COVID-19 update for correctional employees: June 4, 2021

The content is a message to Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) staff from CSC’s Commissioner. 

I am pleased to report that as of June 2 there are zero active inmate cases. I would like to thank all our employees on the frontlines whose hard work and dedication has helped manage outbreak situations over the past months and helped to minimize further spread of the virus in our institutions. I also wanted to recognize our cleaning staff who continue to work hard to sanitize and ensure enhanced cleaning in our facilities.

I know that a year of keeping up the health measures of physical distancing, hand cleaning, and wearing a mask may feel tiresome, but these actions are working. They have helped us minimize the spread of the coronavirus in our institutions and workplaces, as well as protected you and your family from getting sick, as much as possible. The vaccine gives us an added defence, and I thank you for rolling up your sleeves to get your shot. We will be offering our second dose clinics in the next couple of weeks for offenders and staff who received their first dose through work.

Kamloops Residential School

The tragic discovery, at the former Kamloops Residential School, of the graves of 215 children is yet another heartbreaking piece of Indigenous history. This is a very real reminder that we have much work to do to heal years of hurt and to build relationships based on understanding, acceptance, respect, and trust. Take this opportunity to learn about the histories, cultures, and traditions of the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people. Understanding is essential to start building those relationships.

I know that this is a difficult time for many. Such a discovery and all it means is hard to process. I want to remind you that the Employment Assistance Program (EAP) is available if you need support or know someone who does. You can also reach out and talk to your manager, an Elder, or colleagues.

Federal Pathway Announcement

On June 3, the Government of Canada announced the release of the Federal Pathway to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex and Asexual (2SLGBTQQIA+) people.  

The Federal Pathway, to which CSC provided input, is the Government of Canada’s contribution to the broader National Action Plan called for by the National Inquiry and outlines commitments to addressing gender-based violence and systemic racism against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.

We continue to work to ensure a culturally responsive approach to Indigenous corrections, in collaboration with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities. This includes providing effective, culturally-informed interventions for Indigenous women offenders that supports their rehabilitation and safe reintegration. We could not do this important work without the commitment and dedication of CSC staff, Elders, and the contributions of Indigenous community stakeholders and partners

We must continue our efforts to ensure a safer future for Indigenous women, girls, Two Spirit and LGBTQQIA+ people. I encourage you to read the Federal Pathway and learn more about the actions the Government of Canada is and will be taking to overcome the tragedy and trauma caused to Indigenous women and girls and their families, and to support the well-being of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

National Indigenous History Month

June is National Indigenous History Month. I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about the Connecting Spirits, Creating Opportunities (CSCO) initiative, developed in 2019 by the Indigenous Initiatives Directorate. This wellness and networking initiative for CSC Indigenous employees supports the participants and their managers in career planning, while creating a space for the establishment of a mutually supportive community.

Honouring Indigenous traditions of storytelling, CSC is gaining insights and knowledge from participants who discuss challenges and solutions to improve their workplace and Indigenous corrections as a whole. 

In addition, I would also like to highlight that each week from June 1 to July 7, 2021, the Canada School of Public Service will be recommending specific learning activities to commemorate National Indigenous History Month and the Treaty 11 centenary. The school offers all employees an Indigenous Learning Series in support of Indigenous Reconciliation.

2021 National Survey of Women Employees

I wanted to give you an update on the 2021 National Survey of Women Employees, which wrapped up last week. Quorus Consulting Group, the company that ran the survey, has reported that more than 2,500 employees took it. This is a participation rate of approximately 30 percent. Thank you for taking the survey. Your responses will help us address the issues that are important to all of us and make improvements where needed. Thank you for sharing your comments—they are being heard.

Men’s Mental Health Month

June is recognized as Men’s Mental Health Month. Everybody’s mental health is important, regardless of gender, and talking about it is crucial, but the idea of men’s mental health is a newer concept that echoes alarming statistics. Men have higher rates of addiction (substance abuse) and antisocial personality disorder than women, while women have higher rates of anxiety and mood disorders. About 4,000 Canadians per year die by suicide, and more than 75 percent of them are men.

The idea of a mental illness equating to weakness seems to be a part of the reason why it hasn’t been easy for men to discuss their mental health. This month is an opportunity to open up about it and change the conversation. Visit the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation for more information and inspiring stories.

Remember that CSC has many resources to help you. EAP referral agents are available to listen and help you find appropriate resources. Employee Assistance Services is available not only to all employees, but also to eligible family members 24/7. It provides a variety of resources and supports, including counselling services. I encourage you to consult and use these services. They are there to help. You are also invited to consult the Hub for more resources.

Pride Season Launch

Pride Season in Canada takes place from June to September with local events across the country celebrating the resilience, spirit and talent of LGBTQ2 people. This year’s Pride Season marks the 50th anniversary of the first gay rights protests that took place in Vancouver and Ottawa in 1971, a turning point for the LGBTQ2 movement in Canada. 

The Government of Canada will kick off this year’s Pride Season on June 15 with a virtual event hosted on Facebook by Canadian Heritage. I invite all of you to take part in this event, to express your solidarity and celebrate the resilience and spirit of those who have fought for freedom and equality. Follow Free to be me and Public Service Pride on Twitter to stay up-to-date on everything Pride Season.

Activators Community Residential Facility ‘Giving Back’ to Prince George

I wanted to recognize the work of staff and offenders at Activators Society Community Residential Facility (CRF) for their terrific work giving back to the community of Prince George. Staff and offenders took on three different projects in the city: they built a deck for a local coffee shop to help it stay open during the pandemic; participated in a community garbage clean-up on Earth Day; and partnered with the City of Prince George and local businesses to paint over or repair unwanted graffiti on their properties. Kudos to Executive Director Dave Trepanier and his team of staff and offenders at Activators Society CRF for completing these rewarding projects.

It has been an exceptionally busy year and we have accomplished an incredible amount together. I know everyone is looking forward to some downtime this summer. I have asked managers to prioritize vacation time and accommodate requests from employees, while ensuring operations are maintained. I encourage you to take time for yourself and your families. Unplug, recharge, and relax. Turn off your work phone and do not check work email while you are away. I plan to do the same. So, please I encourage you to start planning your summer and talk to your manager. You deserve a much needed vacation.

Your continued hard work and commitment, despite all the adjustments and changes over the past year, is much appreciated. Keep up the great work. The vaccine is shining the light at the end of the tunnel. We will come out the other side of this together. 

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