Update from the President of PAFSO for November 19, 2021

Dear Members,

In the month that has passed since my last message there have been several important events that have taken place. I’d like to take the opportunity here to catch you up on a few of them.

We continue to work in conjunction with the other bargaining agents of the core public administration to make sure that our eventual return to the workplace is a safe as possible for all of us. As we slowly move away from work-from-home as the default and back into our office spaces, we need to ensure that basic health measures of distancing, masking, sanitizing, and proper ventilation are maintained. These measures must take into account the reality of airborne virus transmission. This is why ventilation is a particular concern for our group. It is one thing for an office space to meet the necessary HVAC standards here in Canada, but how does this apply to missions abroad? And what resources are being allocated to ensure that safety measures undertaken overseas are in line with what is being instituted here? As always, we will keep you informed of all important developments as we continue to press the Employer for more details on this front.

We’re also continuing to engage with the Employer on its vaccination policy, including the anticipated rollout of boosters at missions abroad, as well as the implementation of the vaccination mandate for the public service. I’m pleased to report that the vast majority of our members, including those at missions have been fully vaccinated. Our Labour Relations team has also been providing advice and support to those in need of accommodation.

Our 56th AGM took place on October 25, with 47 members from headquarters and overseas in attendance. You can find a recording of the entire meeting on our YouTube channel here.

I had the pleasure of introducing a few new members of Executive Committee: Logann McNamara, William Dunlop, Karine Girard and Allisson Poff. They join returning members Sarah Finall, Iris Lui, Tam Ames, John Gosal, Tanya Belleau, Suehila Elkateb, Madeline Johnson, Michael Eyestone, CJ Scott and myself. A second member representing the FSIA stream, Marie-Claude Harvey, was nominated to the committee from the floor.

I am pleased to report that at the first meeting of the new Executive Committee yesterday, members gave me their trust to act as your full-time President, under the transitional provisions of the Constitution, until elections take place and the directly elected President takes office in 2022. A Nominations and Elections Committee is being formed to manage that process and more details will follow. John Gosal and Tam Ames will remain in their roles of Executive Vice President and Director of Communications respectively, and Allison Poff will take on the Treasurer portfolio.

As many of you know, the week of October 25 was devoted to our 2021 professional conference: Tradecraft Week. With the goal of fostering a greater sense of community among members of our profession we invited members to share their insights and experiences through a series of ten roundtable and panel discussions. Topics ranged from psychological wellbeing, to promoting indigenous businesses, to the secrets of a HOM’s diplomatic tradecdaft. If you did not have a chance to participate, you can watch recordings of many of these sessions in this playlist on our YouTube channel.

As many of you may have seen, last Friday we launched our 2021 comprehensive members’ survey. The survey, held every three years, remains the best way for us to get to know you, our members, and to identify and measure any developing trends. Its ultimate goal is to help us better represent you. From advocacy to communications to labour relations, the answers you provide will help us build a better, more focused association for you and your colleagues. We realize that this is not a short survey, but the data it provides us with is not only useful, but necessary as we engage with Treasury Board and the Departments on your behalf. You can find the survey here. Please set aside half an hour or so to complete it before December 10. As always, your privacy is important to us. Your answers are anonymous, strictly confidential and will only be analyzed in aggregate form.

Our next virtual PAFSO Breakfast will take place at 0900 on Tuesday, 14 December, and will feature a discussion by Carol Bujeau, longtime member of the Foreign Service community, of her new book Triple Sex & Other Tales from an Ambassador’s Wife. According to the review in Ottawa Life magazine, “Carol covers all of the ground-work for diplomatic spouses – the unpaid labour, the challenges of moving to new countries and continents, the trickiness of raising a family in the volatile ex-patriate life, and the multi-faceted efforts to build a career profile while almost constantly on the move,” I’m looking forward to an interesting discussion that should resonate with many of you. Please this link to register and take note of the 0900 start time, rather than our usual 0800.

As always, our Executive Director, Kim Coles., is your first point of contact should you have any issues with your situation at work. Send her an email and she will put you in touch with one of our labour relations advisors. For any other questions send an email to info@pafso.com and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

Also, we are still having weekly virtual coffees for those who just want a quick and informal chat. They take place on Wednesdays at 1030, Ottawa time. If you’d like to join in, you can register here. And, as always, if that time does not suit you and your colleagues for whatever reason, please drop me a line and we can set up an ad hoc session at a time that works for you.

Finally, I am pleased to announce that PAFSO and AMBCANADA have established the Deborah Chatsis Indigenous Scholarship in International Affairs at Carleton University. The Scholarship, valued at $2,000, is named in honour of longtime PAFSO member and former Canadian Ambassador Deborah Chatsis, a member of the Ahtahkakoop First Nation in Saskatchewan. Full details on the scholarship can be found here.

Contributions to the Scholarship can be made at any time by clicking here. However, Carleton University will match donations made on “Giving Tuesday” starting at midnight on November 30 on a first come, first matched basis. Donors will receive a charitable receipt from the University. All donations received before December 31, 2021, will be eligible for a 2021 tax credit. Please consider supporting this initiative and encouraging others to do the same and ensure that Indigenous people are properly represented in Canada’s future Foreign Service.

As the weather grows colder for many of us in the northern hemisphere, it is important to remember to keep up with all the relevant health protocols. Wash your hands, stay distanced, gather in small groups, wear a mask, and if you can, get vaccinated. This isn’t over just yet.

We’ll be in touch again in a few weeks. Until then, stay safe. Take care of yourselves and each other.

All the best,

Pam Isfeld

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