COVID-19 Update from the President of PAFSO for June 4, 2021

Dear members,

As I came to the end of a short vacation last week, I was mentally preparing my next message to you. I imagined it would start off with some variation of “I can’t believe it’s already June,” and then go on to give you a brief update on all the work the PAFSO team had been doing on your behalf while I was gone.

Then, I turned on the news and learned of the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children in an unmarked grave near Kamloops Residential School. As we begin National Indigenous History Month, this event is a tragic reminder of Canada’s shame and of the suffering that Survivors of residential schools, and their families and communities, endure to this day. Our hearts are with them and all those who mourn, including Indigenous members of our own Foreign Service community. We also stand with the First Nations and others seeking the truth about what happened to these children and the many other victims of the residential school system.

This news has reminded PAFSO of our shared responsibility to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, especially on professional development and education for public servants. Call to Action No. 57 mandates education “on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the legacy of the residential schools,” and skills-based training on intercultural competency, human rights, conflict resolution, and anti-racism. Over the coming months, we will integrate these elements into our professional development activities, including our monthly PAFSO Breakfasts and our upcoming virtual Tradecraft Conference in October. If you would like to help the Professional Committee with this essential work, please send me an e-mail at pamela.isfeld@pafso.com.

In the meantime, work on responding to COVID-19 continues unabated. The good news is that the Employer’s vaccination rollout continues to gather steam.  As of 31 May, 14,040 vaccine doses were delivered to 89% of all missions abroad. 3,231 of those posted abroad, their dependents and locally-engaged staff have received at least one dose of the vaccine. There remain 4,565 doses to administer. At headquarters, 489 outbound staff have been inoculated.

More Pfizer doses are expected in the next few days and should start shipping on Monday. In the coming weeks, we expect that 95% of all vaccine doses will have been delivered to missions abroad, and that 116 posts will be in receipt of their vaccines. By mid-June, 65% of staff and dependents will have received at least one dose, and 15% will be fully vaccinated.

Current guidance from the Employer remains that those about to go to post should get vaccinated in Ottawa. If you are cross-posting, you should get the vaccine from your current mission before you leave. And now that Health Canada has approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine for youths between 12 and 17 years of age, the Employer has started implementing its plan to reach the dependants of CBS abroad and of the employees departing on posting. We understand that vaccinations for dependants aged 12 to 17 departing this summer will be available through the NCR vaccination campaign starting this week.

This is the latest information we have to share, but, as you know, the situation is fluid and circumstances change very quickly. Despite our best efforts to keep you informed, your missions and geographic management are still the best sources to turn to for your particular situation. For questions related to vaccination abroad, please email COVID-19 Pandemic Response at Vaccination-DMEX@international.gc.ca. For questions related to pre-posting vaccination, please email Corporate Health Programs at COVID_Vaccine_Appointement/Rendez-vous_Vaccination_COVID@international.gc.ca.

As I’ve mentioned before, the months of living and working through this COVID-19 pandemic has brought about some of the best work Canada’s professional Foreign Service has to offer. I am very pleased that, after a year’s hiatus, the PAFSO Awards are back. The judges panel has completed their work, and the recipients have been selected. Unfortunately, we won’t have the chance to get together like we have in past years, but the Awards committee has been hard at work to produce a “virtual gala” through which the winners will be announced later this month. Keep an eye on your mailboxes for all the details.

In addition to being the month when we celebrate the Foreign Service with these awards, June is also Pride Month. PAFSO is proud to represent our members who identify as part of the LGBTQ2I community. We believe that Canada’s professional Foreign Service is better and stronger because of its diversity – because it represents the true face of Canada. We also recognize that LGBTQ2I communities face discrimination, oppression and violence in too many places around the world. Canada is working hard to promote and protect fundamental rights for all. This June, in our continued effort to support diversity and stamp out discrimination, we celebrate those who have fought, and continue to fight, for these principles.

The PAFSO family is set to grow in the coming months with a number of new FS01s about to join our ranks. Join us next Tuesday at 0800, Ottawa time, for the next installment of our PAFSO Breakfast series, when we’ll be hosting a virtual roundtable on what we wish we’d known when we joined. Many current and former members have shared their wisdom, and several will be joining me as panelists for what should be a fascinating – and frank – discussion of the reality of life in the Foreign Service. To register for the breakfast session, click here.

On the subject of frank discussion, there have been a number of conversations on Facebook and elsewhere about the situation and experiences of francophone members, and how their concerns intersect and overlap with other forms of discrimination. Earlier this spring, in response to similar discussions, we launched a working group led by Executive Committee member Tanya Belleau. If you would like to get involved in developing some concrete and practical ways PAFSO could make a difference on these issues, please reach out to her through info@pafso.com.

And, as always, for all questions or concerns about your situation at work, do not hesitate to contact our executive director, Kim Coles. Kim will connect you to one of our labour relations advisors. For anything else, send an email to info@pafso.com and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

Also, please remember that we get together for an informal virtual coffee every Wednesday at 1030 Ottawa time. If you feel like joining in for a chat, click here. And, in case time zones make it so you can’t join us at the regular time, drop me an e-mail to see if we can set up a session that works better for you.

Posting season is always hectic, and this year, everything is compounded by the logistics of getting everyone vaccinated and by the fact that we are all exhausted after almost a year and a half of pandemic restrictions and uncertainty. The good news is we’re getting to the end of this. The numbers are encouraging, and it feels like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, we will continue to work in your interests and keep you up to date with the latest information. Unless anything urgent comes up between now and then, we’ll chat again in two weeks.

Until then, take care of yourselves and of each other.

All the best,

All the best,

Pam Isfeld
President

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