Our History

The history of the Canadian Nurses Foundation very much parallels the history of medicare in Canada. As the 1960s began, there was a serious concern in Canadian society about our whole health care system.

In 1961, all Canadian provinces signed on to the Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act – the ground-breaking legislation that created a truly national, universal health insurance system. Canada embraced publicly-funded health care and we’ve never looked back.

The same year, the Royal Commission on Health Services was established and the Commission presented four recommendations – one of these recommendations was to examine the entire field of nursing education.

Prior to this, the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) had asked Dr. Helen Mussallem to conduct a survey of nursing schools across Canada with the goal of assessing how prepared the schools were for a national system of accreditation. The findings of Mussallem’s work, paired with the timing of the Commission’s findings, led the CNA to decide that the time had come to strike a special committee to establish a foundation.

This committee was comprised of nine women who envisioned a much larger role for nurses in our health care system. These visionaries – Helen Carpenter, Alice Girard, Ella Mae Howard, Corinne Laflamme, Katherine MacLaggan, Electa MacLennan, Lillian Pettigrew, Mary Richmond and Pearl Stiver – helped to found the Canadian Nurses Foundation.

They dreamed of making nursing a legitimate and respected profession in or of its own right. They recognized the potential for the study of nursing to go far beyond a hospital-based diploma program. They understood the potential for nurses to play a much larger and more important role in patient care in a wide array of specialized areas. They knew that great nurses would want to keep learning and keep deepening their knowledge throughout their careers.

When the Canadian Nurses Foundation was established in 1962, for the first time in Canadian nursing history, nurses had somewhere to go to seek financial assistance to further their education, and later on, to secure funds to pursue research related to nursing care.

Over the past 50 years, the Canadian Nurses Foundation has awarded scholarships, bursaries and research grants to more than 1,500 Canadian nurses and nursing students. The value of those awards total more than $10 million. Not only have these awards transformed the lives of nurses – they have created far better experiences and outcomes for the millions of patients who have benefited from our investments.

Every one of us who is involved with the Canadian Nurses Foundation takes remarkable pride in the incredible good we’ve accomplished to date. But today, much more needs to be done.

For every single award we grant, there are five worthy scholarship applicants. We need to do so much more to keep building on the vision of those nine determined women who launched us in 1962. We’re more determined than ever to bring that vision to its full realization.