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Charges against Sask. nurse who opposed vaccine mandates defeated

The College's Investigation Committee accused Registered Nurse Leah McInnes of professional misconduct for speaking against vaccine mandates and passports on social media and joining a protest.
The College of Registered Nurses of Saskatchewan said the the case against Registered Nurse Leah Mcinnes shouldn’t have even proceeded to a hearing.

REGINA – The College of Registered Nurses of Saskatchewan (CRNS) has ruled in favour of registered nurse Leah McInnes following an October and November 2023 disciplinary hearing. In their Jan. 12 decision, they said the case against her shouldn’t have even proceeded to a hearing.

McInnes had been charged by the CRNS’s Investigation Committee, which investigates and prosecutes professional misconduct complaints, for her social media advocacy and for protesting vaccine mandates. The CRNS accused her of “misinformation” for voicing her concerns about forced Covid vaccines.

“This is a significant victory for free expression and democratic participation,” said John Carpay, President of the Justice Centre. 

“Nurses, doctors, psychologists, teachers, lawyers, engineers and all Canadians who work in a regulated profession have the freedom to advocate for their beliefs and should not face threats from their own professional association or professional regulator.”

McInnes, a mother of two, who has been a registered nurse in Saskatchewan since 2013, opposed vaccine mandates as a violation of basic ethical principles of autonomy and informed and voluntary consent of patients.

The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, as well as then NDP leader Ryan Meili, and medical officers from Saskatchewan Health Authority, had called on the government to impose mandatory immunization of all healthcare workers.

A fellow Registered Nurse had filed a complaint against McInnes, calling her an “anti-vaxxer.” That nurse’s complaints resulted in CRNS charging McInnes with spreading misinformation. They later offered to resolve the charge by way of admitting to professional misconduct but McInnes rejected their offer. The nurse's name has been redacted from the CRNS decision's documents.

During her hearing, expert witness, former Chief Medical Officer of Health of Ontario Dr. Richard Schabas, confirmed that the term “vaccine mandate” had, in the medical profession, no special meaning beyond its meaning in everyday language. In all contexts, “vaccine mandate” refers to a requirement to either get injected or lose certain rights or freedoms. 

“Ms. McInnes used the term ‘vaccine mandate’ just as nearly everyone else did in public discourse, including the Toronto Star, the CBC, CTV, the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, CKOM, the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, academia, Occupational Health and Safety, Saskatchewan Health Authority, the Saskatchewan NDP, and governments,” said Andre Memauri, co-counsel for McInnes in a media release. “But the Investigation Committee nevertheless forced Ms. McInnes through this painful process, causing her needless grief."

During the hearing, CRNS Investigative Committee had accused McInnes of knowingly spreading misinformation about Covid vaccines. She had posted that vaccinated people could contract and transmit the virus.

“During the hearings that took place last year, experts, including the Investigation Committee’s own expert, testified that vaccines don't provide sterilizing immunity, vindicating McInnes, said Glenn Blackett, co-counsel to McInnes.

“Thankfully for Ms. McInnes and all Canadians who depend on an informed and ethical nursing profession, the Discipline Committee of the College accepted the evidence presented to them and found that Ms. McInnes had, in no way, misinformed the public.”

Blackett said that the College of Registered Nurses of Saskatchewan’s decision is important not just to McInnes but for all nurse’s rights to voice ethical and scientific dissent and to participate in democratic discourse. 

“Science, ethics and democracy simply do not operate without freedom to think and speak. If you can’t trust a professional, be it a nurse, doctor or lawyer, to tell you what they think is true, you can’t trust them at all,” said Blackett.

McInnes sees this as a victory for free speech in the medical community.

"I very much value the right of my colleagues to express opinions different than mine and support them in their endeavours to seek change in healthcare and government policy they perceive to be in the public interest,” she said through her lawyers. “I’m grateful that the CRNS Discipline Committee recognized my right to do the same, as it's only in the collection of our opinions that the public truly benefits.”

The social media posts and protest

The CRNS hearing heard that McInnes had participated in an anti-vaccine mandate and anti-vaccine passport outside a hospital in northern Saskatchewan on Sept. 1, 2021. Her sign said, “RN against mandates and vax passports.”

On her personal social media, she had made posts that said:

-“People are seeing the damage already happening far and wide from medical coercion,” and “I will continue to advocate for the removal of these insanely unjust mandates and invasion of private medical information papers, and the division it is causing.”

-“I often wonder if our country had had a different approach than what it’s had over the past 19 months, if we could have perhaps avoided all the collateral damage and death that has occurred due to the non-scientifically proven measures this country has implemented.”

- “If your boss tells you that you must submit to them and be penetrated in a number of ways in their authoritative way,,[sic] coerced through threat, manipulation, ultimatum, shaming etc, what do we normally call this?”

-“Yesterday, contrary to what the local news put out in their paper and on social media, a peaceful rally took place because citizens are not wanting C V’s mandated nor having C passports (note that I have to short hand the words so I don’t get censored).”

-For those against covid vaccine mandates or covid vaccine passports, come stand with us.”

- “There are many many nurses across this beautiful country who are standing up against having a jab mandated to continue with life as we know it. We are Standing up for freedom to chose what goes into the body or what one doesn’t want in their body. Not just for ourselves, but to advocate for our patients to have choice for their medical freedom and bodily autonomy without facing coercion no matter the circumstance.”

-“We must have choice without coercion. Coercion of any medication or treatment goes against the Nuremburg Code among other things.”  “It doesn’t matter whether you’ve had a jab or not, you all have a voice and the freedom to chose what’s best for you [sic] health.”

Some of the posts that McInnes re-posted and shared on social media said:

-“Vaccinated or unvaccinated – we all know deep down this is wrong and coercive.”

-"Vaccinated or unvaccinated - both are showing to carry equal viral loads and as such can both easily transmit virus (I can provide references for same per request). So this idea of "protecting others" and the vulnerable people we care for from transmission by getting vaccinated as argument for mandates simply does not logically or scientifically make sense".

-An article with the headline “Freedom prevails: COVID data shows ‘public health’ mandates only harm people”

This report by SASKTODAY first published on Jan.19, 2024. 

Updated to include McInnes' comments and posts.


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