This past week, National President, David Neufeld and USJE Regional Vice-Presidents, Valda Behrens (RCMP, Justice, PPSC Alberta, NWT and Nunavut) and Carol Osborne (CSC Community- Parole Board of Canada- East) traveled to Iqaluit to visit our members in the RCMP, Justice, Public Prosecutions Canada and Correctional Service of Canada (Community). The last visit USJE made to Iqaluit occurred in July 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 25th, the USJE representatives attended to the RCMP V Division Headquarters and Iqaluit Detachment to meet with USJE members of the RCMP. A guided tour was given to the representatives which provided the opportunity to speak with members face-to-face in the workplace. President Neufeld and RVPs Behrens and Osborne were very impressed with the level of engagement of the members and their willingness to share about their working conditions.
One of the most compelling issues raised is the employer’s reliance on Inuit employees of the RCMP (USJE members) to use the Inuktitut language in the course of their duties and not be compensated for the same. Unlike those federal employees who qualify for the Bilingualism Bonus (governed by the Bilingualism Bonus Directive) and receive a $800 bonus for occupying a bilingual position, these employees receive no compensation for using the Inuktitut language when conducting their duties. The Bilingual Bonus is only given to those employees who occupy a position identified as being “bilingual” and where there is a clear requirement for the use of both official languages (English and French) in the performance of their duties.
In speaking with our members, it was clear that some of our members do speak to members of the public or transcribe documents using the Inuktitut language on a very regular basis. Their ability to speak, write and transcribe using their ability to communicate in Inuktitut is crucial in performing their duties for the RCMP. It is important to note that Inuktitut is a recognized official language of the territory and that 70% of Nunavut’s population speaks Inuktitut.
It is evident that our members who use their Indigenous or Inuit language in the course of their duties should be compensated for doing so. It is a matter of recognition and respect. The use of the Inuktitut language is essential in the communities of Nunavut. PSAC has been fighting for an Indigenous Language Allowance as part of our Collective Agreements but have not been successful to date. If the current government or any future Canadian government is serious about reconciliation, it is believed that Indigenous and Inuit languages should be recognized as official languages of Canada and should be revitalized and promoted. The issues around language recognition and monetary compensation for use of Indigenous/Inuit languages in one’s work goes beyond the RCMP but it is hoped that the union’s efforts to push this issue in the future will bring about positive change.
The USJE representatives also had the opportunity to meet with Commanding Officer, Andrew Blackadar, and Inspector, Richard Marshall, during the visit. President Neufeld and RVP Behrens presented CO Blackadar and Inspector Marshall with information regarding the Detachment Services Assistant report (released in March 2022), USJE’s Presumptive Injury Campaign and USJE’s campaign to keep the RCMP in Alberta. Discussions also centred on USJE’s concern around the culture of the RCMP and how the Categories of Employees (COE) continues to create a divide among employees of the RCMP. CO Blackadar was very engaging and interested in the topics raised by USJE. He also shared some of the challenges he has witnessed working in the North and the importance of being able to provide services in Inuktitut to the citizens in Iqaluit. President Neufeld and RVP Behrens look forward to building a strong, collaborative working relationship with CO Blackadar and the management of V Division in the future and thank them for their support of our visit.
In the evening of May 25th, all USJE members in Iqaluit were invited to a two hour “meet and greet” session at the PSAC Nunavut Office with President Neufeld and Regional Vice-Presidents Behrens and Osborne. Pizza and drinks were provided. The evening proved to be a good opportunity to further connect with members and to build relationships that will serve the union members of Iqaluit well. It is hoped that a new Local will take root in Iqaluit for our RCMP, Justice and PPSC members and that we can work with the PSAC locally to provide union training to new representatives.
On the afternoon of May 26th, President Neufeld and RVP Osborne conducted a visit of the Nunavut Parole Office. Currently there are two CSC members who work there (a Parole Officer Supervisor and a Correctional Program Officer). The members were extremely welcoming and openly shared about their operational realities and current working conditions. The members also expressed their sincere appreciation to see both RVP Osborne and President Neufeld come to visit them. This was the first time that the USJE RVP for CSC Community-Parole Board of Canada- East has visited the Nunavut Parole Office.
It will be noted that the USJE representatives were also given a tour of a local halfway house (Uttaqivik Community Residential Centre) and the Aaqqigiarvik Correctional Healing Facility. Both President Neufeld and RVP Osborne want to thank the CSC members for sharing and providing greater insight into their role in the reintegration of offenders in Iqaluit.
The visit to Iqaluit also provided an opportunity for the three USJE representatives to meet with Lori Idlout, Member of Parliament for Nunavut, and to discuss the work of our members in Iqaluit. RVP Behrens had shared the DSA Report with MP Idlout in advance of the meeting and the USJE representatives spoke at length around the Presumptive Injury Campaign. MP Idlout shared that she understands the value of the changes USJE is seeking in terms of the Government Employees Compensation Act (GECA) and is very much aware of the need to a trauma informed approach when supporting front line public safety workers. She shared her verbal support of our campaign. She also shared her interest in participating in work site visits with our members who live and work in Iqaluit.
It will be noted that MP Idlout was also a special guest to the PSAC North Regional Convention this past weekend in Iqaluit. President Neufeld was able to reconnect with her at the Convention and to confirm her commitment to meet in Ottawa to continue our dialogue on USJE’s Presumptive Injury Campaign and the DSA Report. President Neufeld is confident that MP Idlout is sincere in her desire to support our members work and our Presumptive Injury Campaign.