As government Covid policies continue to take their toll on Canadian lives, a B.C. nurse is speaking up about how vaccine mandates have upended her young family, taken away her career and even prevented her from deploying again to disaster zones overseas.

Before the mandates, Angel St. Denis was a registered psychiatric nurse at a long-term care (LTC) facility in Salmon Arm who also did critical response deployments overseas. Her husband was a municipal firefighter – what St. Denis called his “dream career.”

Now, St. Denis makes half her former salary doing physical labour at a tree farm, and her husband has taken a job in residential construction. She said they have had to sell things they otherwise wouldn’t have and that they look to their faith, family and friends to support them.

St. Denis was also one of three fired healthcare workers who added her voice to a recent video by BC Healthcare Workers United that is urging the provincial government to “Hire Back our Heroes.”

As a nurse in an LTC facility, St. Denis was hit by one of the first of provincial health officer Bonnie Henry’s vaccine mandates last fall.

“In 2021, my workplace awarded me with the employee that fulfilled their ‘Good Samaritan’ values and missions award,” she said. “Not long after that, I was fired by the same company due to not getting the covid vaccine. There was no consideration for religious exemptions or any other exemptions.”

St. Denis was also one of three fired healthcare workers who added her voice to a recent video by BC Healthcare Workers United that is urging the provincial government to “Hire Back our Heroes.”

Meanwhile, St. Denis’s husband was one of 30 firefighters affected by a municipal vaccine mandate that came into effect in January.

“Mentally and emotionally, there was a grieving stage that both myself and my husband went through as it was a loss of careers,” St. Denis told True North. “We do have family and friends that support us and we get together with them often to share our stories, support one another and pray together. There is power in unity and love and this has really helped us through these times.”

St. Denis said she is grateful for the job she has but that she knows her skills aren’t being put to proper use, especially with the province now looking to foreign-trained nurses to address a staffing crisis worsened by the pandemic.

“It is low-stress, I’m getting muscles I’ve never had before and everyone is super nice,” St. Denis told True North. “However, the first week I worked there, I would come home and cry as it felt so unjust and wrong.”

“My friend who is a (Registered Nurse) and is currently working at a cannabis factory and I have other healthcare professional friends working in mills. We all get together once a week to debrief, share, and support one another.”

St. Denis said she has tried to work in other capacities – even remotely – within her field but that the health orders have made it impossible.

“Due to the mandates, I am not able to work in healthcare. I even applied for Tele-Nurse, and Virtual Mental Health Nurse jobs (which are remote-work from home) and they will not allow you to work without being double jabbed.”

To add insult to injury, St. Denis said that she works with an American disaster relief organization but that Canada’s vaccine mandate for travel means that she hasn’t been able to deploy again.

St. Denis was deployed with Crisis Response International to Grand Bahamas Island just after hurricane Dorian hit in 2019.

“In Sept 2019, I deployed with Crisis Response International to Grand Bahamas Island just after hurricane Dorian hit,” she said. “We made a make-shift medical clinic in a local church and were able to do assessments, give medical care and trauma support to the survivors in the area. We also did food distribution to those in need.”

“While being a nurse does not define me, it is an avenue that I can use my gift of compassion to help those in need and I find it incredibly rewarding.”

While the B.C. government appears to have backed off of its latest vaccine mandate – which would have seen regulated private-sector healthcare professionals stripped of their licences unless they’d shown proof of two Covid shots – thousands of workers including St. Denis remain subject to earlier health orders.

St. Denis said the policies don’t make sense, in terms of both staffing and science.

“My previous workplace (Hillside Village LTC/Complex Care Facility) has continued to have covid outbreaks when all the staff, residents and visitors are all double vaccinated. So how does it make sense that we can no longer work?”

“The mandates should be dropped. There is no evidence and no science behind it.  Quality of patient-care is going down the drain with the current staffing crisis. In BC there are thousands of educated, healthy and skilled Healthcare Professionals that are currently just working random jobs and should be allowed to come back to the field they are passionate about.”

When asked about why she wanted to speak up despite the stigma and consequences of being unvaccinated that have silenced so many people, St. Denis was adamant.  

“I am not ashamed to stand up for what I believe in,” she said. “If we don’t advocate for our freedoms now, how will the future be for our children? There is no question…we need to do this for our kids! We cannot be silent. We need to be brave and be a voice for them for such a time as this.”

 “Canada, we need to stand together in unity and love. We need to support one another and stay strong.”

“Hold the line in TRUTH.”

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