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MEDIA ADVISORY: BCCLA at Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in case of nurse punished for publicly criticizing healthcare system

For immediate release.

Saskatchewan Court of Appeal to hear case against nurse punished for social media comments criticizing quality of her grandfather’s end-of-life care

REGINA – On September 17, 2019 the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal will hear the appeal in Strom v. Saskatchewan Registered Nurses’ Association, a decision of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench which upheld the punishment of a nurse for criticizing a public health care facility on social media.

Ms. Strom, a nurse in Saskatchewan, was found guilty of professional misconduct and ordered to pay a $26,000 fine and cost award by the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses’ Association (“SRNA”) for comments she made on Facebook that were critical of the care her deceased grandfather received at the end of his life.  The Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench upheld this disciplinary decision, finding it to be reasonable. The BCCLA intervened in this case to speak to the potential chilling effect and improper encroachment on private life that results from professional regulators disciplining their members for off-duty speech that is critical of their profession.  Professionals, such as nurses, with “insider” knowledge must feel free to speak to the public about their concerns with public systems without fear of professional discipline.

The BCCLA’s submissions at the Court of Appeal will emphasize that freedom of expression should not be limited by professional discipline where the expression arises in a personal capacity rather than a professional one. Regulatory bodies such as the SRNA must not be empowered to prevent nurses from speaking up as individuals about public institutions.  Disciplining members who speak out would set a dangerous precedent that could prevent nurses from advocating on basic issues of public importance.

The BCCLA will argue that a personal social media account is an informal forum for discussion where professional standards limiting freedom of expression should be applied only with extreme caution.  Freedom of expression through personal social media commentary should not be limited absent either a direct connection to professional roles or duties, or evidence of reprehensible conduct on the part of the professional.

The BCCLA is represented in this case by Greg Fingas of Gerrand Rath Johnson LLP in Regina, Saskatchewan.

The BCCLA’s factum in this case is available here.

The BCCLA’s summary of the case is available here.

What: Saskatchewan Court of Appeal to hear appeal in Strom v. SRNA

When: September 17, 2019, 10:00 a.m. CST

Where: Saskatchewan Court of Appeal (Regina, Saskatchewan)

Contact: Megan Tweedie, BCCLA Counsel, available for comment at 604-359-2416, [email protected]