On April 28th, USJE National President David Neufeld had the opportunity to meet Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino about some of USJE’s key priorities.
Minister Mendicino is an energetic, well-respected Minister who brings a depth of understanding about the criminal justice system. He works closely with Pam Damoff, Member of Parliament (Oakville-North Burlington) who also serves as the Parliamentary Secretary for Public Safety.
USJE appreciates the collaboration and commitment to public safety that both Minister Mendicino and Ms. Damoff are bringing to their respective roles.
The meeting was fast paced and focused on the following three priorities:
- Return to the New Normal – President Neufeld emphasized the value of hybrid work arrangements for employees within the 18 departments and agencies that USJE represents. Mr. Neufeld indicated that USJE is strongly advocating that, where offsite work can be accommodated, even in places where frontline staff are considered ‘operational’, workplace flexibility (a combination of off site and on site days) is critically important to employees. It often creates the conditions for better productivity, employee retention, and reduces the risk of occupational stress injury.
Mr. Neufeld stressed that a quick return to pre-pandemic work environments is not wise as the pandemic is clearly not over, and more importantly, given that there are many lessons learned about how to work differently, if not better, regardless of the pandemic. As an example, Mr. Neufeld mentioned that access to virtually delivered rehabilitative programs for offenders should be considered in the near future.
- Mr. Neufeld highlighted the development of two major USJE research reports on occupational stress injury conducted by leading public safety academic Dr. Rose Ricciardelli.
Regarding the RCMP Detachment Services Assistant report, which was released in March 2022, USJE highlighted the urgent need for the development of the national training program (currently underway), the installation of bullet proof glass at front counters and other public-facing DSA workspaces, as well as mandatory inclusion in Critical Incident debriefs, as well as improved access to mental health benefits.
For the Parole Officer report (to be released in May 2022), Mr. Neufeld emphasized the urgent need to reduce caseloads within Institutions and in the Community in recognition of the needs and complexity of offenders, a lack of backfilling, the amount and nature of the information Parole Officers must review (often graphic and violent) in order to assess risks to public safety. There are also the realities of cumbersome technology and competing legislative deadlines – all of which contribute to overwhelming workloads at times and high incidents of occupational stress injury, given the stakes.
Significantly improved access to trauma informed mental health treatment through the federal government’s benefits plans was also requested by Mr. Neufeld, as was the need for more federal Correctional employees to be immediately included in presumptive injury legislation at the federal, provincial, and territorial levels.
Mr. Neufeld also mentioned the need for a joint USJE-CSC review at the Intake Unit of Joyceville Institution – where work volumes, caseloads numbers and complexity, timelines and overall case management needs have been flagged as unsustainabe for many years, and requiring more resources.
- Public Safety is our Priority – Throughout the meeting, USJE emphasized that public safety is the number one priority for the vast majority of USJE’s members, no matter where they work in the country or which department or agency they work under. Mr. Neufeld mentioned that many of USJE’s members are women and men working behind the scenes to keep Canadians safe. Being treated with respect and ensuring workplace cultures are free of harassment and positive environments will enable all public safety members to do their best work – and advance meaningful public safety outcomes.
USJE looks forward to building on this dialogue in the coming months. As a next step, we will also be welcoming Parliamentary Secretary & MP Pam Damoff to the National Local Presidents Meeting being hosted in Ottawa in early June 2022.