Quebec Nurses Defend Their Right to Speak Out on Issues Vital to Fighting the Pandemic

Many photos honouring frontline health care workers are posted to FIQ facebook page.

In its May 16 press release, the Interprofessional Health Care Federation of Quebec (FIQ) severely criticizes the Health and Social Services Minister's announcement that a confidential e-mail has been set up between the ministry and health care workers, who are being encouraged to send messages of denunciation or express their level of satisfaction on the various measures taken in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FIQ writes in its communiqué:

"The Interprofessional Health Care Federation of Quebec -- FIQ is exasperated with the government's flimsy actions in its attempt to have people believe that it is listening to health care professionals. Reacting to the announcement of the setting up of a new e-mail, ironically called "We're Listening to You," the FIQ believes that far from putting an end to the omerta [a mafia code of silence] imposed on the health network, this initiative is aimed at limiting what health care professionals can say in the public arena.

"'Since the beginning of the year, this is the third time the Minister has announced an end to omerta and it means absolutely nothing. The government says it wants news on the ground but it has no respect for the professionals on the ground, it is not listening to them, it is treating them with contempt, it is flouting their rights by way of decrees and is out to find yet another way to silence them,' says FIQ President Nancy Bédard."


"'The Minister says she wants to know precisely where this is taking place. How is it that she doesn't know? Do we really believe that by sending comments to the Ministry that this will trickle down to the establishments and that the problems will be resolved? Will these e-mails be managed like those on the website "I Contribute?" [a government site where people volunteer to help out in health care centres -- the FIQ has often pointed out that it is still awaiting the thousands of volunteers announced who were to come and help out in their work teams -- WF Ed. Note] The end of omerta should mean that health care professionals are finally free to speak out without fear of reprisal, not having an email available to them to silence their denunciations,' states Bédard."

The FIQ recalls that it had set up its own website "Je dénonce," where its members and the public can expose unacceptable situations that occur, which the Minister has access to.

It is asking that instead of setting up an email, the Minister order hospital administrations to cease their disciplinary notices against health professionals who speak out. It is also requesting that the Minister and the government stop proceeding by ministerial decree and orders-in-council and instead, listen to what professionals are saying, negotiate with health care professionals, respect their clinical judgment and provide them with the equipment they require.

In the name of the health emergency, the Government of Quebec is constantly proceeding by ministerial order rather than listening to what the health and social services workers are saying. In particular, it has given itself the power, through ministerial order, to unilaterally amend the collective agreements and working conditions of health and social services personnel. At the heart of this government action is the refusal to recognize the organized struggle and strength of workers, which renders all the more powerful the essential contribution they already make by producing the goods and delivering the services upon which the society depends at all times, as well as during times of crisis, such as at present. That organized character, which allows for the deployment of the human factor/social conscience to sort out problems to the benefit of workers and the society, is seen as an impediment to the full granting of power to narrow private interests and its arbitrary executive bodies.

It is not surprising that the Minister has made it clear that this email measure is part of a broader plan of imposing silence on workers. In the press release announcing the measure, the Minister writes: "This is a first step in a comprehensive effort to better control privacy and public communication practices, including social media. In fact, the Minister of Health and Social Services is planning next fall to table a framework policy that would be applicable throughout Quebec and be accompanied by a mechanism for communicating unresolved issues."

It could not be clearer that the current political authority is attempting to use the crisis of the pandemic to increase its own power at the expense of seeking solutions to problems. Providing those who are actually doing the work and protecting our lives with a say and control in determining what must be done for the well-being of all, is essential to sorting out the problems.

Opposition from the Interprofessional Health Care Federation of Quebec to this Government of Quebec measure is just and legitimate.

This article was published in

Number 35 - May 19, 2020

Article Link:
Quebec Nurses Defend Their Right to Speak Out on Issues Vital to Fighting the Pandemic


Website:   Email: