Two former nurses in the Kitikmeot contend that the Registered Nurses Association of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut (RNANTNU) didn’t give them fair process when it came to complaints made about them.
One nurse is hoping to take a stand and change things for the better, despite her experiences with the organization.
Lisa-Marie Langaigne, the former nurse-in-charge of Kugaaruk, who is black, wrote about her experiences with the nursing organization and with the Government of Nunavut (GN), citing experiences with workplace harassment, bullying and racism while in an indeterminate position as a community health nurse in Taloyoak. Langaigne accepted the position on May 11, 2020 and says she worked there without incident until Aug. 11, 2020, at which time another employee took the position as the nurse-in-charge at the Taloyoak health centre.
Langaigne worked with this new employee and experienced, in her opinion, targeted harassment, with “excessive, persistent and threatening emails.” The new employee was “confronting me publicly” and “coming to my home,” she alleges.
The individual in question filed a complaint with RNANTNU, which resulted in Langaigne losing her job, as well as the suspension of her nursing licence for nearly nine months – not just in Nunavut, but nationwide. She states she found out about her suspension not from RNANTNU, but the College of Nurses of Ontario.
She successfully appealed the licence suspension in court on June 18 of this year. However, she’s still seeking to get her employment back in Nunavut.
Rachelle Mintz, another former Taloyoak nurse, says she wasn’t given a fair process before losing her job. Mintz was accused by the same employee as Langaigne of being racist and a COVID conspiracy theorist and says few of her co-workers were contacted to confirm these accusations, Mintz says she is fully vaccinated herself.
Langaigne also added the accusations didn’t reflect the Mintz she met while still in Nunavut.
“The turnover rate in Nunavut is extremely high,” said Mintz, adding that she has talked to at least seven nurses who plan to quit the profession full-time or don’t plan to work in Nunavut again.
Langaigne said, “I think it’s the leadership style in the Kitikmeot right now that may be contributing to that.”
She lists several causes of “frustration,” including difficulties securing a contract, flights itineraries coming late, frequently being short-staffed and generally feeling unsupported.
When it came time for the GN’s Department of Human Resources to get involved, it was clear to Langaigne she wasn’t going to get a fair chance with them, alleging that the human resources manager denied her any representation by the Nunavut Employee’s Union (NEU) on Nov. 6, 2020, in a meeting in which her employment was ultimately terminated. She also states in her letter that she asked for the nature of the meeting to be disclosed and then for a lawyer to be present when that was refused. She was told the presence of her legal counsel was not permitted.
If an employee is facing a disciplinary hearing of any kind, they are entitled to an NEU representative, either present in the room or on the phone call, once they are no longer an employee under an NEU agreement, then any remaining grievances are to be addressed legally.
In an email to Nunavut News, NEU stated that it “first ensures all members are treated fairly and with respect under the applicable Collective Agreement, employer’s published guidelines/policies as well as all territorial and federal regulations.”
With regards to bullying, harassment and retribution for whistle-blowing or other factors which lead to discipline or dismissal, “the NEU stands by and with our members through any inquiries or actions.
“If required, grievance procedures are followed to ensure that members’ rights and dignity are respected (and) any wrongdoing on the part of the employer is redressed.”
Langaigne, when asked if she felt her rights and dignity as an employee under an NEU Collective Agreement were respected by Human Resources, she said, “Not at all, they basically dismissed my complaint, in spite of dated and timed events, emails that I provided to them showing the types of behavior I was sustaining. They didn’t even appoint an investigator to look into the matter.
“HR is the one that demanded that I vacate the residence and evicted me. It was on a Friday evening, they wanted me out by five o’clock, they gave me notice on two o’clock the same day. So no, I don’t think so at all.”
She was unable to return to her staff housing in Kugaaruk to retrieve her belongings – where they remain.
The Department of Human Resources has declined to comment on this meeting, saying its a Department of Health matter.
RNANTNU does not have any specific policies that deal with bullying and harassment in the workplace, says Denise Bowen, executive director/registrar for the association.
A statement from RNANTNU says the organization expects registered nurses to read and follow its code of ethics.
“Our standards of practice, standard number 4, requires that nurses establish professional relationships and demonstrate leadership to deliver quality nursing and health-care services,” the statement reads.
As of Sept. 16, Langaigne still has no explanation as to why her licence was suspended. She says she has tried multiple times to achieve resolution in this matter but hasn’t received a response. She has since reported her complaints to the Nunavut Human Rights Tribunal and the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Nunavut.
“Ultimately, I have lost access to my home and my community, to my profession and career, to my friends and social groups, to the language I was learning and to all of my personal effects. These organizations (GN and RNANTNU) are directly culpable,” Langaigne wrote in her open letter. “To my knowledge, at least two of the other nurses who were victims of the GN’s support of … targeted actions are also seeking to return to their homes and work in Nunavut… This is why the majority of nurses do not stay. This is how we are treated and what we face on a daily basis.”
In spite of all of her recent negative experiences with human resources and RNANTNU, Langaigne is hoping to work in Nunavut once again, not only to help provide healthcare to Nunavummiut, but to improve the nursing system by going public about this and making RNANTNU more accountable.
Langaigne also hopes to see Nunavut make a commitment towards inequity and diversity committees, with decisions based on allegations and discrimination to be in the hands of panels rather than handled by individuals who may not have similar lived experience.
With Nunavut long facing a shortage of nursing staff, she hopes to make effective change to a health system she says is in crisis.
“I want my job back. I want to go back and work in Nunavut. I think the health system there is really in crisis. I’m somebody here who has a lot of nursing experience and have lived there for four years, happily. I want to go back and continue that work,” she said. “Maybe I’m naive, but I truly want to make things better. I think an organization, by taking accountability, by saying, ‘You know what? We messed up here. We could have handled this better and this is what we’re going to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future,’ (would be) a big win for everybody.”