The College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) is investigating after two nurses from the province travelled to Washington D.C. to allegedly participate in an anti-lockdown event preceding the Capitol Hill riot last week.
In videos posted to social media by the group, "Nurses Against Lockdowns” the women are seen addressing the crowd at the “Global Frontline Nurses” summit in Washington DC, an event that was scheduled to take place in front of the U.S. Supreme Court just hours before a group of rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol building, breaking windows and tearing through the offices of elected officials.
In one video, Sarah Choujounian identifies herself to the crowd as a nurse from Toronto who has spent most of her 16-year career working in a nursing home.
She claims she was fired after speaking out against lockdowns on social media, expresses concern that vaccines could harm seniors, and says restrictions on visitors at nursing homes constitute "crimes against humanity.”
According to the CNO, Choujounian worked at Norfinch Care Community in North York until 2020.
Kristen Nagle, a neonatal intensive care unit nurse from London according to the CNO, is shown speaking in another video.
Addressing the crowd, Nagle suggests the number of COVID-19 deaths compared to Canada’s overall population is evidence that the health restrictions are “crazy.”
Public health officials have repeatedly stressed that the dangers of the virus cannot simply be measured in deaths, but must also be measured by the danger posed to the overall health care system due to the diversion of resources to deal with the rising number of COVID-19 patients.
In Ontario, the rising number of COVID-19 cases is threatening to postpone surgeries for cancer, organ transplants, heart problems and other serious issues.
Nagle also speaks out against the use of masks, gloves and “synthetic drugs” in the video.
In a statement to CTV News Toronto, the college said it is investigating both women.
“The College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) is investigating Kristen Nagle and Sarah Choujounian,” the statement read. “The legislation does not permit us to provide details on the progress or ongoing status.”
However, the college said that any outcome from the investigation that can be disclosed under current legislation will be shared publicly.
The London Health Sciences Centre also confirmed Nagle has been on unpaid leave since she took part in another event in November.
“We continue to learn of actions involving an NICU nurse at London Health Sciences Centre that are not aligned with LHSC’s values,” the LHSC statement to CTV News Toronto reads.
“Upon originally learning of concerns related to participation in a local anti-masking rally back in November, LHSC took immediate action to ensure the hospital remains a safe environment for everyone by placing her on an unpaid leave pending the results of the investigation. We anticipate an outcome to be reached within the coming weeks.”
CTV News Toronto has reached out to both women for comment, but has not heard back so far.
The CNO also pointed to a statement of support for current health measures on its website which urges nurses to be responsible for what they post online.
"Nurses are leaders in the community and the public’s trust in nurses may extend to their views on health matters communicated on social media and other forums,” the statement reads. “Statements made by nurses in public forums have the potential to impact the health and safety of the public.
“Nurses have a professional accountability to: use accurate sources of information based in scientific theory and evidence, to inform their professional service and practice."
The federal government has also been advising Canadians against nonessential travel for months because of the risk of spreading the virus and its various strains.
- With files from CTV News Toronto’s Sean Leathong