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Canadian Nurses Association Lobby Day on Parliament Hill: Insights on Nursing as a Political Act

Have you ever had one of those days where you said to yourself “If I had the opportunity to go to Ottawa, I’d tell those politicians how to fix our health care system”? Well, that is just what happened for five nurses from B.C. who were part of the Canadian Nurses Association annual “day on the hill” lobby opportunity on November 25th, 2014. These nurses included two current CNA board members; Julie Fraser, B.C. jurisdictional representative and Jocelyne Reimer–Kent, Specialty Network representative; as well as three nurses selected as CNA board observers for the November meeting, Zak Matieschyn, Joy Peacock and 4th year nursing student Jessy Dame. The following insights are from the nurses who participated in this extraordinary event.

From left: Barb Shellian, CNA President Elect; Zak Matieschyn, ARNBC President Elect; Julie Fraser, ARNBC President; Karima Velji, CNA President; Joy Peacock, ARNBC Executive Director; Jocelyn Reimer-Kent, CNA Board Member; Jessy Dame, BSN Student; Anne Sutherland Boal, CNA CEO

Julie Fraser, President ARNBC

“The energy the morning of the day was palpable – the nurses going to lobby spent the afternoon and evening prior brushing up on our key “asks”. We arrived on parliament hill focused on creating change through arranged 30 min meetings with selected members of parliament. CNA President Karima Velji started the day with powerful comments in a pre-event with the Health Minister, many members of Parliament and the CNA board members and observers. Karima expressed the opportunities to create access and quality in our health care system by establishing national standards for home care. She shared powerful statistics – 75% of Canadians think it’s important to be able to age at home with access to health care in the home setting and that same amount agree there is an enhanced role of nurses in delivering health care to seniors in the home setting. Federal Health Minister, Rona Ambrose, expressed how she appreciated the specific “asks” from CNA and the partnership with the new Health Innovations working group and HEAL (Health Action Lobby). The results of the day may be hard to technically quantify, but there were impacts. 25 nurses gained valuable experience on the “how to-s” of lobbying that can be used within our provinces and territories. Many members of parliament heard the message that #homeishealth, but with needed design and resources. Most importantly, nursing was seen at the national level as an informed politically astute profession, caring about the health of Canadians and the way we spend our health care dollars.”

Jocelyne Reimer–Kent, CNA Specialty Network Board Member

“The “Hill Day” was a great opportunity to meet with members of parliament and discuss issues pertinent to CNA. The focus this year was on home health and seniors. I met with The Honourable Joyce Murray Member of Parliament (MP) for the electoral district of Vancouver Quadra, which she has represented in the House of Commons as a member of the Liberal Party of Canada since 2008.

MP Murray was keenly interested in CNA’s issues and also gave an open invitation to nurses to attend a monthly breakfast speaker series that she hosts “MP Breakfast Connections” on Friday mornings at Enigma Restaurant (4397 W 10th Ave, Vancouver, BC). These meetings are non-partisan and designed to provide an accessible networking forum and opportunity to learn and engage in current policy issues (https://remote.fraserhealth.ca/+CSCOE+/portal.html). Most issues have health implications so please feel free to join in this gathering and bring the voice of nursing to the fore.

With a federal election on the horizon I would encourage each and every nurse to speak with their MP. As nurses we are the most trusted healthcare provider but we also have untapped power that is ours to release.”

Jessy Dame, 4th year Thompson Rivers University Nursing Student

“Starting the day off with a bang is an understatement for how Karima Velji, the 46th President of CNA, welcomed attendees during breakfast on Parliament Hill. The welcoming speech spoke to the major topic of the day #HomeisHealth and how patients’ outcomes could be much higher if individuals stayed at home. Through this experience, I was able to obtain communication skills with government officials, learn insights on the lobbying process, increase my understanding of the Member of Parliaments (MP) role, as well as, acquire a taste for how the different political parties valued topics that nurses brought forward. Though I felt prepared to enter the rooms of the MPs, my insecurities of being a student were still present. These insecurities often lead me to introduce myself as a "just a student nurse". This introduction quickly got the attention of my passionate mentor who then lead me to the realization of the importance of my role as a student nurse and that I am not just a student nurse, I am a future nurse and my role is just as important. The group I worked with was amazing and provided me with the inspiration to come home and continue expressing the importance of CNA’s three main asks and #HomeisHealth. My motivational gas tank has been refueled and I cannot wait to start driving my own car (My Own practice).”

Joy Peacock, Executive Director ARNBC

“Nursing is a political act. The privilege of being a registered nurse and representing our profession on Parliament Hill is something I will always hold close to my heart. Nursing is about making a difference. Attending "Hill Day" in Ottawa with CNA is one way to demonstrate advocacy in action, through collaborative leadership. I know we made a difference. I know together we will continue to make a positive difference.”

Zak Matieschyn, President Elect ARNBC 

“My first experience with the work of Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) was illuminating. For so much of my nursing career it existed as something vague, abstract and far-removed from my own nursing practice - both geographically and functionally. This all changed in the last week of November 2014 when I had my first introduction as an observer with our B.C. jurisdiction.

It was an opportune time to dip my toe into CNA activities - not only was there the annual day on Parliament Hill, but as well there was significant strategic planning undertaken to chart the course of the association over the next five years. I cannot overstate the level of sophistication present within this organization. Even the physical space of the 'CNA House' building emanates a solidness of history and wisdom - no doubt as a result of being filled with many of the great Canadian nursing leaders over the decades. That tradition continues to this day as I found myself struck by the depth of knowledge and experience I witnessed when observing the board explore issues, consider opposing points of view, and develop innovative solutions to very challenging problems.

Equally exciting was our day on Parliament Hill. Our large group was divided into 10 groups of four people and we were assigned to three unique MPs to speak with. The brilliant strategists at the CNA had developed three well thought out and specific 'asks' in the realm of home care and seniors’ health for us to pitch. We engaged with members from government as well as opposition parties. I can say my personal experience was one of excitement to offer evidence-informed policy solutions (an area in which nursing is well versed) to some of the complex health care problems of our times.

Joy Peacock, ARNBC Executive Director; The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health; Julie Fraser, ARNBC President; Jessy Dame, BSN Student

All in all, I felt my passion for nursing further renewed. I look forward to my future involvement with the CNA in the coming years as British Columbia's jurisdictional representative. Nursing is, and will continue to be, a leader in health care in Canada.”

13 million Canadians will be providing some type of care to family members or friends with age related needs (CNA, 2014). Therefore, the advocacy work around home care continues for the nurses of B.C. at both the provincial and municipal levels. Although Health Care falls within the federal jurisdiction, we understand that the key implementation decisions occur at the provincial level. Nurses have the solutions to transform health care and will continue to do this to improve the health of the individuals we serve, our families and communities. We welcome stories of your own advocacy and lobby efforts as responses to this blog.

Canadian Nurses Association (2014). Health Begins at Home.

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Last week another B.C. nurse got beaten up at work. BCNU was all over the story and on the news, calling for better protection for nurses, like a mama bear when her cubs are in danger. Nurses appreciate and applaud the Union in trying to make sure that we aren't injured or killed on the job.

ARNBC meanwhile, publishes a blog about how important and special you are? Really?

I've loved many of the thoughtful policy and opinion blogs nurses have contributed here and I look forward to reading them. Instead of bragging, this blog could have been an excellent assessment of hill day - what would you do differently, what worked, what didn't work, what are our plans to replicate this in BC, how do you build an elevator speech. It could have been a blog that mattered to those of us who aren't special enough to be part of your club.

So do better.


I disagree with you Janice. Every organization has it's own way of being. I thought the students comments were great.

Dibbie Doo

I like that there are some blogs on here that make me think and others that tell me what's going on.

Why not both kinds?

Sally Thorne

The work of advancing the nursing profession so that it can play its rightful role in solving the health challenges of the population must always be fought on many fronts simultaneously. Never an 'either-or' situation. We can be totally proud that BC nurses were so well represented on the Hill for this important occasion, demonstrating the ideas and commitment that we bring to the ongoing dialogue on the future of health systems. And we can also fully empathize with the nurses and physicians confronting the awful situation that occurred in our province, continuing to work in collaboration with our colleagues across all of the nursing organizations to ensure that safe working conditions are always a priority. When we allow division to come between us, we lose the collective power that has the potential to make us strong. I vote for choosing optimism over despair, as it gives us the best possible chance to be the force for change of which we know we are capable.


If we're all talking about and doing the same thing, we'll never finish anything. I gree with the comments that this was a fine blog.

I thought health care was under provincial responsibility?


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