Freedom of expression vs. professionalism at heart of the $26K battle between nurse and SRNA
Carolyn Strom wanted to continue her fight with the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association and the significant fine of $26,000 she was handed by the organization.
“It gets harder every time with respect to the toll that it takes to recover from all this, like today, I’m going to go home and crash,” Strom said.
Strom’s battle with the SRNA was before the Saskatchewan Court of Appeals on Tuesday with the question of freedom of expression against professionalism at the heart of the argument between both sides.
“As a lawyer who represents nurses, often, a little over two hours ago, I heard one of the most shocking statements I’ve ever heard from my friend here when he said, ‘The public would be harmed if nurses could say what they want,’” stated Marcus Davies during Tuesday’s court date.
Throughout his arguments, Strom’s lawyer argued that her Facebook post, which criticized the quality of care her grandfather received while in a health centre in Macklin, was made in good faith and without malice.
Davies called the complaint against Strom manufactured and cited how the facility's executive director made a photocopy of her comments and circulated it amongst nursing staff.
“We need the freedom of expression for the purpose of protecting our right to make others uncomfortable,” he told the court.
“Ms. Strom is guilty of nothing more serious than that. Apparently, she made an institution and some who worked there uncomfortable.”
The lawyer for the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association responded the post was unprofessional because Strom mentioned she was also a nurse.
“Once you’re a professional, if you’re attacking another professional in your field and it’s in a situation where other professional can’t speak because of confidentiality reasons, it’s inappropriate and therefore it makes sense for a discipline committee to step in and say, ‘No, that’s contrary to your code of ethics,’” said Roger Lepage, lawyer for the SRNA.
The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Constitution Foundation also spoke as intervenors on behalf of Strom.
"If this ruling is upheld and her $26,000 fine is upheld, it's really sending a message that you can't criticize anything about the health-care system if you are a nurse," said Megan Tweedie, a lawyer with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
Strom feels nurses should have the right to speak out.
“We know health care, we work in it every day, but this is about more than that, I’m an individual as well and I had family members that I cared about and it’s not right everything that’s happened,” Strom said.
SUN’s representative argued that the post didn’t specifically target the nurses and shouldn’t be considered unprofessional.
The CCF stated that anyone should be free to criticize health care without fear of punishment.
Strom left the courthouse feeling confident, “I rely on the expertise and the knowledge that the panel of judges has, that they’ll make a just decision and that’s what we’re wanting, so I’m coming out feeling okay,” she said.
After hearing the arguments from both sides and the intervenors, the three-judge panel will now meet and a decision is expected to be handed down within six months.
With files from the Canadian Press.