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WHO director-general and chief nursing officer help celebrate Canada Day in Singapore

Singapore, June 30, 2019 – On the eve of Canada Day 2019, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (“Dr. Tedros”) and chief nursing officer Elizabeth Iro joined the Canadian High Commissioner in Singapore, Lynn McDonald, and leaders of the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) to toast Canada and the nursing profession. The CNA delegation hosted a reception at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands on the final evening of the International Council of Nurses (ICN) congress, which has gathered more than 5,000 nurses from some 140 countries to meetings in the city throughout the past week.

“We were thrilled to have Dr. Tedros and Iro join the Canadian team and guests from across Canada and around the world on the final evening of the ICN congress here in Singapore,” said CNA president Claire Betker. “CNA’s values and policy priorities are well aligned with the work being led globally by WHO. It was especially an honour to have these esteemed leaders with us as we mark Canada Day so far from home.”

McDonald welcomed guests to Singapore and noted that many of the goals of ICN and CNA mirror the commitment of the Canadian government to empower women and girls, advance gender equality and protect human rights. She spoke personally about her firsthand experience as a girl seeing the power and influence of nursing leadership through her aunt, who was a public health nurse.

Dr. Tedros was the driver behind WHO’s decision to mark 2020 — the bicentennial anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth — as the “year of the nurse and midwife.” Addressing delegates during a surprise appearance at the ICN congress earlier in the day, he spoke to the importance of supporting the global Nursing Now campaign to raise the profile, impact and practice conditions of the world’s nursing workforce. “We are on the threshold of a transformative moment in global health,” he said, linking the movement to scale up universal health care, safety and robust primary health care directly to investments in a strong global nursing workforce.

Annette Kennedy, president of the Geneva-based ICN, praised Dr. Tedros for his commitment to nursing globally. During the lead-up to his appointment to the role, Dr. Tedros had committed to appointing a chief nursing officer after years with the position left open. Soon after he assumed his new role, Dr. Tedros named Iro, a Cook Islands nurse leader and former secretary of health, as the new WHO chief nurse. Iro delivered the opening address at the congress on Friday.

In his comments to the congress today, Dr. Tedros drew attention to the importance of a federal chief nursing officer and urged each country to send a chief nurse to the World Health Assembly and related meetings in May 2020. He noted that Canada currently has no one in such a role and both he and Iro laid down a challenge to Canada: re-establish the position and send a new chief nurse to the World Health Assembly meetings in the Nightingale bicentennial year — just 10 months from now.

CNA continues to call on the federal government to appoint a chief nurse to shape health policy backed by the experience and research of Canada’s 431,000 nurses — the country’s largest group of health-care providers. Nurses save lives and must be positioned to work effectively within governments to inform the planning of safe, effective and cost-efficient health-care services.

The ICN global congress is held every two years and will wrap up July 1, 2019; the next congress will be held in Abu Dhabi in June 2021. On behalf of the Canadian government, McDonald invited the nursing world to Canada in June 2023, when CNA will host ICN at the Palais des congrès in Montreal.


The Canadian Nurses Association is the national and global professional voice of Canadian nursing, representing 135,000 nurses in all 13 jurisdictions across Canada. CNA advances the practice and profession of nursing to improve health outcomes and strengthen Canada’s publicly funded, not-for-profit health system.

For more information, please contact:

Eve Johnston
Media and Communications Coordinator
Canadian Nurses Association
Tel: 613-237-2159, ext. 114
Cell: 613-282-7859
Email: ejohnston@cna-aiic.ca