COVID-19 update for correctional employees: January 29, 2021

This content is a message to Correctional Service Canada (CSC) staff from CSC's Commissioner.

I want to start off by thanking you for all your hard work and dedication. I continue to be impressed with everyone's commitment to keeping our sites safe and healthy. The decline in active COVID-19 cases in Correctional Service Canada's (CSC's) institutions, currently at 17 active cases, is evidence of your conscious efforts to follow our health measures and protocols. The role each of you play is much appreciated.

Bell Let's Talk Day

Yesterday, CSC took part in a national dialogue on mental health during Bell Let's Talk. The day was a good opportunity to highlight and raise awareness of mental health issues. Thank you to everyone who joined the conversation.

Mental health is as important as physical health, and we need to be mindful to take care of all aspects of our well-being. I hope you are all taking time to look after yourselves. We all have many stressors in our lives, particularly this past year with the pandemic. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to talk to someone if you need support or make a point of checking in with others to touch base. We have excellent resources at CSC that can help, such as the Employee Assistance Program that is available to all of us by calling 1-800-268-7708. I urge you to reach out; they are there to listen.

A call to action on anti-racism, equity and inclusion

Last week, Ian Shugart, the Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, issued a:

In it, the Clerk sets common expectations for leaders across the Public Service to take practical actions that will be the basis for systemic change. While senior leaders are accountable, this set of actions demands collective responsibility, at all levels.

Fostering a work environment that is safe and inclusive for everyone is CSC's top priority. CSC continues to take concrete actions to ensure that our work environment is:

We will be writing a letter to the Clerk to outline all the actions CSC is taking. I strongly urge you to read the call to action. I echo the Clerk's words: the time to act is now.

Black History Month

February is Black History Month. Here at CSC, we are taking steps to improve the correctional and reintegration outcomes for Black, Indigenous, and other ethnocultural offenders. In July, CSC implemented a joint working group with the Parole Board of Canada to look at diversity and ways to further address racism within the federal corrections and conditional release system. Their review took into consideration existing studies on the issue of over-representation of Black Canadians and Indigenous people in the criminal justice system, including recommendations from the Parliamentary Black Caucus.

To build on this work, CSC is in the process of developing an anti-racism framework and action plan. We are currently consulting with stakeholders, and Indigenous and Ethnocultural groups, on what our focus areas moving forward should be. Employees will also help shape our way forward. CSC has work to do, but we know that as an organization and as CSC employees, we must continue to create an environment that promotes belonging, respect, and inclusiveness.

In that spirit, I encourage everyone to take time during February to celebrate Black History Month. There are a number of great resources and opportunities to listen, share and learn.

Cleaning and disinfecting guidance

Those of you working at our sites will be aware that this past year, as a result of COVID-19, we re-examined our cleaning practices. Fortunately, the coronavirus can be easily killed with the appropriate disinfectant. We recently reviewed and updated our COVID-19 Cleaning and Disinfecting Guidance on the Hub. These regular reviews ensure that you have access to the latest cleaning and disinfection guidance and best practices from public health authorities. It supplements, rather than replaces, our existing practices and includes step-by-step procedures for cleaning and disinfecting cells, public spaces, and fleet vehicles for staff, offenders, and others who do our institutional cleaning. Thank you to all of you involved in this work.

Security Awareness Week 2021

At CSC, we take pride in our role in public safety and security. Our work to reintegrate offenders begins with reasonable, safe, secure, and humane control. February 8 to 12 is Security Awareness Week. This year's theme "Securely Re-inventing your Workplace", speaks to our new normal. Whether you are in a new office setting, working from home, or at your usual work site, take this week to refresh yourself on government security policies, and remember that we all play an important role in security. Although the work environment may have changed for some of us, our responsibilities remain the same.

Remote work expenses

Many of you have been working remotely since last March, and I have some good news to share on this front. Employees who worked from home in 2020 due to COVID-19 and had to pay their own home office expenses (those not covered by CSC) may be eligible to claim certain expenses on their income tax. Details about this are now posted on the Canada Revenue Agency website or you can call 1-800-959-8281.

In closing, it is never too late to share positive news. Over the holidays, employees at Grande Cache Institution in Alberta pulled together to donate and deliver 11 boxes of food to the local food bank, as well as 42 gifts for children that were delivered to the local Santa's Anonymous. Well done, Grande Cache Institution!

Thank you for your continued commitment to implementing our health and safety measures. I appreciate you following CSC's guidelines of:

I also wanted to remind you not to come to work if a family member or close household contact is ill. If we all continue to follow these guidelines, we will continue to make a difference in fighting the spread of the virus. Keep up the good work! 

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