RNAO condemns protests outside health organizations

RNAO issued today the following media release in response to the recent protests.

TORONTO, Sept. 4, 2021 – Nurses condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the disruptive protests held outside health organizations in recent days. Health professionals have been called names, harassed and threatened. Access to health facilities has been disrupted, ambulances have been obstructed and patients’ lives endangered.

Health workers in those facilities, patients in need of care services and the families accompanying them all have enough stress already. They don’t need hostile people calling to ignore health advice and scientific knowledge, shouting misinformation and yelling obscenities. This appalling behaviour has no place in our society at any time and especially not in the midst of a pandemic that has claimed the lives of 9,545 people in Ontario.

RNAO expresses grave concern about the escalating violence and the inadequate action to avert these situations by local authorities and police services. There should be strong action attached and consequences against those who transgress the law. Charges must be vigorously pursued against those who attack health workers, engage in acts of violence, or express hate.

Authorities must make sure the right of people to protest does not disrupt the functioning of health organizations, the rights of health workers to access their workplaces peacefully, and the rights of patients and their families to focus on getting well.

The commitment Ontario’s health professionals have demonstrated to their patients, to their work and to our communities over the past year and a half should be applauded not denigrated. They have worked incessantly, many of them without days off, and at the expense of time with their families. If we want health workers to be there when we need them, we must collectively stand up for them when they are attacked and vilified.

Nurses and other health professionals are not the enemy. The enemy is COVID-19. Our health professionals are doing everything in their power to combat a relentless virus and its highly transmissible variants.

RNAO’s advice against disruptive behavior is to continue to follow science and evidence-based policy, and assume responsibility for our actions – including urging Ontarians to get fully vaccinated, wear masks, maintain physical distance in all indoor public places and abide by the government’s vaccine certificate plan as soon as it is available – so that collectively, we protect those who cannot be vaccinated due to age or health status.