Ontario Nurses’ Association Urges Action to Protect Workers Now Following Quebec Legal Decision

March 29, 2021

TORONTO, March 29, 2021 – One month after the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) filed a court application to ensure the protection of front-line registered nurses (RNs) and health-care professionals from airborne transmission of COVID-19, a Quebec court has ruled that its government must apply the precautionary principle to mandate N95 respirators for health-care workers at risk of being exposed to COVID-19.

The Court recognized that one of the modes of transmission of the virus is by air or inhalation of aerosols and found that medical masks did not provide effective protection for workers against COVID-19. The Court held that N95 respirators are needed to effectively protect against the danger of these infectious aerosols.
This decision contradicts the position defended by public health authorities and the directives of the Ministry of Health, which reserved the N95 only for caregivers who were called upon to perform specific medical procedures.

“Justice Philippe Boucier has rightly found that the precautionary principle should have been applied in Quebec to prevent workers from becoming infected with COVID-19, given the significant risk of airborne transmission,” says ONA President Vicki McKenna, RN. “The Quebec court has ruled that those working in areas with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 residents and patients must be provided N95 respirator protection.”

With this clear precedent set in Quebec, it is urgent that Ontario take action now to protect its workers.
“ONA has asked the Ontario Court to ensure the Chief Medical Officer of Health recognizes and updates the directives regarding aerosol transmission to ensure our own RNs and health-care professionals are safe,” says McKenna.

As Quebec continues to lead the country in airborne COVID-19 worker protection, Ontario continues to lag behind. In the month since ONA filed its court application, another approximately 1,100 health-care workers have been infected. There is an immediate urgency to address the grave dangers of COVID-19 with the third wave now in Ontario.

“Quebec’s court decision ensures that all health-care professionals are provided an N95 respirator immediately when a resident or patient is suspected to be infected with COVID-19,” notes McKenna. “The decision also mandates that these dedicated teams do not cross zones.”

Quebec had limited the use of N95s except when workers were performing an aerosol generating medical procedure. There is now overwhelming evidence of aerosol transmission recognized by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization. Yet, Ontario has not followed suit.

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


For more information: 

Katherine Russo (647) 539-1925 (cell) katheriner@ona.org