National President reaches out to members in the Arctic Circle

National President, David Neufeld, had the incredible opportunity to visit three very remote detachments in the Northwest Territories alongside Local President (X0149 Yellowknife RCMP/Justice/PPSC) Samuel Bourget.

These visits were coordinated with the Division Management team and involved flying into the communities of Tuktoyaktuk, Inuvik and Fort Good Hope via a RCMP aircraft. This trip was possible due to the goodwill and collaboration of RCMP management in the Division, who had other work scheduled in these areas at the same time.

Both Neufeld and Bourget were extremely grateful for this opportunity to meet face-to-face with the Detachment Services Assistants who have not experienced a personal visit from USJE representatives due to the remoteness of their locations.

What was most inspiring during this trip was to learn how our RCMP members contribute to public safety in the far north and what it is like to live in these distant locations. Neufeld and Bourget got to meet the single DSA from Tuktoyaktuk, 4 DSAs in Inuvik and the single DSA in Fort Good Hope. Time was provided at all sites to have very engaging discussions with all USJE members about their working conditions and the challenges they face working in the North.

President Neufeld provided details regarding USJE’s Detachment Services report and its 12 recommendations that seek to bring positive change to workplaces across this country. USJE’s Presumptive Injury Campaign was also shared and how our union is fighting to ensure that better mental health supports are put into place for our members from coast to coast to coast.

What became apparent is that the DSAs in these detachments tend to come from these same remote communities and really are the conduit between the RCMP and the community at large. As one might come to understand, having these very close connections in a small, isolated community can be difficult when fulfilling one’s duties and can have an impact on one’s relationships and overall mental health. Both Neufeld and Bourget shared the importance of taking care of oneself and accessing the mental health supports that are available. It was evident that access to psychological assistance is done virtually in most cases and that there is a need for more mental health support. It was also noticed that often members choose not to go on sick leave because of the inability to provide backfill at these detachments. While these are challenges elsewhere in Canada as well, it becomes even more apparent in the North where it takes significant time to bring in any back-up for lengthier periods (if at all possible).

In the discussions with our USJE members, it became clear that living and working in the North comes with its own challenges. These challenges include recruitment and retention (many vacancies and inability to provide backfill), access to housing (and affordable housing), travel costs related to medical appointments outside of their area of residence and the general costs for living (ie. heating, food etc).

Many of the RCMP members (both uniformed and non-uniformed) spoke to the importance of improving the Isolated Posts and Government Housing Directive (IPGHD) in order to recruit and retain employees in the North. Members shared that improvements to the Living Cost Differential, Vacation Travel Assistance and Government Housing could improve the lives of employees living in the North.

As a consequence, workloads in these northern detachments is very high. The RCMP tends to be the “catch all” for service which includes not only community policing but search and rescue activities, firefighting, and paramedic services. These communities tend to also struggle with providing addictions and mental health support to community members which further strains the overall workload of these detachments.

On Thursday, November 24th, President Neufeld and Local President Bourget had the opportunity to meet the new incoming Commanding Officer, Syd Lecki, in Yellowknife. The USJE representatives provided CO Lecki a copy of the DSA Report, discussed issues around the IPGHD (housing for Federal Public Employees) and shared details surrounding the tour that took place at the three remote locations. President Neufeld appreciated the time that CO Lecki took to discuss these issues and looks forward to working with him in the future.

The information that was obtained and shared by all Regular Members and DSAs present during these detachment visits is truly invaluable and brought a greater level of understanding concerning working in the North. The RCMP members at each detachment shared their personal appreciation for the USJE visit but the true appreciation is really the incredible the work they do to keep their northern communities and Canadians safe.

President Neufeld wishes to thank Special Constable, Brian McShane, and Sergeant Jessie Aubin for their support throughout the two-day visit and for taking the time to tour these communities with him.

A special acknowledgement and word of thanks goes to outgoing Acting Commanding Officer, Jeffrey Christie, for his support and for assisting in arranging this special trip to the North.