Ruth Walden, RN, has been a medical adjudicator in the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability program since 1993. While the predominantly male group of physicians and the predominantly female group of nurses both use their professional knowledge to determine eligibility for CPP disability benefits, initially, only physicians were classified as health professionals within the federal public service. Because nurses were classified as program administrators they were denied professional recognition.
In 1998, nurses filed a grievance and requested recognition as health professionals. In 2004, Ruth Walden stepped forward and demonstrated courage and determination by filing a gender discrimination complaint with Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). Several hundred other CPP nurses followed her lead and filed complaints. Under Ms. Walden’s leadership, this large group of nurses united across the country, researching and preparing, meeting with MPs and advocating for a resolution. After mediation with the employer through CHRC was unsuccessful, this group of nurses retained legal counsel to prepare for hearings.
Ms. Walden has been the lead complainant and liaison throughout this process, and steering this diverse group over several years of meetings, Canadian Human Rights Tribunal hearings and federal court appeals has required constant, extraordinary leadership and communication skills. Her calm, objective and unwavering leadership played a key role in guiding this group to its eventual settlement with the federal government in July 2012.
The hard work and efforts of Ruth Walden have righted an injustice and paved the way for other women and health professionals in Canada to be treated with fairness and recognition.