Dan Desmarais has always believed in the power of higher education: he completed his BA at the University of Ottawa, studying political science and history. During the school year he worked as an orderly at a French hospital in Ottawa — and quickly fell in love with the profession.
26Full-time stewards throughout the Province
Desmarais — an LPN and full-time steward who works at both Vancouver General Hospital and Lions Gate Hospital — has always been drawn to the empowering nature of unions. He first became a steward while working at Niagara Falls Hospital in Ontario, but when he moved to British Columbia’s Lower Mainland 12 years ago, LPNs were not yet a part of BCNU.
“I’d been advocating my entire nursing career to try and get into a union — and it was so wonderful when we were accepted into BCNU,” he says, noting he decided to become a steward immediately after. “I really see the difference in the amount of respect being in this union carries.”
The role of a steward is diverse: answering questions from members, informing them about the contract, monitoring breaches, being a good listener, providing a safe space and explaining options to members. It’s not always an easy role, but Desmarais says he’s been lucky enough to have some remarkable BCNU mentors who have inspired him to lead others.
“Now that I’m a full-time steward, I’m working to empower and mentor people in the same way,” he says. “For example, we just got a full time nurse on the floor where I worked. It’s nice to see the hard work we put in is creating positive change for our members.”
“Now that I’m a full-time steward, I’m working to empower and mentor people in the same way. For example, we just got a full time nurse on the floor where I worked. It’s nice to see the hard work we put in is creating positive change for our members.”
Desmarais is dedicated to growing his leadership role in the union, and aspires to one day become a labour relations officer. BCNU is supporting his goal — and the dreams of other talented nurses like him — by providing education through the prestigious Industrial Relations (IRC) Certificate in Labour Relations from Queen’s University.
“The program has been great, and I’ve loved all the learning,” says Desmarais. “Knowledge is strength, and the more knowledge we have the stronger we will be as a union.”
One of his mentors encouraged Desmarais to take the Queen’s IRC Program, designed specifically for experienced BCNU stewards and labour relations professionals in BC’s health landscape. The goal: to empower future leaders with new capabilities and skills to strategically manage labour relations issues and develop more streamlined and efficient practices for handling workplace conflict.
“It’s been such a great opportunity to learn more, and Queen’s has hired some pretty dynamic people to teach,” he says. “Everybody in the course wants to learn, wants the best for the union, and wants the best for our health-care systems.”
The course runs January to April, and focuses on topics such as conflict resolution, conducting proper interviews, investigations, and arbitrations. Desmarais believes taking the course will bring him closer to his career aspirations, giving him the tools to one day become a labour relations Officer and make an even bigger impact on the members in the union he loves.
“The more members who take this course, the more people will know how to do resolve conflicts, how to acknowledge what’s going on, and how to deal with it,” he says. “BCNU is standing strong together through education.”