Update from the President of PAFSO for July 22, 2022

Dear Members,

It’s been a while since my last message to you, but we have been busy at the PAFSO office. We continue to monitor and respond to the ongoing effects of the pandemic as the latest Omicron subvariant is causing a seventh wave here in Canada and many other places around the world.

At the same time, life goes on for all of us, both at headquarters and at missions abroad. Recently, some members have been informed by GAC that, after a long delay in publishing rates which led some employees to request and receive their FSD 50 in June, and make travel plans based on the 2019 rate, GAC now intends to recover funds in situations where the 2022 rate represents a decrease. While we are concerned, as far as we are aware, HED has yet to actually initiate any recovery actions due to a FSD 50 rate decrease. Although PAFSO is open to the possibility of supporting grievances pertaining to this issue, individual members would have to actually be subject to a recovery action in order for us to move forward. Should you be informed that HED intends to recover funds from you under these circumstances, we encourage you to contact PAFSO’s office as soon as possible.

Similarly, we have heard from some members that they have received notice that HED has audited their FSD records from 2014 or earlier and has discovered discrepancies which they say require repayment. In fact, The Crown Liability and Proceedings Act imposes a six-year limitation period on such recoveries. If you have received such a letter, please contact our office (without agreeing to the legitimacy of any debt or authorizing recovery from your pay or allowances). This same advice applies to all recovery requests more than six years old, including overpayments through Phoenix.

On a happier note, as I’m sure you are now aware, the Awards Committee just announced the recipients of this year’s PAFSO Awards. I’d like to take a moment here to congratulate our outstanding colleagues:

Zeynab Aliyeva who has served in some of the most challenging Canadian missions abroad, including Iraq, based out of Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Ukraine. In all circumstances, her outstanding linguistic and diplomacy skills helped her to build relationships and a situational awareness that resulted in important political and security reporting that fed Canadian analysis in these complex regions of the world.

Erin Brouse who, during the 2021 crisis in Afghanistan, volunteered to lead resettlement application processing efforts in Kabul and Tajikistan. Her tireless efforts, willingness to speak truth to power, and innovative solutions helped many vulnerable Afghan families escape danger during the Taliban takeover.

Marie-Hélène Cormier who provides open, enthusiastic support to everyone she trains, giving them the tools they need to move ahead in their careers. She applied her compassionate teaching skills to a new cohort of foreign services officers in 2021, making the challenging Immigration and Refugee Protection Act training a rewarding experience for everyone.

Rebecca Van Vlasselaer who in August of 2020, was Management Consular Officer in Beirut. The country was in economic crisis. Vaccination rates were low. And then came the largest non-nuclear blast in history. Rebecca led the team dealing with the effects of the unprecedented event. Thanks to her outstanding efforts, the Embassy was closed for only one day.

Be sure to take a few moments to watch the full video on our YouTube channel and hear our colleagues share their experiences in their own words. Once again, the Awards showcase the truly amazing work done by truly amazing people dedicated to a truly amazing career. These are the kind of stories that make us proud to be part of Canada’s professional Foreign Service. My congratulations also go out to all of this year’s nominees – I know the judges had an extremely difficult task in choosing among you all.

I’m also pleased to announce that nominations for the Randy Orr Memorial Award are now open. This award, in honour of our long-serving Executive Committee colleague, will recognize volunteer service to the foreign service community. It is open to anyone, including PAFSO members, families, and other colleagues, who has contributed, outside the framework of their paid employment, to improving life for those who serve Canada abroad. If you know of such a person, please send an e-mail to info@pafso.com outlining who they are, what they have done, when, and why it made a difference. Each nomination should be supported by three people, including at least one current regular PAFSO member, and must be received no later than midnight Ottawa time on Friday, September 9, 2022. The award, with its $1000 prize, will be presented at our Annual General Meeting on October 24, 2022.

If you did not receive an e-mail last week announcing that the Annual General Meeting will be held virtually at 4pm on Monday, October 24, please contact the office to make sure we have you on our list. We have found over the last two years that a great benefit of our virtual AGM is expanding participation to our members not in the NCR. If you would like to participate in the meeting, please send an email to agm-aga@pafso-apase.com with your name and department. We will be sending a formal meeting invitation email with the full agenda and all related documents to everyone closer to the date of the event.

I also want to remind you that there are a number of positions on the Executive Committee to be filled at this year’s meeting. There are 4 vacancies in total. One in the trade stream. Two in the political stream. And one vacancy among members at large. Nominations are open until August 26 at 5pm (Ottawa time). If you would like to put your name forward for one of these positions, you can find the more information as well as the nomination form here on our website. The next two years will be important ones for PAFSO as we begin negotiations on our new Collective Bargaining Agreement and the next incarnation of the Foreign Service Directives, and we need your help.

In other news, the 2022 PAFSO Photo Contest which launched a few weeks ago accepting submissions through Friday, August 7. This year’s contest theme of “Renewal” and asks our members to share how the world evolving through this third pandemic year. Click here to find out more details about the contest, including the link to the submission form.

I have also learned from Editor in Chief, Lillian Thomsen, that the latest issue of bout de papier has been sent for final proofing and printing. This will be the second issue under Lillian’s leadership, and from what I’ve seen, it promises to be another great read. If your mailing address has changed in the last few months, please make sure that our office has your latest coordinates so you don’t miss this latest issue.

And finally, I am sad to announce that our Executive Director, Kim Coles, will be stepping down from her role at the beginning of August, and taking some leave before her official last day on September 1. Over the course of the last three years, Kim has done an excellent job of leading the office through some significant challenges. One of Kim’s first major accomplishments at PAFSO was the long-overdue modernization of our IT systems. Thanks to her innovation and foresight, we were able to seamlessly transition to remote working when the pandemic hit Ottawa in March of 2020. We owe her a debt of gratitude for her hard work and dedication to PAFSO and its members, and I wish her all the best in her new position with another national organization which will be announced soon.

At the same time, I am very pleased to welcome Bertrand Myre to the new role of General Manager. Many of you know Bert as a senior member of our Labour Relations team, where he has fought for us on many complex labour relations files. Since joining PAFSO just over three years ago, after long and distinguished service with CAPE, Bert has acquired a deep understanding of the intricacies and complexities that make the FS occupational group so unique. And, having served as Acting Executive Director on several occasions, Bert knows what it takes for a union and its secretariat to run smoothly and effectively. Bert’s new role begins on August 2, and I look forward to working with him as we keep moving forward through our strategic plan, and beyond.

Until then, should you have any concerns about your situation at work, or if you would like to thank her for her service, do not hesitate to contact our Executive Director, Kim Coles, until August 2, and after that, Bert Myre as General Manager. As always, for all other inquiries, just send an email to info@pafso.com, and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

I am planning to take some leave in the next few weeks, leaving you all in the capable hands of Bertrand and Executive Vice President John Gosal. My next message to you won’t be until September 2, when I will update you on our preparations for what promises to be a very busy fall. In the meantime, I hope you also get a chance to disconnect and enjoy some downtime before things start to ramp up again at home and abroad.

We’ll chat again in early September. Until then, take good care of yourselves, and of each other.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld

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