COVID-19 Update from the President of PAFSO for November 20, 2020

Dear members,

It’s been three weeks since my last message to you and so much has happened since. Coronavirus infection rates continue to rise at unprecedented rates across the country and around the world. Many countries are now forced to return to various states of lockdown, echoing what we first saw in March and April of this year. And, worldwide, the number of dead has reached well above one million. We are most likely in the worst wave of this crisis.

However, with the recent news of several vaccines successfully rounding out their trials, there is a cause for optimism. Hope is on the horizon. I don’t mean to downplay the reality of the situation, but for close to ten months we have been searching for something positive to hang on to. And now it finally feels as though “we will get through this” has turned into “we are getting through this.”

The COVID-19 crisis has pushed us all to our limits. But there will be a lot of great stories to tell of the ways the FS family has risen to the challenges and navigated these difficult and uncharted waters with compassion and professional pride. From evacuations, to coordinating with other relief agencies, from handling refugee issues to maintaining operations at mission, a lot of great work continues to be done. This is why I am pleased to announce that the PAFSO Awards will go ahead in 2021. Of course, the Committee still has a lot of work to do on the programme and mechanics of the virtual event. But, keep your eyes open because they will soon be calling for nominations, and I know there are many deserving candidates out there.

At PAFSO, we are continuing our work on helping our members deal with the ongoing fallout of the pandemic in your work and lives. Since my last message, we’ve held more discussions with GAC and at the NJC on the effect of the situation on FSDs and the need for adjustments to help members and families abroad, especially the need for more flexibility in allowing travel to third countries for leave and family reunification.  Although there was no change in posture on leave this month, largely due to the resurgence of cases worldwide, there is real recognition at all levels, including senior management, of the need for flexible solutions that account for individual and local circumstances. We continue to hope that infection rates permitting, some of these solutions will be in place in time for the winter holiday period. Other issues under discussion include the application of quarantine provisions and the rollout of future vaccines at missions abroad.

We’re still taking part in the National Joint Council COVID Task Force with TBS and the presidents of the other federal bargaining agents, which allows us to get the latest information on national-level efforts. Most recently, we heard from the Public Health Agency of Canada on their new guidelines on non-medical masks and face-coverings. They asked for our support in getting the new information to our members and are asking you to make every effort to follow the guidelines in order to stop the spread of the virus.

It’s also more important than ever to remind you about the COVID Alert app, which lets you know if you might have been exposed to the virus in Canada. Please consider installing the app and spreading the word to friends and family, if you have not done so already. Click here to get the download link along with a digital social media toolkit to help get the message out.

Yesterday was the first meeting of the new Executive Committee. In addition to the new and returning members announced at the AGM and listed in my last message we formally appointed Marta Berggren as your second MCO representative.

Among the first orders of business at the meeting was to hold elections for three important positions. Michael Eyestone was elected to be your treasurer. John Gosal will be serving again as Executive Vice President. Tam Ames is continuing as Director of Communications. And I am very honoured to be returning as President of the association. We look forward to working for you through the challenging months ahead.

One of our first objectives as the new ExCom is to implement the results of the vote on the future of the Full-Time Paid Presidency. We have put out a request for proposals to evaluate the success of the pilot according to its mandate and terms of reference, and to assess the structural changes that would be required to transition to a permanent full-time paid position. If you know of any firms that could assist us in this endeavour, please forward them this link to our RFP.

We also look forward to continuing to deliver on our professional development mandate with great events like our PAFSO Breakfasts. Despite having transitioned to virtual space, they continue to be very well attended. Last week’s talk, Rotationality in the Time of COVID-19, featured Jean-Paul Lemieux, the new Director of GAC’s Assignment Division. In case you missed it, we’ve put a recording of the session up on our YouTube channel. You can find it here.

On 10 December, International Human Rights Day, our colleague Michael Kovrig and fellow Canadian Michael Spavor will have spent two years imprisoned in China under extremely difficult conditions, without access to friends or family. For the past two years, PAFSO has been hard at work to raise awareness of the need to bring them home. Please stay tuned for more details on activities to mark this difficult anniversary. In the meantime, consider showing your support by using our graphics kit to get the message out on your social media channels.

As always, if you require any assistance with anything concerning your current situation at, do not hesitate to contact our executive director, Kim Coles. For all other business, just send an email to at any time, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Finally, we will be continuing our virtual coffee check-ins every Wednesday at 1030 Ottawa time. Please register here to get the new link for the series. Staying connected is even more important as most of us head into the darkness of winter, even as positive reports of a vaccine bring a glimmer of hope.

Stay safe and take care of yourselves and each other. We are getting through this.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld

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