Strom v. Saskatchewan Registered Nurses’ Association (SKCA)
Strom v. Saskatchewan Registered Nurses’ Association was heard by the Court of Queen’s Bench for Saskatchewan on January 18, 2018. The case challenged a decision of the Saskatchewan Registered Nurse’s Association (“SRNA”) Discipline Committee, which found Ms. Strom guilty of professional misconduct for statements she made on social media that were critical of the nursing care her recently deceased grandfather had received prior to his death. The case raises important civil liberties questions regarding the role of free expression in professional regulatory proceedings.
The BC Civil Liberties Association (“BCCLA”) intervened in the case to draw attention to the potential chilling effect and improper encroachment on private life that results from professional regulators disciplining off-duty expressive activities of professionals. The BCCLA offered the Court a framework to appropriately balance the interests of regulators in ensuring the good standing of their profession with the interests of all professionals, and the public, in free expression.
The Court of Queen’s Bench for Saskatchewan decided to uphold Ms. Strom’s punishment, finding that the SRNA had made a reasonable disciplinary decision in making a $26,000 fine and cost award against Ms. Strom.
Ms. Strom appealed the decision of the Court of Queen’s Bench and the appeal is set to be heard at the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal on September 17, 2019.
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. 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 of Regina, Saskatchewan.