded health-care system.

“It’s important that nurses continue to be strong, be proud and be united.”

- BCNU President Aman Grewal

“Twenty years ago, it was BCNU that began ringing the bell over evidence of unchecked extra-billing by private clinics and increasing violations of the Canada Health Act,” she said.

She reminded delegates that BCNU supported patients in telling their stories of the financial burden they incurred when referred for treatment at a for-profit surgical facility. “These experiences became the basis for evidence that was used to pressure the government into action, and later as evidence in the trial.”

She said BCNU now expects to see full enforcement of our provincial health regulations. Dr. Day and others can no longer be allowed to flout our public health-care laws and take advantage of vulnerable patients.


The last two days of convention saw members debate resolution and proposed amendments to BCNU's Constitution and Bylaws.

Members voted against proposed bylaw amendments which would have reduced the number of regional council members on BCNU Council from 20 to 16 or replaced the 20 the regional council members serving the board with seven area council members.

Delegates also defeated a proposed bylaw amendment that would have reduced the number of Provincial Executive Committee positions from five to three and delegated the work of the two executive councillor positions to BCNU staff.

Delegates voted in favour of a bylaw amendment that widens the remedial actions available to Council when addressing problematic member behaviour.

Delegates also defeated a proposed amendment where, beginning in 2024, steward experience would be an eligibility requirement for any candidate running in a union election, and candidates running Provincial Executive Committee positions would require at least one year of experience as a regional council member, regional executive committee member, full-time steward, enhanced disability management program rep or regional steward-at-large.

Delegates Voting - Convention 2023
BUSINESS OF THE UNION Delegates spent two days debating resolutions and proposed amendments to BCNU’s Constitution and Bylaws.

Delegates voted in favour of a bylaw amendment clarifying that only BCNU Council can call annual conventions of the union.

Debate continued on day three of convention and saw members voting on 10 resolutions.

Members voted in favour of an amended resolution to align BCNU provincial council compensation with the highest NBA wage rate, and that regional council members be paid the new regular premium and premiums similar to those in Appendix W of the NBA collective agreement.

Delegates voted in favour of a resolution that calls on BCNU to lobby the BC College of Nurses and Midwives and health employers to provide individualized, trauma-informed, culturally competent, and collaborative care that is confidential, supports recovery and harm reduction, and offers avenues for nurses to remain at or return to work.

Delegates voted in favour of a resolution calling on BCNU to lobby the provincial and federal governments to allow for the provision of a regulated system of safe drug supply for individuals who currently rely on the illegal drug market. They also carried a resolution directing the union to lobby the provincial government to develop a system of mental health and addiction treatment and recovery services that are regulated, evidence-based, economically and geographically accessible, and are available when people are looking for it.

Delegates voted against a resolution directing BCNU to retain an independent auditor to perform a forensic audit on the union’s 2021 and 2022 financial statements.

Members voted in favour of a resolution requiring all Council members to engage in mandatory diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) education within six months of the start of their term of office.

Delegates carried a resolution directing BCNU to retain two independent individuals to act as an Integrity Officer and an Auditor General to assist in the revision of Council’s Code of Conduct and be retained to provide education, advice, information and formal complaint resolution and reporting.

Delegates voted in favour of a resolution that will see salary reimbursement provided for members attending the annual one-day Human Rights and Equity conference. They voted against a resolution requiring that plant-based food be provided at BCNU events.

Delegates voted in favour of a resolution requiring the BCNU Discipline Committee to seek human rights and equity subject matter expertise as needed.


BCNU President Aman Grewal closed Convention 2023 by reminding members about the work that lies ahead to ensure the negotiated gains in the NBA provincial agreement are implemented.

She said the agreement contains unprecedented compensation gains and hundreds of millions of dollars in funding agreements that will benefit all nurses in BC – and noted that this was the result of nurses working together toward a common goal.

“We listened to members’ concerns and used them to set priorities nearly a year in advance of the start of bargaining,” she said, and reminded delegates that negotiations for the next contract could begin as early as next year.

Grewal also congratulated members for taking the time needed to attend the business of the union and taking part in very successful public rally.

“From Fort St. John to Campbell River and from Vancouver to Cranbrook, and in every hospital, every long-term care facility and every public health unit, it’s important that nurses continue to be strong, be proud and be united,” she said.

“Thank you for being such inspiring activists. Our solidarity will help us make health care better for nurses and patients. We are the nurses of BC – and when we are united in solidarity, we are unstoppable!”


UPDATE (Summer 2023)

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UPDATED: December 19, 2023


2023 Leadership Awards

Award Winner 1 - 2023 - Update Magazine siderail
Award Winner 2 - 2023 - Update Magazine siderail

PROUD ADVOCATES NU Leader Award recipient Marilia Cordeiro (top) and Excellence in Leadership & Advocacy Award Reanne Sanford (bottom). BCNU is committed to recognizing and supporting the inspiring leaders and activists in our midst. Day two of Convention 2023 saw delegates formally acknowledge the outstanding work of two of their peers.

BCNU President Aman Grewal presented the union’s leadership awards to two members who were recognized for their outstanding contributions to their practice and communities. She offered congratulations to Marilia Cordeiro, recipient of the NU Leader Award, and Reanne Sanford, recipient of Excellence in Leadership & Advocacy Award.

Each award includes a prize of $1,000 and a beautiful, crystal keepsake featuring the artwork Raven Steals the Light by Haida artist Erik Prytula.

Cordeiro is an RN who works on the acute surgical unit at Lions Gate Hospital. Sanford is an RN who works on the Northern Interior Health Unit. Read more about Cordeiro and Sanford, and the work that earned their nominations for these distinguished annual awards.

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