Angnakak talks bullying in the Nunavut government workplace

“Sometimes bullies don’t even know they’re bullies … or they make excuses”

Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak, seen here in October 2018, spoke this week during Pink Shirt Day about the ways adults can be bullied in the workplace, no matter their position. (File photo)

By Courtney Edgar

For Pink Shirt Day on Thursday, Feb. 28, Iqaluit-Niaqunngu MLA Pat Angnakak wants Nunavummiut to know that telling your story when other people are bullying you can help.

“You have to have the courage to speak out,” Angnakak said.

“It’s the secrets that make it more entrenched. You have to tell someone what’s going on.”

The former minister, now a regular MLA, had talked about workplace bullying at the highest levels of the government in October when the premier removed her ministerial portfolios.

On Thursday night, after committee of the whole, Angnakak told Nunatsiaq News that bullying happens at all levels—especially for a woman in a male-dominated field.

“You have to stand up for yourself,” Angnakak said. “But you also need to have teamwork and support.”

While territorial government offices often do have processes for conflict management for disputes between staff, Angnakak said these need to be done independently and with more eyes on the file.

“The GN does not have a proper process for that now,” Angnakak said.

“It’s still happening”

Four months have passed since Angnakak was stripped of her ministerial portfolios on Oct. 24 for what the premier called breach of confidentiality.

Angnakak had read in the legislature from what Savikataaq called “confidential cabinet documents.” She afterwards said she did this based on a misunderstanding, after a government staffer had assured her that it would be permissible for her to do so.

On Oct. 26 she told Nunatsiaq News that months earlier, when she had been minister of health before another portfolio shuffle, she started to feel her efforts to make policy changes were being resisted.

Five days after her roles as minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corp. and for Qulliq Energy Corp. were re-assigned, MLAs passed a motion to censure cabinet.

While she does not dwell on the events that led her back to her regular MLA role, Angnakak said she does want to see the government try harder to improve toxic work environments.

“I have always raised the fact in the house that we need a fair and transparent process,” Angnakak said.

“Where it is not just you and the boss behind closed doors. Even though we like to say we don’t put up with that behaviour, it’s still happening.”

Excited for new HR department

A new human resources department is in the works.

Angnakak said she is hopeful this will help to reduce the bullying and toxic workplace behaviours she has seen at the upper levels of the GN bureaucracy.

“Sometimes bullies don’t even know they are bullies,” she added, or they make excuses.

She said this is common as a way to control situations when someone is not doing exactly what is asked.

“There were issues I wanted to push, that I wanted to see implemented but the bureaucracy did not,” Angnakak said.

She looks forward to seeing improvements.

“I got reassured today things will be done differently,” Angnakak said.

“I think there are real efforts being made—but it doesn’t mean that everything is hunky-dory.”

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(13) Comments:

  1. Posted by Clarity on

    Its great that she is still championing this. I’m a prime example of having been bullied, having it being investigated and founded and the government doing nothing to protect me and promoting my harasser to a very senior position. I wasnt the only one that placed a formal complaint against this person and other allegations were founded as well if the GN is going to turn a blind eye and enable bullying then why would I want to be a target for further abuse ??? I have been diagnosed with having PTSD as a result of what I’ve endured and gave been unable to work ever since..for more than 6 years now and to make it worst the GN terminated my employment while I was on LTD just to add insult to injury. I’m still fighting the demons to this day of the way I was and continue to be treated by this government. So I dont know it worthwhile to expose your harasser when it falls on deaf ears ? I’m sure all the senior management involved were out wearing pink yesterday but it’s all for show just the way our prime minister was wearing pink yesterday when he got ousted for bullying…hypocrites everywhere

    • Posted by Piitaqanngi on

      I feel for you. Certain senior management have a lot of clout when it comes to hiring and firing people. HR staffers are bullied into not hiring people that senior management doesn’t like. I’ve applied for jobs that I know I’m qualified for but less qualified individuals get hired instead. One staffer even told me that management told her not to hire me and urged me to appeal the decision. I seriously doubt the HR department will make any changes for the better as the same people are still making the decisions and throw their weight around.

      • Posted by Clarity on

        I totally agree with you that creating a department of human resources will not change a thing and I can prove it…I just dont think this is the forum for me to disclose through this communication medium. The senior management people that were part of my above email are now all in positions of power throughout the Gn I see posts with their faces daily in nunatsiaq news. They move on and most likely create more victims. It is not right and if you are not unionized you have no forum to fight in Ninavut as there are no legal avenues for you to pursue
        All the lawyers listed on the law society of Nunavut work for the GN and are therefore in a conflict of interest to represent you which is completely unacceptable everyone should have access to justice it is a fundamental right to every canadian but I guess it does not apply in Nunavut. The person that harassed me is now working as a contractor with the GN and has billed the GN for hundreds of thousands of dollars so far…is this fair ??? I think not

    • Posted by Tomlin Thimas on

      You are right. And so the bullying goes on because Senior Managers know that nothing will come out of complaining.

  2. Posted by What a load! on

    Are you kidding me?! Kids getting bullied is one thing, and real because they have little experience with social interaction. That’s why we as ADULTS teach them how to handle it and how NOT to bully. Pat’s just pissed because she messed up and she got reprimanded, and fairly. Grow up and stop with the fear mongering about wide-spread bullying at the GN because it isn’t happening. I’ve been many years working in the government at an under-management level and all I see is respect. Mind you there is the odd a-hole but that doesn’t last.

  3. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    We appreciate what you are doing Pat, this need attention now and the GN needs to wake up. For too many years this has gone on and trying to sweep it under the carpet of the igloo will not work any more.

    I was harassed for months by a former Director after I wouldn’t bow to her nepotism requests. It was so frustrating and needless, made my life hell because She could. The worst part was that nobody from the NEU would help, they love gathering their union dues but when the time comes in certain situations not a thing was done to back me up.

  4. Posted by #WOke Folk on

    These performative gestures like wearing pink are, in reality, counter productive.

  5. Posted by Examples, please on

    I wish these articles would give examples of what is considered “bullying” in the GN. The workforce is not always super pro-active in doing their jobs, or even showing up for work, and sometimes needs a lot of direction. Since culturally inuit find it rude to tell others what to do and avoid conflict, is standard management of an employee considered bullying? I’m serious, people need to know what the word “bullying” means in Nunavut, and how to get workers to show up for and pro-actively do their jobs without needing so much relentless intervention from managers.

    • Posted by Clarity on

      My God if you need a handbook on bullying we r in big trouble. You’re horse to do a job and you need to show up. Being asked for you to show up to work is not bullying culture has nothing to do with it….just go to the Gn website and look up what constitutes harassment /bullying and I’m sur ed there will be reference material there as well as examples. Hope.this helps

      • Posted by Takes one to know one on

        If you look at the GN website you can see the results of the last Employee Survey. Overall, the GN is doing okay, even though there’s no information in the survey results about Harassment in the workplace. Maybe the MLA shouldn’t be making general statements if she has no facts to support such serious allegations. Its not portraying Nunavut in a positive light and it’s doing more harm that good.

    • Posted by What a load! on

      I totally agree. There is also the people that show up smelling like booze expecting that their state doesn’t bother others. So many examples of people going to work and not wanting to do their job so it ends up falling on those who do their job well. I for one would never want to be a manager for GN in Nunavut. As for the union, I have made requests twice over the years and the ‘conflicts’ were resolved quickly and respectfully. The system works if you know how to use it.

    • Posted by Jim on

      “Superiors” bully their employees as it can get things to go their way without dealing appropriately with problems. I have been mismanaged and accused of legal infractions by employers and needed the Nunavut Employees Union to come to my defense over the craziest things on several occasions. I have had pay, housing allowance, training opportunities and chances to advance held back for very questionable reasons. The people making comments denying the existence of these sorts of actions are causing me to wonder what they have done. 🙁

  6. Posted by Bully bully on

    In my experience, when the highest levels – political and administration levels bully, it trickles down. Bullying in the form of exclusion, denying requests, pulling strings to hire their friends or not hiring Inuit, swearing and indirectly bullying Inuit, denying Inuit who may ‘rise above them’ and or mocking them, suppressing or oppressing. It was very bad in the first two governments but it still continues. What is happening to Trudeau with Jody happens at the highest levels in different depts up here. Ugh, GN and the Inuit orgs are toxic cause of poor training and experience but also due to lack of accountability measures. Dysfunctional men, women, Inuit, Qallunaat, others, old, young. Fact of life or what? Transients and others will say all that but it happens in all facets of society, well-educated or not. It is just magnified up here cause it’s small. Sure some aspects are due to it being a young territory but the past experiences help to reinforce and keep replaying the behaviours. Not that it will ever disappear but it can be dampened.

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