Nursing in Canada: Broken, but not Beyond Repair




nursing, nursing workforce, health human resource planning, advocacy, unions, professional associations


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Author Biographies

Michael Villeneuve

With 45 years of progressive experience in the health care system, DR. Michael Villeneuve has participated in health care delivery as a nursing attendant, staff registered nurse, nurse-in-charge in a remote First Nation, clinical instructor, clinical nurse specialist, manager, researcher, lecturer, consultant, and executive.

Mike was appointed chief executive officer of the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) in June 2017 and retired from the role in March 2022 after leading a transformation of the organization to prepare it to lead in the years ahead. Membership was opened beyond registered nurses to all regulated categories of nurses, the entire governance, membership, member services and branding structures were overhauled in tandem with a new information technology platform being implemented, the organization’s journal, Canadian Nurse, was moved fully online, a new accreditation program was launched, and all legacy programs were modernized.

During Mike’s tenure, CNA submitted the winning bid to host the International Council of Nurses meeting in 2023 (Montreal), and in 2019, established the Canadian Academy of Nursing and its flagship Fellowship program. Policy, advocacy, and government relations activities were accelerated, and Mike and the CNA soon were routinely being named in the Hill Times’ list of the Top 100 lobbyists in Ottawa. Among other successes, CNA attracted significant funding from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies in Canada for a major program of work to identify and combat racism in nursing and health care in Canada.

Mike has served on numerous boards of directors and task forces and is a member of the editorial board for the Sage journal, Policy, Politics and Nursing Practice. He currently holds adjunct roles at the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing at the University of Toronto, and the Ingram School of Nursing, McGill University in Montreal.

One of three authors of CNA’s centennial history book (2013), Mike also is author of Public Policy and Canadian Nursing: Lessons from the Field, the first Canadian text focused on nursing and public policy (2017). In recognition of his sustained contributions to nursing and health care, Mike was honoured to be inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing in 2019, and in 2022 became just the second Canadian appointed as an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing of the United Kingdom. He was inducted as a Fellow of the Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, in December 2022.

Linda Silas

Linda Silas has been the President of the 250,000-strong Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) since 2003. As the dynamic and charismatic leader of Canada’s largest nurses’ organization, Linda is recognized as the foremost advocate on behalf of nurses in Canada.


Starting her tenure as a full-time labour activist as the single mom of a 13-month-old son has shaped Linda in a very distinctive way. Linda has earned a reputation for being a caring listener who is focused and solution-oriented in everything she does. A proud New Brunswicker, Linda credits her home province for both her impressive work ethic and her well-known zest for life and adventure.


Linda has fine-tuned her skills as a union leader at the local, provincial, national and international levels over the course of two decades. She is a passionate speaker whose straight-talking in both official languages inspires nurses and earns the respect of policy-makers and stakeholders. Linda’s favourite public speaking engagements are always for students, as she believes that mentoring the next generation of activists is an important responsibility we all share.


Linda champions greater understanding and action on social justice, the social determinants of health and key policies that will enhance socio-economic equity, such as retirement security for all workers, a national pharmacare program, universal child care and greater access to public services for Indigenous communities. 


Linda was previously the President of the New Brunswick Nurses Union (NBNU) for 10 years. Linda is a graduate of l’Université de Moncton, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and has practiced in the ICU, emergency, and labour and delivery.


Linda believes health care, like education and decent work, is a human right. She embodies the CFNU motto “Where knowledge meets know-how.”


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Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions. (2023). New poll: alarming number of nurses are looking for the exit sign, with early‑career nurses leading the march.

Canadian Institute for Health Information. (2023). Nursing in Canada, 2022 — data tables.

Canadian Nurses Association (2009). Tested solutions for eliminating Canada’s registered nurse shortage.

Canadian Nursing Advisory Committee, Health Canada. (2002). Our health, our future: creating quality workplaces for Canadian nurses. Final report of the Canadian Nursing Advisory Committee.

DeRose, K. (2023, April 4). B.C. to become first province to set patient ratios for nurses. Vancouver Sun.,to%2D5%20for%20rehabilitative%20care .

Nova Scotia Nurses Union. (2023, July 27). Nurses vote to accept new agreement.

Tellier, G. (2022). The Canadian federal 1994–1996 program review: appraising a success 25 years later. In E. Lindquist, M. Howlett, G. Skogstad, G. Tellier & P. Hart (Eds.) Policy success in Canada: cases, lessons, challenges (pp. 416—437). Oxford Academic. DOI:10.1093/oso/9780192897046.003.0021

Villeneuve, M., & MacDonald, J. (2006). Toward 2020: visions for nursing. Canadian Nurses Association.

WeRPN (Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario). (2023). New nursing survey finds Ontario is at risk of experiencing greater loss of care: Ongoing staff shortages and increased workloads are eroding nursing pride and driving nurses from the front lines and the profession.



How to Cite

Villeneuve, M., & Silas, L. (2023). Nursing in Canada: Broken, but not Beyond Repair. Witness: The Canadian Journal of Critical Nursing Discourse, 5(2), 1–4.