As we moved into the mid 60s, approaching Canada’s centennial year, there was a significant
increase in the number of national governmental committees and commissions. I seized the
opportunities offered and advised the President and Board that CNA should take advantage of
the opportunity to participate. This suggestion was not always received with great enthusiasm.
There were the inevitable questions about how much will it cost, who will do it, should CNA risk
being in the midst of controversy, and so on. I knew, however, that if CNA was to gain status as
a national organization and elevate the status of nurses while enhancing their ability to provide
better nursing and health service, we had to seize every opportunity. This meant that I was
often left writing the brief – in consultation with the president, Isobel MacLeod. She was a
wonderful person to work with and she gave me full reign.
The four major brief and submissions went to:
– The Senate of Canada Special Committee on Aging
– The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism
– The Canadian Conference on Mental Retardation
– The Canadian Centennial Council and Centennial Commission
For the Senate Brief on Aging, CNA recruited Trenna Hunter of Vancouver, who was
knowledgeable in this area, to assist in writing the brief. Trenna and I appeared before the
Special Committee . We were well received. Senator Ferguson, the interrogator, was very
thoughtful and sympathetic to our point of view.
The CNA Brief to the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism was not a stellar
effort. I canvassed all members of the Executive Committee for their points of view and, guided
by the terms of reference, wrote the brief CNA appeared before the Royal Commission and was
The other two submissions, to the Canadian Conference on Mental Retardation and to the
Canadian Centennial Council and Centennial Commission, were written, to a large extent, by
members of the Executive Committee who had expertise in these areas. No strong positions
were taken in either of these submissions.
Centennial fever was rampant and all non-governmental organizations were asked to submit
project proposals. CNA decided to produce yet another film on nursing. The most impressive
CNA centennial project, however, was the establishment, on site at Expo ’67, of a nursing
station of the future. It was completely high tech and, in 1967, it boggled our minds. In less than
20 years, our high tech station has become a reality. Staffed by Rita Lussier and Viola Aboud,
who created the exhibit, it was a popular display at Expo. The students and staff who worked at
this Expo ’67 exhibit formed close personal ties and continued yearly meetings in the
CNA HOUSE, 1965
CNA House finally got its start with the digging of a massive hole in the ground at 50 The
Driveway. It was a long, convoluted road which led to the construction of this “house” financed
and built by and for Canadian nurses as their national headquarters. In must confess that, in the
beginning, I was not very enthusiastic about this project as I thought it might take an undue
amount of time away from CNA’s main objectives. We had already spent a great deal of time
negotiating with the owners of two lots at the corner of Laurier Avenue and Charlotte Street.
Ottawa’s then mayor, Charlotte Whitton, said that she would oppose our purchase of this site as
“the Catholics” who owned the lots on either side would eventually expropriate our property. We
had been forced to bow out at that point even though our architect, Mr. James Strutt, had
already submitted a very classic design for a building which would have met CNA’s current and
future needs. A House Committee took responsibility for finding a new site. I admit that I
begrudged the time the committee took for meetings which I was required to attend, with little
apparent outcome. Eventually, our architect, Mr. Strutt, advised that Capital Storage, at 50 The
Driveway, was selling and we began to negotiate. New designs were submitted to fit the new
site. The south side of the proposed building had to be made to fit into the adjacent NCC
property and that is how CNA House got its jagged silhouette. In the end, we had been able to
trade the back portion of our lot for the NCC land on the south side of the site, but by then it was
too late to change the original design. We had been delayed in acquiring the necessary property
as Mrs. Murphy, the property owner, knew we wanted it and held us for ransom. We paid dearly
for that small wedge of land and the house on it which had to be demolished.
Alternate version of the CNA House story:
. . . she approached the problem of developing plans for a new National Office. First of all, a site
had to be found and, eventually, a very desirable property next to Le Cerc1e Universitaire and
the Newman Club was located. However, when Ottawa’s mayor, Charlotte Whitton, heard that
CNA was attempting to purchase this land and the buildings thereon, she was absolutely
enraged. “Don’t you dare buy those,” she said. “Those Catholics on either side will expropriate
and you will not have a place for your building in 10 years time.” As it happens, the mayor was
wrong –30 years later the houses are still there. But, as mayor, Charlotte Whitton would not
give CNA permission to build on that site. Luckily, an architect who had submitted drawings for
that particular location knew of another site at 50 Driveway, where Capital Storage was
located. CNA negotiated with Capital Storage and all went well.
Negotiations with the National Capital Commission who had property behind and at the side of
the site were also successful. Then there was Mrs. Murphy! She had a small piece of land
between the front and back part of the property CNA was buying and she held CNA to ransom
for this little slice of soil. She would not sell her house unless she was paid an exorbitant sum.
CNA, reluctantly, paid.
During the previous year, when the Executive was about to meet and while I was having dinner
with the President, Electa MacLennan and the PresidentElect,
they asked to see the site of
CNA’ s new home. During this visit, we decided to have a sod-turning ceremony with all
members of the sub-committee of the Executive present. We needed a shovel, so I telephoned
Georgina Clarke at home and she agreed to bring one. Georgina had class. Next day, 1 April
1965, she arrived at the meeting with a gold-painted spade. Such was the commitment of CNA
That same year, I thought it would be a great idea to have a time capsule embedded in the wall
outside the Board Room. Once again, when the time came, staff came through for us. They
procured a metal box and placed inside it copies of The Canadian Nurse and L’infirmiere
minutes of board of directors meetings, postage stamps, coins, letterhead and envelopes etc.
for cementing into the wall. Perhaps in 1996, 30 years after the opening of CNA House, CNA
could have a celebration marking this event.
Before CNA House was officially opened, we were staggered by three deaths (reminiscent of
the triple crown of deaths over the original Board Room). They were: the Chairperson of the
House Committee, Mildred Walker; President Katherine MacLaggan; and Governor General
Georges Vanier. The latter was to have presided at the official opening of the building -invitations
had been printed — and then all the arrangements had to be changed.
When, as CNA Director of Special Studies, I was able to persuade Dr. Kaspar Naegle to carry
out approved Recommendation One of the Pilot Project for Evaluation of Schools of Nursing in
Canada: “That are-examination and study of the whole field of nursing education be
undertaken,” I was absolutely delighted. He had all of the required qualifications —and then
some. He met with the CNA Board of Directors on two occasions and I met with him, in
Vancouver, on three other occasions. He was brilliant. Without question, he was the
pre-eminent sociologist in the health field and we worked well together. In fact, I was always
learning from him. His preliminary papers, submitted to the Board of Directors, had been well
received. Then, on 6 February 1965, we got the news of his tragic death, by suicide. I was
saddened beyond words. Apparently, a series of mistakes in judgment by his psychiatrist and
hospital staff and allowed this tragedy to occur. I remember him so very well. These few words
which follow are my reflections on a great man:
“..Modest and humble in the extreme. He perceived others with clarity and compassion but
could not see in himself the greatness of his gifts. This was his tragedy and now it is ours. .. He
asked us to live to the last minute and then at that moment we would see our equations written
out. We can say that for him all actions were symbolic. These were statements. And he has
made a statement, discrete and final, and it is true.”
The papers he wrote for CNA were compiled into a booklet, “A Course for the Future”,
published in 1966. It is a rare gem.
Strangely, the death of Kaspar Naegle opened another door for me. Dr. Naegle had been asked
by the Royal Commission on Health Services to carry out Recommendation One of the Pilot
Project for Evaluation of Schools of Nursing in Canada and to carry out A Survey of Nursing
Education in Canada. On his death, I was asked to take over both of these tasks. My survey of
nursing education for the Royal Commission was published in 1964. I believe it is the best
survey and report I had completed yet, strangely, most researchers refer to Spotlight on
Nursing, A Report of the Pilot Project on Nursing Education in Canada.
An alternate version of the preceding:
It seemed logical, therefore, that Recommendation 1 on the whole field of nursing education be
assumed by the person carrying out the examination for the Royal Commission. Dr. Naegle was
a superb sociologist and scholar and Helen was delighted that he would be directing the project
on nursing education for both CNA and the RCHS. His abrupt and untimely death was a
devastating blow! The Director of Special Studies was asked to step into the breach and
undertake this project. Although sure she could never produce a study the quality of one
directed by Dr. Naegle, Helen agreed to do her best. The final report, when completed, was well
received by the Royal Commission.
Study of Recommendations of Royal Commission on Health Services, 1964-1965
A study of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Health Services revealed that 79
of the 200 recommendations were “of concern to nurses”. Fifty-nine had direct implications for
This study was carried out “… with a view to establishing its own position and course of action.”
It is impossible to calculate the effectiveness of the thousands of person hours that were
expended on this study. At that time, however, a “position and course of action,” as well as a
study of the recommendations, was required. In retrospect, I believe more time should have
been spent on strategizing these studies.
Of great interest to me are the discrepancies between my recommendations in the survey
Nursing Education in Canada (1964) and the recommendations of the RCHS. I recommended
that the control of diploma nursing education be removed from hospitals and moved into the
educational stream. The Royal Commission recommended only that the budget of the school of
nursing and the hospital be separate. This was, in my view, unacceptable. The change
suggested was only cosmetic and did not address the root of the problem.
Journals Editor, 1965
When I arrived at CNA, Margaret Kerr was the long-time, respected editor of The Canadian
Nurse . She had been one of my teachers when I was a student at Vancouver General Hospital, and I stood in
awe in her presence. I recall that, when she came to teach our classes, she wore a hat as was
the dress code of the day. Each class, after about one minute, she removed her hat, with much
verbal condemnation of the practice. Horrors! A woman with her head bared!
Margaret Kerr, as editor of CNJ, had fought hard to have her position considered equivalent to
that of the Executive Director of CNA. She had had an on-going feud with the previous
Executive Director, Penny Stiver, and she had won and, in so doing, had become Executive
Director of the Journal. Margaret Kerr made it quite clear that she was at least on an equal
status with me. As always, I was speechless.
When her retirement became imminent, we searched for a replacement. I was not satisfied with
the recommendations of Mr. McGuire (PR counsel) and Ernest Van Raalte (General Manager).
Suddenly, while talking via telephone with the two gentlemen, I had a flash of inspiration. We
already had two great assistant editors, Virginia Lindabury (English) and Claire Bigue (French).
Why not have two editors –one English and one French? Mr. McGuire and Mr. Van Raalte were
silent for a while but finally agreed to get back to me. Apparently, they discussed the idea with
Margaret Kerr and she adopted it as her own. Great!
So, on Margaret Kerr’s retirement, we replaced her with two editors. It seemed to work
satisfactorily but was finally discontinued.
Committee on Social & Economic Welfare, 1965
When I arrived in Ottawa in 1957 for my two-year project, I was warmly received but whenever
nurse’s salaries were discussed, I knew that I was viewed with suspicion.
The west coast of Canada at that time was the militant promoter of UNIONS. Horrors! The
Registered Nurses Association of British Columbia had authority to bargain collectively for
nurses and was actively doing so. Other provinces lagged behind but gradually the “union
movement” was gaining recognition — especially in Saskatchewan.
Louise Miner (Saskatchewan) was aware of the need to have national recognition of “collective
bargaining” for nurses. After many meetings and much soul searching, the Executive
Committee, in 1965, finally took a brave step forward and established a “Social and Economic
Welfare Program”. The words “collective bargaining” were carefully omitted.
New Brunswick Association of Registered Nurses, June 1965
My first visit to St. Stephen, N.B. was to attend the annual meeting of the New Brunswick
Association of Registered Nurses (NBARN) 2-5 June 1965. CNA’s President Elect, Katherine
McLaggan, of N.B., was an important figure at these meetings as she was at all provincial,
national and international nurses’ meetings.
Katherine and I attended the meetings together as we planned strategy for convincing
delegates that all nursing education belonged within the system of general education. Katherine
was an inspirational leader and, at this meeting, she quoted liberally from The Little Prince by
Antoine de Saint Exupery. I have used these quotations on many other occasions:
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye;” and
“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”.
Following the meetings, Katherine had made arrangements for me to see the Ganong
Chocolate Factory. On the way over, she told me that what she really wanted was not chocolate
but jelly beans. At the factory we were met by no less than the President of the company, who
insisted on taking us on the tour himself. It was fascinating. Very early on, Katherine told the
company president that she would like some jelly beans. Poor man, I thought he was going to
have a stroke. He was adamant “no jellybeans”. He was not proud of that product and confided
that the company only produced them because of demand. As we progressed, Katherine
continued to whisper to me that she “must” have some jelly beans. At one point, I excused
myself and headed for the ladies room with a detour past the jelly bean sections. I gather the
president -or someone – had instructed that jelly beans were not to be given to the distinguished
visitors. I held firm. Finally, the supervisor said that, if he was not looking, I could take some
candies from the tray. I did. Thank goodness, too, because, after we left, the first thing
Katherine asked, with fire in her voice, was “Where are my jelly beans?” I produced them and
she gave me, in return, the chocolates the president had given her. The story does not end
there, however. Katherine told me much later, in Ottawa, that the president knew that I had
taken some jelly beans and he was not amused. Each time I see the ashtray given to me by the
Ganong president that day, I am reminded of jelly beans. And that was in the pre-President
View all posts in this series
- Autobiography Introduction - December 12, 2011
- Pilot Project for Evaluation of Schools of Nursing
- Appointment as Director of Special Studies – CNA
- Survey of 25 Schools of Nursing
- Executive Director – Canadian Nurses Association
- Canadian Nurses Foundation
- 1965 – 1966 CNA activities and CNA House - January 2, 2012
- PAHO/WHO Project in Commonwealth Caribbean - December 12, 2011
- 1965 International work
- 1969-1975 International Work - January 3, 2012
- Commonwealth Nurses Federation – West Africa, 1981 - December 12, 2011
- Encounters with Fidel Castro - December 22, 2011
- Autobiography Outline - December 12, 2011