As a professional, being the subject of an investigation or disciplinary hearing is not something anyone wants to endure. The potential consequences of a finding of negligence, professional misconduct, or other wrongs can be significant and can include fines, practice limitations or restrictions, suspension or revocation of professional licenses, and even criminal charges. Findings of professional liability or misconduct can also negatively affect a person’s reputation, their ability to continue working in their field, and their chance to find work outside of their field. When these hearings and investigations stem from defamatory or libellous claims, the situation can be even more frustrating as it is rooted in lies or a mischaracterization of a situation.
For a trio of Ontario nurses, this is what they allege has transpired over the past year. They state that as a result, they have been fired, harassed, and even threatened with death. In response, they have launched a libel lawsuit claiming $1 million in damages against the Canadian Nurses Association and a media outlet based in British Columbia.
Outspoken nurses express controversial opinions
The three women at the centre of the lawsuit are all nurses who are or were employed in various capacities in Ontario. KP is a nurse practitioner who was previously employed as a long-term care home inspector with the Ministry of Long-Term Care. KN, a neonatal intensive care nurse, was employed until January 2021 with London Health Sciences Centre. SC is a practical nurse who was employed by a Toronto home-care agency.
Each of these women expressed opinions on social media regarding the COVID-19 pandemic that were contrary to statements and advice provided by the federal and provincial health authorities. The three nurses also participated in anti-lockdown rallies in Canada and the U.S. and expressed controversial opinions about the virus and mandated public safety measures, such as vaccinations and mandatory face coverings.
KN, who had publicly spoken out against health care mandates, was placed on unpaid leave in November of 2020 by London Health Sciences while they conducted an internal investigation. In January 2021, the hospital terminated her employment.
KP was placed on leave by the Ministry of Long-Term Care after social media posts surfaced in which she repeatedly claimed masks posed a danger to the public. She was eventually terminated by her employer as well. Both KP and KN were also cautioned by the College of Nurses of Ontario for spreading misinformation on social media.
SC is facing a disciplinary hearing this June with the College of Nurses of Ontario for her public statements that the Covid-19 virus is a hoax, that wearing surgical masks can cause cancer, and that the Covid-19 vaccines are unsafe.
SC and KN also travelled together to Washington, D.C. in January 2021 to participate in a rally with a group called Global Frontline Nurses, to promote the claims that the virus is a fraud, for which they were also investigated by the College of Nurses of Ontario, for violating existing health directives to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada.
Nurses file libel suit against Ontario Nurses Association and Together Inc. News
The libel suit, filed by the nurses in December, makes claims against two entities, in particular, concerning articles published by each.
The nurses claim that an article posted on the website of the Canadian Nurses Association, entitled “Enough is Enough: Professional Nurses Stand for Science-Based Healthcare“, made defamatory statements about the plaintiffs, despite the fact that the names of the plaintiffs were not used. The article references the “reckless views” of a “handful of discredited people who identify as nurses” which are “putting public health and safety at risk”. The suit claims that although their names were not used, the article could be understood to refer to them and that the Canadian Nurses Association should have known or ought to have known that the statements amounted to libel.
The suit also seeks damages from a second defendant, Together News Inc., based in British Columbia. The claim specifically refers to an article that appeared on the website www.comoxvalley.news, titled “Quack Quack! These Pro-Virus Nurses Have Dangerous Ideas”. The article mentions each of the plaintiffs by name, along with photographs. Per the statement of claim, the plaintiffs allege that the article claims the plaintiffs are disgraced, highly disturbed, and makes claims that each was terminated from their jobs because their employers no longer trusted them. Further, the suit claims that the article ties SC and KN to the January 6, 2021, attack on the United States Capitol Building.
Overall, the suit claims that each of the three plaintiffs has been subjected to “ridicule, hatred and contempt” as a result of the two articles, and seeks damages for injuries to their feelings, their personal and professional character, and their reputations. In total, the plaintiffs are seeking $1 million comprised of $750,000 in general damages, and another $250,000 in punitive damages.
For exceptional legal representation in libel, defamation, and professional disciplinary matters, contact Milosevic Fiske LLP in Toronto
If you are a professional facing a complaint to your profession’s regulatory body or are subject to an investigation or disciplinary hearing, contact the highly knowledgeable professional liability lawyers at Milosevic Fiske LLP in Toronto. Our goal is to protect you, your reputation, and your livelihood. We provide advice and representation at all stages of a claim of professional misconduct and will represent your interests if you have been subjected to defamation or libel, resulting in harm to your career. To learn more about how we can help you call us at 416-916-1387 or contact us online.