COVID-19 Update from the President of PAFSO for March 5, 2021

Dear members,

We’re now coming up on a full year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. In my first email to you on the subject, I wrote that the work-from-home measures instituted at the PAFSO office would “be in place until the end of March, when we will reassess the situation.” In hindsight, it seems so naïve to have thought the whole thing might have blown over in a few weeks. But, like you, PAFSO has found ways to not only adapt and make do, but also to continue our important work. We’re moving ahead on issues that go beyond just responding to the pandemic, but that fulfill our mission to represent your interests, protect the profession and to promote the value of a professional foreign service.

With this in mind, I’d like to take the opportunity to remind you all that nominations to the PAFSO Awards are open until April 5. 2020 has showcased some of the best work the Foreign Service has to offer, and we need to make sure that is celebrated. If you know any exceptional Foreign Service Officers who deserve recognition for their work, please take the time to nominate them. Nominations are welcome for all streams and can be submitted by anyone, including peers, supervisors, members of the private sector, NGOs or the general public. All the details can be found on the PAFSO website.

As I mentioned in my last message, we’ve now wrapped up our membership-wide questionnaire on the effects of the pandemic and the Employer’s response on all of you. Almost a third of you took the time to respond and the results continue to demonstrate some useful things, including the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on those at missions abroad and on those with young children. We are in the process of analyzing the full results and will use them to refine both our advocacy efforts and our services to members.

I am disappointed that the Employer has not yet provided members with more details on its vaccination strategy, but we understand that GAC still expects to see CBS and dependents vaccinated by the end of September, in line with the Prime Minister’s commitment to all Canadians. Since there will not be a one-size-fits-all approach across the network, your best source of information remains your mission and geographic management. PAFSO will be working to ensure the approach is consistent and fair, and to get clarification on the situations of those who are going on posting or cross-posting this summer. We’re also continuing to make the point that members should not be expected to assume large unforeseen costs for quarantine on travel undertaken as a result of their employment.

COVID-19 has cast a bright light on a number of pre-existing conditions in our society, including the terrible conditions faced by residents of many Canadian long-term care homes. Since last May, federal bargaining agents have been calling for a change in ownership of Revera Inc. as a result of mounting evidence that the incidence of deaths and illnesses attributable to COVID-19 is disproportionately large in their facilities. Revera Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Public Sector Pension Plan Investment Board (PSPIB), which manages the investments of the pension plans of the federal public service. In a meeting of the bargaining agent presidents earlier this week, we discussed the details of a new from the Centre for International Corporate Tax Accountability and Research (CICTAR) which shows that the company and its partners may be engaged in an aggressive tax-avoidance scheme. The bargaining agents are united in their knowledge that their members do not want their pension fund to profit off the suffering of our elders and they certainly so not want it to be associated with a corporation that is avoiding paying its fair share in taxes. Please visit the Canadian Health Coalition website to learn more about the situation and to see how you can take action.

As we emerge from the pandemic, and approach International Women’s Day on March 8, it is important to ensure that Canada’s economic and social recovery is inclusive. COVID-19 has identified fundamental gaps in our society and has disproportionately impacted women—from layoffs to lack of childcare to increased unpaid work to the rise of domestic violence. It has also eroded several hard-fought gains in gender equality. As part of our commitment, PAFSO supports the efforts of the Government of Canada to establish an Action Plan for Women to ensure an inclusive, feminist and intersectional response to, and recovery from this pandemic. I invite you to check out Canada’s Feminist Response and Recovery Summit taking place on March 8th and 9th for more information on the steps that governments, civil society and all Canadians can take to ensure an inclusive recovery.

As all of this happens, we continue to work on other issues that affect our membership, including the various staffing actions and competitions taking place at both GAC and IRCC. If you are thinking about seeking redress on a staffing issue, please check out this useful FAQ on staffing complaints. If you still have questions or would like to discuss your individual case, please contact Kim Coles.

We have also heard from a number of members with concerns over the way official languages are treated at IRCC and GAC. Executive Committee member Tanya Belleau will be putting together a working group to assess the situations and explore ways that PAFSO can work within its mandate to make a difference. If you are interested in being a part of the discussion, please e-mail to be put in touch with Tanya.

In accordance with our commitment to you at the end of 2020, the independent evaluation of the Full-Time Presidency Pilot is currently underway. Seasonova Consulting will soon be reaching out to members to gather your views. Please keep your eyes open over the next week for a separate e-mail with their questionnaire and focus group details.

Our PAFSO Virtual Breakfast series continues with the next installment taking place this Tuesday, 9 March at 0800, Ottawa time. Join us for a discussion about personal and organizational leadership featuring Michel Salmon of Lumas Inc. Register here for the Zoom session.

For all questions or concerns about your situation at work, do not hesitate to contact our executive director, Kim Coles. She will put you in touch with one of our labour relations advisors. For all other matters, just send an email to and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

Don’t forget that we are still holding our virtual coffees every Wednesday at 1030 Ottawa time. Click here if you feel like joining in for an informal chat. Also, if time zones mean that you can’t join us at the regular time, please don’t hesitate to drop me an e-mail to see if we can set up a session to suit you and your colleagues.

As we near one year since the start of the pandemic, it’s important to remember not only the struggles we have endured, but also all that we have achieved in the face of adversity. Our members have once again proved themselves resilient, adaptable, and, most of all, committed to the profession they have chosen.

Take care of yourselves and each other. We’ll chat again in two weeks.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld

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