British Columbia

B.C. Nurses Union criticized by nursing assocation over lawsuit

Association says growing legal costs are threatening its future

ARNBC Julie Fraser

Association of Registered Nurses of B.C. President Julie Fraser is worried about the future of her organization if lawsuits from other nurses don't cease. (ARNBC)

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The Association of Registered Nurses of B.C. is calling for calm and dialogue, not more legal action in a fight over how the profession of nursing is managed in the province.

Three separate organizations represent the province's 40,000 nurses and most nurses belong to all of them.

The B.C Nurses' Union (BCNU) looks after the terms and conditions of employment, the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia (CRNBC) regulates the profession including complaints about nurses from the public and the Association of Registered Nurses of B.C. (ARNBC) promotes nursing.

The association only formed five years ago, and since then the union has questioned its usefulness. The BCNU is concerned that registered nurses are forced to pay fees to an organization it describes as lacking a clear mandate, a business plan and a democratic governance structure.

"It is the ARNBC's viw that all three organizations have a legitimate purpose," said Julie Fraser, the president of the ARNBC, in a terse seven minute on-line video posted to the association's web site.

Fraser and the association is going on a media offensive saying the ARNBC is fighting for its right to exist as legal costs mount.

The BCNU filed a lawsuit in B.C Supreme Court that claims that $1.5 million given to the association by the college was a misuse of funds, saying the money came from nurses' over-contributions for liability insurance, which should have been returned to workers.

The college defends the one time payment saying CRNBC's board has clear authority under the Health Professions Act to approve spending of college funds for purposes consistent with the college's duties and determined to be in the public interest.

Still, the association says legal costs continue to mount as it along with the college have spent $500,000 so far.

More legal action

Now the association is worried about more legal action. It says it's expecting a petition claiming that the association contravened its own by-laws in electing its board of directors, which could deem all of the ARNBC's previous activities null and void. The association says the irregularities have been fixed.

"The association is facing significant legal challenges that threaten ARNBC's capacity to serve the interests of all nurses and even the continued existence of the organization," said Fraser in her message.

Nurses organization chart

A chart created by ARNBC showing how it hopes the three organizations representing nurses in B.C. can exist together. (ARNBC)

The on-line open letter asks that the lawsuits be dropped and that the three organizations find a way to work together.

A separate written version also asks that ARNBC members vote in upcoming elections, attend the association's annual general meeting on May 28 and send messages of support over social media.

"Help the association grow to become the supportive, constructive and effective professional association that B.C. nurses are," said Fraser.

When contacted by CBC News, the BCNU said it would respond to the ARNBC's letters today but in February sent a message to members asking them to complain about the association's role to the college and the Canadian Nurses Association.

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