Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario


Nursing leaders to examine challenges facing First Nations peoples at RNAO's 91st Annual General Meeting


TORONTO, May 2, 2016 ‒ A panel focusing on the current situation of First Nations peoples in Ontario will be one of the top events to take the stage this week as prominent political leaders and more than 700 registered nurses (RN), nurse practitioners (NP) and nursing students gather for the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario's (RNAO) 91st Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Toronto, May 5-7.

Embracing the theme Taking Nursing and the Health System to New Heights, RNAO's AGM will feature notable figures such as Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day, First Nations Chief Wayne Moonias, NP Mae Katt, Bearskin Lake resident Marty Beardy, and RNAO's CEO Doris Grinspun to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the health and well-being of First Nations communities. The panel will be moderated by CBC News reporter Duncan McCue. The panel follows the viewing of In this Heaven/Rings of Fire, a documentary which chronicles Katt's efforts running a drug addiction treatment program in Northern Ontario.

"The health, social conditions and economic circumstances of First Nations peoples continues to be an unresolved tragedy in Canada," says Grinspun, adding that "it's urgent we all work together with First Nations communities to discuss solutions to advance our brothers and sisters' well-being."

In addition to tackling the challenges that face First Nations peoples, Ontario's nurses will also take time to discuss several other issues arising in the health-care and nursing landscape. During the business session of the AGM, nursing leaders will vote on this year’s resolutions, which include a call for specific legislation in Ontario that addresses violence towards nurses and other health-care workers; a proposal to lobby the provincial government for stable funding for mental health consumer survivor initiatives for peer support coordinators; and a request to explore endorsement of a basic income guarantee as a means to alleviate poverty.

"This year's AGM is an opportunity for members of our association to celebrate our successes in policy and clinical work. We are 41,000 strong ‒ RNs, NPs and nursing students ‒ and we know we have tremendous power and influence on healthy public policy. We work in all sectors of the health system and have expertise on how our system needs to change to best meet the needs of Ontarians," says RNAO's President Vanessa Burkoski.

As nurses get ready to set the priorities that lie ahead, RNAO's AGM will also welcome incoming president Carol Timmings, as Burkoski's two-year term in the position comes to an end. Timmings, who is Chief Nursing Officer and Director, Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention with Toronto Public Health, comes with extensive knowledge in policy and administration as well as executive experience with professional associations and advisory boards.

"I look forward to assuming the president role and am excited to build on the already tremendous strength we have to even greater strength," says Timmings, adding: "It is my honour to represent such an enormous and united force of nurses that have joined by choice because they know that RNAO's voice is being heard and that together we make a difference in health, health care and nursing."

The three-day event kicks off with speeches from Ontario's Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Eric Hoskins, Leader of the Official Opposition Patrick Brown (PC) and Leader of Ontario's New Democratic Party Andrea Horwath.
The association will also present its annual Recognition Awards to 12 individual winners and four groups that have made a difference in nursing. Journalists receiving awards for excellence in health-care reporting will also be recognized as RNAO celebrates its annual Media Awards.

RNAO's AGM begins Thursday evening, May 5, and continues until Saturday afternoon, May 7 at the Hilton Toronto (145 Richmond St. West).

Highlights from the AGM include:

Thursday, May 5, 6:30 – 7:10 p.m.

  • Hon. Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
  • Patrick Brown, PC Leader
  • Andrea Horwath, NDP Leader
  • Dr. Judith Shamian, Chief Executive Officer, International Council of Nurses (video greetings)

Friday, May 6, 8:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.

  • RNAO’s Dr. Doris Grinspun delivers her annual CEO report at 8:45 a.m.
  • Consultation session regarding the 2016 proposed resolutions at 1:45 p.m.
  • RNAO's President Vanessa Burkoski delivers her President's report at 4:10 p.m.
  • Swearing-in ceremony for incoming president Carol Timmings at 4:25 p.m.
  • Presentation of Nursing Awards throughout the day
  • Presentation of Media Awards at President's Banquet at 7 p.m.

Saturday, May 7, 8 a.m. - 1:15 p.m.

  • Interest groups meetings at 8 a.m.
  • Panel discussion: First Nations Peoples in Canada: Challenges and Opportunities at 11:15 a.m.

Members of the media are welcome to attend.

RNAO is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. For more information about RNAO, visit our website at or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


For more information about the AGM, please contact:

Victoria Alarcon
Editorial Assistant, RNAO
Tel: 416-208-5608/1-800-268-7199, ext. 211