The 2018 Federal Budget was released on Tuesday, February 27th, and there are a number of items that would, if properly implemented by the government, result in positive benefits to the members of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees (USJE).
See below for excerpts and commentary:
1. Operational stress injury research: $20 million
Given USJE’s commitment to raising awareness of the impacts of Operational Stress Injuries among its members, we are pleased that Budget 2018 has allocated $20 million over five years to address the incidence of post-traumatic stress injuries among public safety officers (broadly defined).
The budget specifically assigned these funds to a consortium of the Canadian Institute of Health and Research and the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Training (CIPSRT). In addition to the $20 million in funds, the government proposes to invest a further $10 million over 5 years so that Public Safety Canada can work with CIPSRT regarding an Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy pilot as a means of providing greater access to care and treatment for public safety officers across Canada.
USJE is very well placed as a member of CIPSRT’s steering committee to ensure that our members’ experiences with traumatic stress are included in any research initiative that emerges from these two initiatives.
For more information on USJE’s work on operational stress injuries, please see: https://usge-web.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/docs/movingforward.pdf.
2. Providing better support to Public Servants in dealing with sexual harassment
Budget 2018 proposed that the President of Treasury Board establish a dedicated Public Service Centre on Diversity, Inclusion and Wellness, to support departments and agencies in creating safe, healthy, diverse and inclusive workplaces. Proposed funding in the amount of $3.6 million has been identified for this centre. According to the Budget document, part of the Centre’s mandate will be to better support public servants in addressing sexual harassment in the workplace within the public service.
USJE welcomes the establishment of the Centre, though we recognize that significantly more funds are likely required on a move forward basis. We will continue to work hard to ensure that all of our members have access to any and all supports that will become available.
3. Phoenix: Steps in the right direction, but more is required
USJE is encouraged that the government has identified additional funding in Budget 2018 in order to fix outstanding problems with Phoenix, however, the real victory of Budget 2018 is that the federal government signaled its intention to likely move away from Phoenix and begin the development a new federal pay system. Regardless, USJE is still concerned that the allocation of $431.4 million over six years to rectify current and ongoing pay abnormalities will not have the desired impact. USJE is committed to working closely with PSAC, PIPSC and other federal public sector unions ensure that all federal public service employees, including our members of course, are not out of pocket as a result of the Phoenix pay system.
4. Offender rehabilitation: $74.7 million in 2018 – 2019
The Correctional Service of Canada is responsible for the federal correctional system and protects public safety by actively encouraging and assisting offender reintegration. It provides correctional programming, opportunities for offender rehabilitation and practical skills development, and strengthening of community corrections. The Government proposes to invest $74.7 million in 2018–19 to enable the Correctional Service of Canada to continue existing operations in support of its mandate.
This is positive news for USJE and our members. We will advocate forcefully that this funding be used to increase staffing levels in areas that need more support in order to improve working conditions and offender outcomes for USJE members working in corrections.
5. Reopening the Penitentiary Farms at Joyceville and Collins Bay Institutions
To provide federal inmates with training opportunities to acquire new skills, while preparing for employment and successful reintegration and rehabilitation into the community, the Government proposes to invest $4.3 million over five years, beginning and 2018–19, to support the reopening of the Penitentiary Farms at the Joyce Ville and Collins Bay Institutions in Kingston, Ontario. The farms would be run by CORCAN, a key rehabilitation programming agency of the Correctional Service of Canada
USJE has been working with community groups across the country to reopen all prison farms since they were closed in 2010. This is an important first step towards reopening all prison farms.
6. Addressing over-representation of Indigenous peoples in federal corrections
As the ombudsman for federally sentenced offenders, the Office of the Correctional Investigator serves Canadians and contributes to safe, lawful and humane corrections through independent oversight of the Correctional Service of Canada. To support this work, the Government proposes to provide the Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada with $3.4 million over five years beginning in 2018–19, and $0.7 million per year ongoing. These funds will be used to enhance the Office’s investigative capacity, including its ability to delve more deeply into Indigenous corrections and the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples within the federal correctional system.
USJE’s members include all of CSC’s Aboriginal Liaison Officers, and other indigenous and non-indigenous staff, that work closely with offenders in their rehabilitation. These front line employees offer unparalleled insight into the challenges and opportunities in Corrections. USJE proposes to establish an Indigenous working group that can offer its expertise to senior leaders in Corrections and to the Minister of Public Safety.
7. More funding for inmate mental health supports
Federal Budget 2018 proposes $20.4 million in funding over five years, beginning in 2018–19, and $5.6 million per year ongoing, for CSC to support the mental health needs of federal inmates. Funds would largely be used to provide better mental health supports for female offenders serving sentences in federal institutions. USJE welcomes this development and will be vigilant in order to ensure that CSC provides proper staffing support for workplaces that experience increased workloads and expertise as a result.
8. Funds allocated to investigate sexual assault claims deemed “unfounded” by the RCMP
Budget 2018 commits $10 million over five years, and $2 million per year ongoing, to the RCMP to establish a national unit that will review thousands of sexual assault claims that had been inaccurately deemed “unfounded” by the police.
USJE welcomes this investment by the federal government, and encourages the RCMP to look inside its own organization to ensure that all claims of sexual harassment – including harassment committed by its own staff – be rigorously investigated.
9. Funds to support Canada’s Court System and judicial discipline process
The Government has committed investments to the Courts Administration Service in support of Canada’s federal courts. This funding will primarily support judicial and registry services and will better enable the federal courts to address their growing and increasingly complex caseload ($41.9 million over five years, and $9.3 million per year ongoing).
Six million dollars over two years has also been allocated to support the judicial discipline process through which allegations of judicial misconduct are investigated.