Ontario Nurses’ Association is Relieved as Federal Government Announces Health-Care Worker Protections Strengthened

November 26, 2021

TORONTO, November 26, 2021 – The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) is joining nursing unions across Canada today in celebrating a long-fought-for victory to strengthen laws related to health-care worker assaults.

The federal government has announced an amendment to the Criminal Code for the courts to consider – for sentencing – when an assault victim is a health-care worker, as an aggravating circumstance. It will also be made a crime to block access to hospitals and other health-care facilities, as has been seen across Canada recently during anti-vaccination protests.

“This is fantastic news,” says ONA President Vicki McKenna, RN. “ONA, independently and with the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, has been lobbying government and employers for decades, urging that measures to protect front-line nurses and health-care workers be strengthened as it is for others like peace officers. It is heartening that our voices have finally been heard. Our members dedicate their lives to caring for people, yet every day, they face an unacceptable risk of physical, verbal or sexual assault at work. For far too long, the attitude has been that violence is simply part of the job.”

McKenna says that violence against nurses and health-care workers has left far too many injured, traumatized and – in the case of Windsor registered nurse Lori Dupont – dead. Dupont was brutally murdered while working in the recovery room at a Windsor hospital in 2005. A subsequent inquest revealed a workplace culture that downplayed the seriousness of violence. Each day, nurses and health-care workers face violence from their patients or their families as well as – sometimes – co-workers. Many have suffered permanent injuries that prevent a return to work.

“This level of violence is not tolerated in any other profession,” says McKenna. “It is long overdue that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has taken this action and that this law means real consequences for those who assault our members. I am also relieved that those who seek to prevent people from accessing care will no longer be able to harass our dedicated health-care workers. The pandemic has made an already dangerous profession more fraught; this is the right thing to do.”

ONA is the union representing more than 68,000 registered nurses and health-care professionals, as well as more than 18,000 nursing student affiliates, providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, clinics and industry.


For more information: 

Sheree Bond (416) 986-8240 (cell) shereeb@ona.org