A Right to Vote: A Case Study in Nursing Advocacy for Public Policy Reform


  • Abram Oudshoorn Western University




advocacy, political action, policy, public policy, nursing


In February 2014, the Government of Canada under Stephen Harper introduced the ‘Fair Elections Act’. This reform to the elections act removed provisions for access to voting for individuals lacking certain forms of identification. Noting that this would have a disproportionate impact on people experiencing homelessness, nursing advocates joined with other activists to try to prevent then subsequently overturn this legislation. The purpose of this paper is to explore the 93rd competency of the College of Nurses of Ontario, “Advocates and promotes healthy public policy and social justice,” by unpacking a case example of advocacy for voting rights. This paper addresses the challenges faced by nurses in doing public policy advocacy and concludes with lessons learned. Fulfilling our college mandated requirement to be politically active means ensuring that public policies are just, equitable, and reflective of the progressive values of Nursing.

Author Biography

Abram Oudshoorn, Western University

Dr. Abe Oudshoorn, RN, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Western Ontario. Dr. Oudshoorn's research focuses on creating health equity through transforming health and social systems, with a particular focus on preventing and ending homelessness. Dr. Oudshoorn does specific research with youth, people living with mental health concerns, women (cis and trans), and newcomers.


Aiello, R. (2019). Vouching, voter ID, advertising: How new elections law changes impact you. Retrieved Aug 12 2019 from https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/vouching-voter-id-advertising-how-new-elections-law-changes-impact-you-1.4461951.

Anderson, C. (2018). One person, no vote: How voter suppression is destroying our democracy. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Avolio, C. D. (2014). Political advocacy: Beliefs and practices of registered nurses (Unpublished Masters thesis). University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario.

Barrett-Sheridan, S. E. (2009). A quantitative correlational study of political behavior and attitudes of nurses toward macro-social patient advocacy (Doctoral dissertation). University of Phoenix, Phoenix, Arizona.

Benton, D. (2012). Advocating globally to shape policy and strengthen nursing's influence. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 17(1): 5.

British Columbia College of Nursing Professionals (2018). Competencies in the Context of Entry Level Registered Nurse Practice in British Columbia. Retrieved Aug 12 2019 from https://www.bccnp.ca/becoming_a_nurse/Documents/RN_entry_level_competencies_375.pdf.

Buck-McFadyen, E., & MacDonnell, J. (2017). Contested practice: Political activism in nursing and implications for nursing education. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, 14(1), 1-13. https://doi.org/10.1515/ijnes-2016-0026

Canadian Nurses Association (2017). Code of Ethics for Registered Nurses. 2017 Edition. Ottawa: Author.

College of Nurses of Ontario (2014). Entry-to- Practice Competencies for Registered Nurses. Retrieved Aug 12 2019 from http://www.cno.org/globalassets/docs/reg/41037_entrytopracitic_final.pdf.

Contreras, B. (2011). Education and advocacy. American Journal of Nursing, 111(7), 12-13. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.NAJ.0000399296.37419.6a

Crowe, C., & Baker, N. (2007). Dying for a home: Homeless activists speak out. Toronto: Between the Lines.

Gaetz, S. & Dej, E. (2017). A New Direction: A Framework for Homelessness Prevention. Toronto: Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Press.

Government of Canada (2014). C-23 An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts. Retrieved Aug 12 2019 from https://www.parl.ca/LegisInfo/BillDetails.aspx?billId=6398775&Language=E&Mode=1.

Hanks, R. G. (2008). The lived experience of nursing advocacy. Nursing Ethics, 15(4), 468-477. https://doi.org/10.1177/0969733008090518

Howlett, M., Ramesh, M., & Perl, A. (2009). Studying public policy: Policy cycles and policy subsystems (Vol. 3). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jones, M. E., Shier, M. L., & Graham, J. R. (2013). Social exclusion and self-esteem: The impact of the identity-bureaucracy nexus on employed people experiencing homelessness in Calgary, Canada. Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy, 29(2), 134-142. https://doi.org/10.1080/21699763.2013.821951

Kerr, D. L., Van Wasshenova, E., Mahas, R., Everhart, F. J., Thompson, A., & Boardley, D. (2017). Advocacy and public policy perceptions and involvement of master certified health education specialists. Health Promotion Practice, 18(5), 706-714. https://doi.org/10.1177/1524839916676463

Levine, D. S. (2017). Wisdom, Not Noise: The Law Professor as Policy Influencer. Wake Forest Law Review Online, 7, 1-11.

Lyons, J. C., Webster, S. R., Friedman, B. L., Schiavoni, S. P., Lit, K. R., & Cash, R. E. (2015). A preliminary study exploring the efficacy of advocacy training. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 46(6), 409-413. https://doi.org/10.1037/pro0000044

Marcuse, P. (1988). Neutralizing homelessness. Socialist Review, 18(1), 69-96.

National League of Nursing (2019). Advocacy Teaching: Nursing Is Social Justice Advocacy. Retrieved Aug 12, 2019 from http://www.nln.org/professional-development-programs/teaching-resources/toolkits/advocacy-teaching.

Neufeld, H. (2013). Compliance Review: Final report and Recommendations. A Review of Compliance with Election Day Registration and Voting Process Rules. Retrieved Aug 12, 2019 from https://www.elections.ca/res/cons/comp/crfr/pdf/crfr_e.pdf.

Nicol, J. (2015a). Fair Elections Act ID rules block voting, groups argue in court challenge. Retrieved Aug 12, 2019 from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/fair-elections-act-id-rules-block-voting-groups-argue-in-court-challenge-1.3136431.

Nicol, J. (2015b). Federal election 2015: Voter ID rules stand, judge rules. Retrieved Aug 12, 2019 from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/federal-election-2015-voter-id-rules-stand-judge-rules-1.3156519.

Parliament of Canada (2014a). Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Evidence, April 9, 2014. Retrieved Aug 12, 2019 from https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/41-2/PROC/meeting-31/evidence.

Parliament of Canada (2014b). Meeting No. 31 PROC - Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Retrieved Aug 12, 2019 from https://www.ourcommons.ca/webcast/41-2/PROC/31.

Reutter, L., & Duncan, S. (2002). Preparing nurses to promote health-enhancing public policies. Policy, Politics, & Nursing Practice, 3(4), 294-305. https://doi.org/10.1177/152715402237441

Reutter, L., & Kushner, K. E. (2010). 'Health equity through action on the social determinants of health': Taking up the challenge in nursing. Nursing Inquiry, 17(3), 269-280. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1800.2010.00500.x

Ruth, T., Matusitz, J., & Simi, D. (2017). Ethics of disenfranchisement and voting rights in the US: Convicted felons, the homeless, and immigrants. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 42(1), 56-68. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-016-9346-6

Sabatier, P. A. (1988). An advocacy coalition framework of policy change and the role of policy-oriented learning therein. Policy Sciences, 21(2-3), 129-168. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00136406

Sparks, T. (2017). Neutralizing Homelessness, 2015: Tent cities and ten year plans. Urban Geography, 38(3), 348-356. https://doi.org/10.1080/02723638.2016.1247600

Wherry, A. (2014). The cases for and against vouching. Retrieved Aug 12, 2019 from https://www.macleans.ca/politics/ottawa/the-cases-for-and-against-vouching/.

Williams, M., Dawood, Y., Cameron, M., Deveaux, M., Fuji Johnson, G., & Lenard, P. (2014). An open letter on the Fair Elections Act. Retrieved Aug 12, 2019 from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/an-open-letter-from-academics-on-bill-c-23/article18114166/.




How to Cite

Oudshoorn, A. (2019). A Right to Vote: A Case Study in Nursing Advocacy for Public Policy Reform. Witness: The Canadian Journal of Critical Nursing Discourse, 1(2), 64–72. https://doi.org/10.25071/2291-5796.27