Update from the President of PAFSO for January 19, 2024

Dear members,

Let me begin by wishing everyone the very best for 2024. I hope you all had a good holiday break and got to spend some quality down time with friends and loved ones before we launch into what promises to be a busy year for PAFSO and the Foreign Service Community.

Here’s an update on some of the things we’re working on.

Canada’s need for a 21st century Foreign Service
Just before we wrapped up 2023, I had the honour of appearing alongside Dan Livermore on the Canadian Global Affairs Institute’s podcast: The Global Exchange. Host Colin Robertson led the discussion on the recent report of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. You can find the podcast in all the usual places or here on the CGAI website.

Follow-up to August’s monumental Federal Public Service Labour relations Board decision
Last September I reported to you on a big win against discrimination before the Federal Public Service Labour relations Board (FPSLRB) in a case involving a PAFSO member. The monumental case is attracting considerable media interest and just this past weekend, the Globe and Mail ran a great story that gives insight into what it takes to bring about meaningful change. You can find it here.

Questionnaire on harassment and discrimination
It’s not easy being a professional Foreign Service Officer these days. As the organization responsible for protecting and supporting you in the workplace, we know the toll situations like the war in Ukraine, tensions with India, and most recently, the Israel-Hamas conflict are taking on you and your colleagues. Late last year, we heard from members experiencing difficulties related to the Israel-Hamas conflict in particular.  Since then, we’ve heard more concerning reports, some of which relate to other situations.

Next week, we will be circulating a short questionnaire to gather data on your experiences. Please take a few minutes to complete it when it arrives in your in-box, even if this problem has not affected you directly. Your answers will help us determine how widespread the level of impact and concern this issue has for our community so we can determine the best ways to support you within our mandate.

2024 Bell Let’s Talk campaign: Preventing and Managing Burnout
This year’s theme for Bell’s long-running mental health campaign is “Let’s create real change!” And it’s under this banner that the Canadian Innovation Centre for Mental Health is kicking off the year with an important webinar on how federal public servants can best prevent and manage burnout.

Fatigue and burnout are real. They represent some of the more common occupational and mental health challenges for Canada’s public servants. The CICMH is inviting us all to join Dr. Marie-Hélène Pelletier on Thursday, January 25 at 1:30 p.m. Eastern for a 90-minute guide to preventing burnout and maintaining good mental health in the workplace. Informed by her psychology, business and workplace mental health practice, Dr. Pelletier will share her insights and strategies in order to protect your mental health and reduce the risk of burning out.

Registration is open until 0800, January 25, Ottawa time. You can learn more about the session and register using this link.

Call for speakers: GAC 2SLGBTQI+ event for Black History Month
In collaboration with the Black Employees Network, our friends, and colleagues at GAC’s Pride Network are looking to organize an internal event for Black History Month to showcase the experience of diplomats living at the intersection of the Black and 2SLGBTQI+ identities. They are looking for PAFSO members in particular to join their panel.

If you would be interested to be a speaker, or if you know someone who might be interested, please do not hesitate to send an email to Jérémie Bérubé or Sandra Barancira.

PAFSO Breakfasts: The use of social media as a Foreign Service Officer
This year’s Breakfast series is off to a great start. On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of being joined by Tanya Carrière and Patrick Ryan from GAC to discuss the delicate subject of how people in our profession should approach the use of social media networks. It’s a topic that has gained a lot of interest in recent months, and the discussion was quite illuminating. As always, if you were unable to attend, there is a recording of the session available here on our YouTube channel.

Join me for the next PAFSO Breakfast on Tuesday February 13 at 0900 EST when we will be discussing the work of the Professional Committee and our plans for the coming year. If you are new to PAFSO, this will be an excellent opportunity to learn more about what we do, and about opportunities to get involved in our community. Click here to register.

The passing of CJ Scott
2023 ended on a sad note many of us when we learned of the passing of our friend and colleague CJ Scott on 30 December. CJ, who served on our ExCom from 2020 until this fall, was the first recipient of our Randy Orr Memorial Award for Service to the Foreign Service Community in 2022.

That year, the Awards Committee received three separate packages from groups of members eager to recognize the impact of her mentorship efforts and her work to advance racial equality. On a personal level, those of us who worked with her on ExCom will miss her generosity, kind sense of humour and deep, booming laugh.

We offer our sincerest condolences to CJ’s family and other loved ones and will discussing the best way PAFSO can honour CJ’s memory over the coming weeks. We will keep members in the loop as ideas develop. We will also be taking part in the event organized by GAC’s Black Employees’ Network to honour CJ at the launch of black history month. The event is scheduled for February 1 at 1100 in the Cadieux auditorium at GAC. Please watch for further details from them. In the meantime, you can find the official obituary, including details of the funeral arrangements, here.

That’s it for my first message of the year. As always, if there’s anything concerning you about your situation at work, just reach out to us. Send us an email with your name, department, and a detailed description of the issues you are facing. You will be connected to one of our Labour Relations Advisors who will be happy to assist you. For all other questions, just email info@pafso.com and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

Things are still a little quiet at the moment but are set to pick up soon. I’ll report to you next on 2 February. In the meantime, follow me at @PafsoPresApase for my take on current issues, politics, and anything interesting that ties into our profession.

Until next time, take care of yourselves and each other.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld