Skip to main content

Carolyn Strom arrives at the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan in Regina, Saskatchewan on Sept. 17, 2019.

Michael Bell/The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan’s highest court is to decide what’s next for a registered nurse who was fined $26,000 for criticizing her grandfather’s care on Facebook.

Carolyn Strom from Prince Albert, Sask., was found guilty of professional misconduct by the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association in 2016.

She has asked the province’s Court of Appeal to quash the disciplinary decision and fine. A panel of three judges heard arguments on Tuesday and reserved its ruling.

Story continues below advertisement

“It’s not right, everything that’s happened,” Strom, becoming visibly emotional, said outside court with her family.

Strom, who’s still working as a nurse but on reduced hours, said she’s hoping for a just decision. The experience has made her question being a nurse, she said, and has caused her and her family stress.

“There’s no way I could have ever of known this was going to happen,” she said.

“I will always stand up for my family, and so I don’t regret standing up for them.”

Lawyers representing Strom and the nurses association painted very different pictures of how her Facebook comments should be regarded.

The association’s lawyer argued Strom personally attacked an identifiable group without attempting to get all the facts about her grandfather’s care.

Strom’s lawyer said all his client did was make some staff members uncomfortable while exercising her right to freedom of expression.

Story continues below advertisement

“Ms. Strom is guilty of nothing more serious than that,” Marcus Davies told the court. “Apparently, she made an institution and some who worked there uncomfortable.”

In February 2015, weeks after her grandfather died, Strom wrote on Facebook that some unnamed staff at his long-term care facility in Macklin, Sask., were not up to speed on delivering end-of-life care. She also identified herself as a registered nurse.

“I challenge the people involved in decision making with that facility, to please get All Your Staff a refresher on the topic And More to those who made Grandpa’s last years less than desirable, Please Do Better Next Time!” one comment read.

Strom’s lawyer called the complaint against Strom manufactured and noted that the facility’s executive director made a photocopy of the nurse’s comments and circulated it among staff.

He also argued that the disciplinary committee made many errors, including misquoting legal decisions and misrepresenting the outcomes of cases it relied on to reach its decision.

Roger Lepage, representing the nurses association, told court that Strom’s comments were beyond protection as freedom of expression, because they contained serious allegations against an identifiable group.

Story continues below advertisement

He said her comments also couldn’t be considered debate, because the facility’s health-care workers couldn’t respond publicly about the specific care of a patient.

“What she was engaging in was a one-sided attack on the reputation of a facility and an identifiable group of health workers.”

Lepage said a nurse who takes to social media to criticize care and damages an institution’s reputation without seeking to get all the facts first should be disciplined.

The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, Canadian Constitution Foundation and the BC Civil Liberties Association intervened in the case.

Lepage rejected their arguments that nurses are being muzzled and that the discipline against Strom sends a warning to health-care workers about speaking out.

“What is true is that Canadians would be harmed if nurses could just say what they want about medical establishments based on how they feel that day,” Lepage argued.

Story continues below advertisement

“Canadians would lose trust in the health-care system and lose trust in the interest of all nurses.”

He called Strom’s comments on Facebook “fake news,” but that was challenged by the judges, who noted Strom’s claims about the facility have not been proven false.

The nurses union said the action against Strom has lowered the bar for a finding of professional misconduct.

“If this ruling is upheld and her $26,000 fine is upheld, it’s really sending a message that you can’t criticize anything about the health-care system if you are a nurse,” added Megan Tweedie, a lawyer for the civil liberties group.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies