Black people are not guaranteed protection from systemic racism in our society even though Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982 and the Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977 protect people of all races.
George Floyd’s murder in June 2020 reignited the global Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement to confront white supremacy and violence against Black people and communities. Under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Dr. Doris Grinspun, the BLM movement prompted the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) to reflect and take immediate action to confront systemic racism within the nursing profession. RNAO released a statement on June 3, 2020 addressing the murder of George Floyd and expressing solidarity to condemn anti-Black racism, oppression and discrimination, adding a call to action to “put a spotlight on injustice, and mobilize to enact real change.”
Black nurses in Ontario have spoken openly with RNAO about their lived experiences with racism in all health-care sectors and academic institutions. Anti-Black racism remains deeply ingrained in the health system and its structures (e.g. work place settings, academic institutions, professional associations etc.). RNAO vows to address the systemic racism that exists within the nursing profession, as well as all health-care sectors and academic settings. The association and its members acknowledge the grief, distress and trauma brought on by centuries of historical injustices and discrimination experienced by Black nurses, their loved ones and their communities. RNAO is taking action in partnership with its Black members, colleagues and their allies to mobilize change.
"(We) unequivocally condemn racism, oppression and discrimination in all forms."
RNAO’s June 2020 statement
RNAO issued a statement and media release in June 2020:
RNAO mourns the death of George Floyd and all those who have succumbed to anti-Black racism and violence.
RNAO stands together with those who continue to suffer the scourge of anti-Black racism and discrimination. RNAO unequivocally condemns racism, oppression and discrimination in all forms. In light of recent atrocities in the United States, Canada and around the world, we stand in solidarity with the loved ones of those who have suffered at the hands of law enforcement and those who experience gross inequities because of the colour of their skin.
Dr. Jocelyn Hezekiah
RNAO marked a milestone when Dr. Jocelyn Hezekiah, a leader in nursing education, became RNAO’s first Black president. In 2003, she authored Breaking the Glass Ceiling: The Stories of Three Caribbean Nurses, a book showcasing how these nursing leaders paved the way for Black nurses to be recognized in their own right in the Caribbean and internationally.
Dr. Joan Lesmond
The late Dr. Joan Lesmond launched the Embracing Diversity Project during the first year of her RNAO presidency, which built on policies that give nurses of all cultural background the opportunity to participate fully in the nursing profession.
Dr. Angela Cooper Brathwaite
Past President Dr. Angela Cooper Brathwaite has published numerous research studies on cultural competence in nursing, and now co-chairs RNAO's Black Nurses Task Force to tackle anti-Black racism and discrimination in the nursing profession.
Dr. Claudette Holloway
RNAO President Dr. Claudette Holloway is passionate about promoting the nursing profession, decreasing, and eliminating anti-Black racism and all forms of racism and discrimination in nursing and the health-care system, advancing health programs for the most vulnerable, and facilitating an equity lens approach to advance nursing and health care.
Task force co-chairs
Dr. Angela Cooper Brathwaite
RN, BN, MN, Phd
BScN, MScN-FNP RN(EC)
In response to the widespread systemic racism that exists within the nursing profession, RNAO announced in June 2020 the formation of its Black Nurses Task Force (BNTF). It was formed to move beyond solidarity and interrupt complicity to promote transformational change.
The task force’s mandate is to reduce anti-Black racism and discrimination within the nursing profession – its organizations, regulatory body, associations and broader health system – targeted towards and experienced by Black nurses.
"...we must put a spotlight on injustice, and mobilize to enact real change.
Our COVID-19 webinar series focused on the topic of Let’s Talk about Racism on June 15, 2020, as a group of passionate nurses engaged in meaningful conversations about experiences of and solutions to tackle systemic racism in Ontario and within our health system.
RNAO announced in June 2020 the search for panelist members striving to reach the mandate of actively tackle anti-Black racism within the nursing profession. The initial draft terms of reference were specified here.
In January 2022, the Black Nurses Task Force published two peer-reviewed articles in Nursing Inquiry’s special issue on anti-racism: Black nurses in action: A social movement to end racism and discrimination and Tackling discrimination and systemic racism in academic and workplace settings. RNAO shared the news on Twitter.
Marking Black History Month, on Feb. 8 2022, RNAO's BNTF released a report to address the systemic anti-Black racism and discrimination that exists in the profession.
The groundbreaking report includes 19 recommendations to tackle structural racism within nursing organizations, regulatory bodies, associations and the broader health-care systems that are targeted towards and experienced by Black nurses. The report focuses on education and awareness building, research, advocacy, and partnership with allies and stakeholders.
Black Nurses Leading Change (BNLC) interest group
BNLC supports the work of RNAO’s Black Nurses Task Force, and continues to inform RNAO and its members on issues affecting Black nurses and nursing students. BNLC will advocate for anti-racism, offer mentorship, provide continuing education and a safe space for Black nurses and nursing students – and their allies – to network and interact with each other. RNAO announces new interest group: Black Nurses Leading Change (BNLC) (July 28, 2021)
Interest group co-chairs
Daria Adèle Juüdi-Hope,
RN, BScN, MPH
RN, MScN, CPMHN(C)
RNAO's position on racism
RNAO values diversity and recognizes that discrimination of any kind threatens the health of individuals, communities and nations as well as the provision of quality health care. It is only by working to eliminate this injustice that we, as registered nurses, are achieving our goal of speaking out for health and for nursing.
Letter to the College of Nurses of Ontario re: race-based and Indigenous identity data – advancing racial equity in nursing
Racism is a determinant of health that plays a key role in generating and reinforcing health and social inequities among Canadians. Racism is also entrenched in the history of nursing in our country and continues to have a devastating impact on the lived experiences of racialized nurses.
Let’s Talk About Anti-Black Racism and Discrimination in Nursing
This is a monthly webinar series that started in May 2020. It was designed for members of the public interested in receiving updates on RNAO’s Black Nurses task force and to engage them in meaningful conversations that will inform the work of the task force. The webinar series, including archives of video recording, presentations and documents, can be found in our Webinar Library.
RNAO Black Colleagues Task Force
In June of 2020, Dr. Doris Grinspun, RNAO's CEO launched the Black Colleagues Task Force (separate from the Black Nurses Task Force) to ensure strong support for RNAO employees who identify as Black. Its mandate is to draw from the experiences of Black colleagues and address anti-Black racism and discrimination within the workplace. The task force is comprised of staff who identify as Black.
The purpose is to ensure an environment that is free from racism, prejudice, discrimination and harassment. They meet monthly to examine past incidents of racism and discuss how they were addressed. They identify areas for intervention and seek permanent results by providing recommendations for RNAO’s internal human resources and operational policies and practices. The task force also hopes to educate staff about racism and micro-aggressions and strengthen best practices for safe spaces to work without fear of discrimination.