Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

Change in CNA membership from mandatory to optional - Questions and Answers

Change in CNA membership from mandatory to optional - Questions and Answers

Updated: September 30, 2013

The Board of Directors of RNAO, after careful consideration of its fiduciary responsibility, has changed its policy for membership in the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) for RNAO members.

Beginning November 1, 2014, RNAO members will have the option to decide whether their RNAO membership includes membership within CNA, the country’s national professional nursing body.

Update to members: Open Session at RNAO's Assembly regarding CNA membership

On Sept 28, 2013 RNAO held an open session with members as part of the RNAO’s regular Assembly meeting. The session, which was broadly advertised by RNAO and by CNA, was in response to requests from members to gain a better understanding of the BOD decision to make CNA membership optional for RNAO members.

President Rhonda Seidman-Carlson led the dialogue by inviting the perspectives of the 33 RNAO members who attended the open session. Although originally scheduled to be 45 minutes in length, the session was extended to 1 1/4 hours to allow further discussion. Respecting the views of those who came especially for this session, the President allocated an hour to our guest members and 15 minutes to RNAO’s Board and Assembly members.

It is noteworthy that all the guest members who spoke, Assembly members and RNAO's BOD, expressed the need for collaboration and unity. As we move forward with RNAO's BOD decision to implement optional CNA membership on Nov 1, 2014, the RNAO and its BOD remain fully committed to a strong provincial and a strong national nursing voice. In the President's words: "RNAO remains a strong CNA partner that substantively contributes to achieving positive change in the policies that affect the profession of nursing, the delivery of health care and the health outcomes of people that rely on us provincially, nationally and internationally."

We very much thank all members who took the time to attend and convey your perspectives on this important matter.

Why did RNAO’s Board of Directors (BOD) make the change?

The board needs to ensure the sustainability of RNAO and to protect RNAO from future financial and other risks as a result of a changing external environment. In addition, we want to provide more choice to our members.

Right now, when you sign up for membership in RNAO, you automatically pay to belong to the CNA. RNAO believes in a strong national professional body – through CNA – to represent the nursing profession and we will continue to encourage all RNAO members to belong to their national professional association. However, we believe the ultimate decision is that of individual members.

To better understand the reasons for this change, please read RNAO President’s View on “Making CNA membership a choice” which appeared in the May-June issue of Registered Nurse Journal.

What are some of the financial considerations that lead to the decision?

Membership fees for CNA are currently universal – applied to all members automatically – and are embedded in the RNAO membership fee (and thus in RNAO budgets). The CNA fees have increased from $27.00 in 1999 to $54.95 in 2013 (plus HST). The increases over the years have exerted financial pressure on RNAO since the CNA fee increases have been absorbed within a non-increasing RNAO fee (the RNAO fee remained unchanged from 1999 until 2013). In 1999, 10 per cent of the RNAO fee went to CNA; currently, 20 per cent goes to CNA. During the last decade (from November 2003 to October 2013) RNAO remitted a total of $10,237,959 to CNA, and this year, 2012-2013, the amount remitted is projected to be $1,433,000.

Can you share any other reasons for this change?

An important objective of the RNAO BOD through this change is to give more choice to our members. No member will be harmed by this decision, since members who are satisfied with the current status have the choice of maintaining their membership in CNA, at the same cost; members who choose not to be members of CNA will see a reduction in their total fee by the full amount of the CNA fee (this assumes the decrease in RNAO fee is ratified by members at the May 2014 Annual General Meeting (AGM)).

What is the definition of “universal membership” with CNA and how does it differ from “optional” membership?

The existing arrangement is one of “universal” membership, meaning CNA membership is mandatory for RNAO members. In November 2014 CNA membership will become “optional” for RNAO members, meaning they will have the choice whether they want to be members of CNA.

I want to remain a member of CNA. How can I do that?

For the upcoming membership year starting November 1, 2013 you do not need to do anything, as nothing will have changed. For the membership year starting November 1, 2014, you will be able to choose CNA as an optional benefit of RNAO membership. To continue being a member of CNA, all you have to do is to make sure you tick the CNA box on your RNAO membership renewal form. Your fee for CNA membership will go to CNA as it did before. You will continue to receive the CNA’s journal, Canadian Nurse and will be entitled to all the other benefits that CNA offers.

I am on the continuous renewal option. How will that work?

Members on “continuous renewal” will be asked in the Fall of 2014 to express their choice to include membership in CNA before their membership is automatically renewed. If you chose that option, you will automatically continue to be a member of CNA until you let us know otherwise. Your fee for CNA membership will go to CNA as it did before. You can change your choice before the start of any membership year.

RNAO recently announced that members voted to raise the association’s membership fee by eight per cent. Is that increase related in any way to the changes in CNA membership?

No. RNAO needed to increase its membership fee, effective November 2013, because it had not raised its fee for 14 years despite the fact that the cost of living had gone up by 30 per cent. As mentioned, during this period CNA fee increases were absorbed within a non-increasing RNAO fee.

Will the RNAO membership fee change as a result of the decision?

Yes. The RNAO fee will change with the start of the membership year in November 2013 and again in November 2014; however, only the second change is related to the CNA decision. In last April’s AGM members voted to raise the association’s membership fee by 8%, and that increase becomes effective in November 2013. When CNA membership becomes optional in November 2014, RNAO membership fees will be reduced by the amount of the CNA fee which currently is $62.09 ($54.95 + HST). For example, the RNAO fees payable for members in the regular fee category will be reduced from $308 to $245.91 including HST ($308 - $62.09). This membership in RNAO will not include CNA membership and benefits. The reduction in the RNAO membership fee (to $245.91) is subject to ratification by members at the May 2014 AGM by the “one member, one vote” online voting process.

If I choose to remain a member of the CNA in 2014, what happens to my fees?

To remain a member of both RNAO and CNA after November 2014 you will need to pay both fees, and it will cost you the same as you will pay on November 1, 2013 before the changes. For example, the total RNAO fees payable for members in the regular fee category will be $308 including HST from Nov 2013-Oct 2014. The sum of RNAO plus CNA fees during the Nov 2014-Oct 2015 membership year will be $245.91* (RNAO) + 62.09 (CNA) = $308 including HST.

*This reduction in the RNAO membership fee is subject to ratification by members at the May 2014 AGM.

If I choose not to remain a member of the CNA in 2014, what happens to my fees?

You will pay only the RNAO fee, which means you will pay less than in the Nov 2013-Oct 2014 membership year. Your RNAO fee will be reduced to $245.91 including HST for the Nov 2014-Oct 2015 membership year. Again, this reduction in the RNAO membership fee is subject to ratification by members at the May 2014 AGM.

What about other RNAO optional benefits?

Nothing will change. You will pay, as always, other optional fees such as Legal Assistance Program (LAP) and Interest Groups that you choose to “click”.

What about CNPS?

RNAO believes that professional liability protection must be mandatory for all nurses, and that we must protect our members. Thus, your eligibility to professional liability protection – which is provided through the Canadian Nurses Protective Society (CNPS) – is not affected by these changes. CNPS and CNA are two separate organizations. Professional liability protection will continue to be an included member benefit for all RNAO members.

I am an Undergraduate Nursing Student Associate. Does anything change?

No. Everything remains the same as it is now.

When does this change take effect?

The change goes into effect on November 1, 2014. That means that for the current membership year, and upcoming membership year, starting in November 2013, there are no changes.

How will CNA membership appear in the RNAO registration form?

There will be no changes in the RNAO registration form for November 1, 2013. Beginning in November 2014, your renewal form will contain a prominent box that gives you the option of joining CNA. Members on “continuous renewal” will be asked to express their choice to renew their RNAO membership with or without membership in the CNA.

What happens to CNA as a result of RNAO’s decision?

RNAO believes we need a strong CNA to be a national professional voice for registered nurses. As Ontario’s professional body representing RNs in Ontario, RNAO will continue to be CNA’s proud jurisdictional member for Ontario. RNAO will encourage you to always remain a member of your provincial and national professional associations – RNAO and CNA. We understand that CNA is disappointed with RNAO’s decision, but our BOD decided that this change was necessary and believe that CNA membership is your choice to make.

Please see a letter from CNA to RNAO members.

What are the benefits of CNA?

We quote here from CNA’s letter to RNAO members:

“We know that as a member-driven association we exist on your behalf. Thus we constantly evaluate and develop our member services to ensure they are meaningful for you. Currently, your CNA membership entitles you to receive:

  • automatic membership in the International Council of Nurses;
  • our flagship publication, Canadian Nurse, and its accompanying website;
  • a reduced fee to CNA’s national nursing specialty certification program;
  • free access to;
  • representation in CNA’s robust advocacy and policy advancements at the federal level;
  • preferred rates on all CNA products and services, including the biennial convention and online continuing education courses;
  • discounts on insurance and other affinity offerings; and
  • so much more, with others being added all the time!

We hope you choose to continue to be a proud member of CNA, the only organization that gives Canada’s registered nurses their vitally important national voice. We drive important initiatives such as an expanded scope of practice for RNs, health in all policies and achieving a top five ranking in five key health indicators for the country by 2017. We run national awareness campaigns, like our highly successful Nurse Practitioners: It’s About Time! campaign and the upcoming RN awareness campaign, due to roll out in 2014."Please visit the CNA website for details of membership benefits.

What is the “fiduciary responsibility” of the RNAO Board of Directors?

“A fiduciary within an organization is a person who maintains a position of trust. Directors of a non-profit organization are subject to fiduciary obligations. These obligations require the director to act honestly and in good faith, to be loyal to and to act in the best interests of the organization, to avoid any conflict of interest, and to subordinate every personal interest to those of the organization.” (See: Duties and Responsibilities of Directors of Not-For-Profit Organizations, H. M. Kelly, CSAE 2nd ed., 2004).

Doesn't this decision need to be brought to a ratification vote with the membership prior to the 2014 AGM?

The change in the relationship with CNA is a prerogative of RNAO’s BOD and does not require AGM or membership vote. RNAO has two types of governing rules: RNAO Bylaws, which are set in an Annual General Meeting of members and require ratification by members, which we do through “one member, one vote”; and RNAO Policies, which are set by the RNAO BOD and are not subject to ratification by members. The membership benefits of RNAO are specified in the RNAO Policies, and thus they are the unique prerogative of the RNAO BOD. As mentioned, the RNAO BOD has made this decision after careful consideration of its fiduciary responsibility.

Ok, I understand that the RNAO BOD has the prerogative to make decisions in regards to the RNAO membership benefits. However, why not bring the decision regarding optional CNA membership to a referendum or a vote anyway, even if it is not mandated – go to the members, so we are more democratic?

The measure was adopted in a democratic fashion, as it was done by elected officers, after lengthy discussion, with a focus on the best interests of RNAO. Even if the matter was brought to a ratification vote by members, in legal terms the fiduciary responsibility remains with the RNAO BOD, not the members. Given the responsibility and the information available to the BOD, it felt it needed to make the appropriate decision.

See RNAO President’s Viewpoint on "The breadth of a board and its fiduciary responsibility" in the July-August issue of Registered Nurse Journal.

Have you thought about the impact of RNAO’s decision on CNA?

An explicit intent of the decision was to create the conditions that would allow RNAO to remain a jurisdictional member of CNA for the long haul. We strongly believe that CNA should not be harmed by our BOD's decision. Membership in RNAO has always been voluntary, and we are by any measure an extremely robust professional nursing body. By making CNA membership optional for RNAO members, we are being congruent with our own status in Ontario. RNAO is unwavering in its commitment to CNA and will continue its substantive contribution to strengthening the role of RNs and NPs in shaping and delivering health services now and in the future, as well as any other policy and political action imperatives CNA undertakes.

Some members are very upset about the decision. Are you attentive to them?

The BOD’s primary concerns are with the best interest of RNAO as a whole.

In its June 2013 meeting RNAO BOD unanimously approved a motion that says in part:

“Of our 35,000 members and nursing students, RNAO has received 101 emails and letters: 70 who expressed concerns and 31 who supported the decision and\or asked questions for clarification;
“RNAO BOD has respectfully and carefully considered the concerns expressed by these RNAO members, and in particular their concerns about process and impact on CNA as a result of the RNAO BOD decision;"
“notwithstanding these concerns, the RNAO BOD is mandated with the fiduciary responsibility to protect RNAO from risk and implement controls to maximize the financial stability and sustainability of RNAO…”

The RNAO BOD passed a second motion in its June meeting, saying:

“That the RNAO BOD opens a segment of the September Assembly meeting for a dialogue, open to all RNAO members with respect to clarifying the BOD decision related to CNA, and to hear suggestions and strategies from members for the promotion of membership to both RNAO and CNA.”

Will this decision be rescinded given the concern expressed by some RNAO members?

No, the decision process has been completed, and the focus is on implementation. RNAO BOD in its June 2013 meeting unanimously directed the RNAO CEO to update the board at its September 2013 meeting “regarding the operational implementation of its April 11, 2013 decision to transition by November 2014 to optional Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) membership for RNAO members.”

So what is the ratification vote mentioned above that will happen prior to the 2014 AGM?

That is a ratification vote by members on the reduction of the RNAO fee – according to RNAO Bylaws, all fee changes must be approved by members. Since the new fee will not include CNA membership, the RNAO fee is being reduced by the amount of the CNA fee. This should serve as a strong incentive to continue joining both RNAO and CNA.

What happens if members reject the ratification vote for the proposed reduction in RNAO fee?

If members reject the proposed fee reduction, there will be no change in the RNAO membership fee in November 2014, and it will remain the same as in the prior year. However, in contrast to now, it will not include CNA membership. Thus, to obtain CNA membership members would need to pay, in addition, the CNA fee. This would mean an increase of about $60 (after HST) in the total cost of RNAO plus CNA package, compared to before the change. That would increase the revenues that RNAO will obtain from the fees (an increase not requested by RNAO), and place CNA in a difficult situation, as it would make it more expensive for members to choose to remain a member of CNA. RNAO BOD strongly encourages members to ratify the proposed fee reduction, and RNAO will communicate this again to members through the In The Loop and RNJ.

Why was the information about changes to CNA membership not conveyed to participants at the April 12, 2013 AGM?

The BOD decision on this matter was made at its Thursday, April 11 meeting, the same day that our AGM started. We could not share with RNAO’s AGM, as it was only appropriate to first inform CNA. RNAO’s executive met with CNA’s executive on Saturday, April 13, after the AGM.

It would appear this was a rushed decision by RNAO BOD. Was it?

No, the decision was not made on a rushed basis. The BOD had debated extensively this issue before voting to pass its decision at its April 11, 2013 meeting.

I hear that CNA is changing its governance model. How is it changing? Is this the real reason for the decision?

Please see CNA’s website. These changes were not the reason for RNAO’s decision regarding membership benefits and fee structure.

How do you see RNAO’s relationship with CNA during the transition to the new membership arrangement?

A point reiterated during RNAO’s BOD discussion is the need to present a united and shared RNAO / CNA position in joint membership promotion following this change. RNAO is very clear: we would like to go through this transition in a collaborative way, with the shared goal of a strengthened CNA and RNAO. For that reason, we have invited CNA to work with us in promoting the new membership arrangement and helping educate our members on the benefits of CNA membership and why they should consider maintaining it. We strongly feel a climate of collaboration, mutual respect and support will enhance the effectiveness of a joint membership effort, and will have a positive effect on the desire of RNAO members to remain members of RNAO and of CNA – in short, a “win-win” situation.

It is the position of CNA that some of the public statements made by RNAO’s board or staff members create the impression that CNA is presently financially unstable and not worthy of the confidence of its members. RNAO wishes to clarify that it had not intended to convey such a message to its members or to the public.

I still have questions. How can I learn more?

Staff members at RNAO home office are more than happy to explain the decision and what it means. You can write to us at, call 1-800-268-7199 or if you live in the Toronto area, call 416-599-1925. You can also attend webinars on the topic by registering through the RNAO website (CLOSED).

Links: RNAO President’s View on “Making CNA membership a choice” – May-June issue of Registered Nurse Journal Letter from CNA to RNAO members

Updated: August 19, 2015

Please refer to an important update regarding CNA membership from the July 2015 edition of In the Loop.