This past week, National President David Neufeld and Regional Vice-Presidents Shauna Ward and Jeff Sandelli traveled to Prince Albert and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to meet with front-line USJE members who were most immediately impacted by the James Smith Cree Nation tragedy.
As part of the union’s overall response to the tragic situation, USJE has been reaching out to members at the Correctional Service of Canada, the Parole Board of Canada and the RCMP to ensure that they are aware of the support and assistance that is available to them (through the union) to deal with this tragedy.
USJE members perform incredibly important and challenging work that can often result in being exposed to direct or indirect trauma. The tragedy in James Smith Cree Nation inevitably has impacted many front line USJE members and these particular visits provided the opportunity to have meaningful, face-to-face meetings with the impacted members at CSC.
USJE has been actively advocating for additional trauma informed mental health resources for these members and to ensure that they get appropriate mental health support they need during these challenging times. With the recent change to Lifeworks as a mental health provider, it is hoped that our members will receive timely access to the services they require.
Our union believes that it is important that both management and USJE must come together to support front line employees during times like this. In the past, USJE members have often reported that they do not feel supported by management when public safety incidents occur and feel very much alone. Throughout this tragedy, USJE has endeavored to ensure that this would not happen and that affected members would receive the emotional and mental support they need from their employer and their union.
During this week’s visits, USJE representatives shared how their union has been working collaboratively with the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT) to contribute to the development of webinars which would provide additional support for members. The first webinar, “Supporting PSP after an adverse event: A focus on Correctional Workers” was launched at the outset of October 2022. A second webinar is currently in development to assist members with preparation for and management of their well-being during the investigation process. It is hoped that such a webinar will be in available in the coming weeks and will be helpful to members in the future who may require similar support.
Discussions also centred on some of the real front line challenges that staff face when executing their public safety duties. Issues such as high workloads, complexity of cases and lack of community resources (i.e.access to Elders, psychologists, Community Correctional Liaison Officers) are only a few of the topics covered. USJE plans to raise many of these issues in future meetings with the department, the Minister’s Office and Members of Parliament in order to effect positive change that will improve public safety results.
It was also shared with the groups that USJE members from across numerous positions and departments have similar concerns and have expressed their support for their colleagues for better access to mental health resources and presumptive injury legislation during conversations that took place at the USJE Regional conferences this past fall across Canada. It was conveyed that USJE members across the country were able relate to and recognize what many are going through when it comes to occupational stress injuries, and vicarious trauma. They were heartened to learn that they weren’t alone, and to see that many members expressed their solidarity. USJE is proud of the work USJE’s members do every day in keeping Canadians safe. Our members are the invisible front line and the operational backbone of public safety. USJE will continue to stand with our members and to highlight their ongoing contributions to public safety.