Bravery makes GN whistleblower Nunatsiaq’s newsmaker of the year

Former nurse Jessica Garner talked openly about harassment, bullying she said she encountered at health centres

Former nurse Jessica Garner is Nunatsiaq News’ newsmaker of the year for 2023. By speaking up about the harassment and bullying she encountered while working in two of Nunavut’s health centres, she raised awareness of the problems a toxic workplace can pose to employees and to the public they serve. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Garner)

By Corey Larocque

It takes bravery to stick your neck out and point to bullying and harassment where you work.

That’s why Nunatsiaq News picked Jessica Garner, a former Government of Nunavut nurse, its Newsmaker of the Year for 2023.

“Nunavut is scary,” Garner said when she went on the record with Nunatsiaq News over the summer about her experience working in the territory.

She worked in health centres in Baker Lake and Gjoa Haven for about a year and a half in 2019 and 2020. But she said the heavy workload, as well as harassment by colleagues and managers, took its toll.

She asked for help and she made suggestions to improve her workplace. In exchange, she said, she was blacklisted from working in the territory.

It wasn’t just Baker Lake. She called working in Gjoa Haven “a waking nightmare.”

Ultimately, she resigned and in 2022 gave up her nursing licence after eight years.

Garner was one of 11 nurses who shared their similar experiences with Nunatsiaq News’ web editor Randi Beers.

The result was a three-part series of news stories written by Beers.

One consequence of toxic workplaces is that professionals give up, making it harder to provide services such as health care to people in Nunavut. Another consequence is that it becomes harder to fill positions, which contributes to chronic understaffing within the GN’s public service.

Garner’s warning should be a wake-up call to the Government of Nunavut, the federal government, unions, professional associations and any other organization involved in providing public services in Nunavut.

In the days that followed Garner’s story, this paper published another article about 16 formal complaints filed by nurses, only to have the GN determine the complaints did not meet its threshold for harassment.

That was followed by a third article about a nurse whose treatment by the GN exposed what a report called a “culture of fear” in the territory’s public service.

Four days after the first article was published, Nunavut’s deputy minister of health Megan Hunt wrote an email to staff apologizing “to those who have experienced or witnessed bullying or harassment in the workplace.”

It’s no secret the Government of Nunavut has a shortage of workers in just about every field. Health-care workers have been in high demand everywhere for years. But the COVID-19 pandemic transformed Canada’s labour market in just about every field.

Nunavut doesn’t have enough workers. In a lot of cases, it might not have the right workers.

The territory is competing with the rest of the country for professionals such as nurses.

To better serve Nunavummiut, the GN desperately needs to fix its workplaces by removing harassment and bullying that chase away good people, crush the spirits of those who stay, and make it harder to recruit more people.

Like solving any problem, talking about it is an important step that needs to be taken.

Workers everywhere are often scared to blow the whistle about bad conditions they encounter at work. They fear retribution and are afraid of the negative impact it might have on their long-term careers.

But Nunavut has its own special brand of reluctance to speak out. The GN exerts an enormous influence over its workers and is overly reluctant to discuss problems with the public and especially the media.

Not only was it brave for Garner to step forward, the stories were an example of the kind of excellent, important journalism Nunatsiaq News strives to provide.

Shining a light on the dysfunction within the Government of Nunavut is what this newspaper can do to identify the problem in order for the government to address and, ideally, fix it.

It was made possible, in large part, because one nurse had the courage to step forward to say, “Nunavut is scary.”

 

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(29) Comments:

  1. Posted by alex on

    This is so sad, and honestly this is definitely a trend that happens in every Department. I will agree that the GN is in a hard place to get talent, but hiding and protecting the bad workers you have will only exponentially grow the talent shortage. It is time GN goes hard onto the task of reprimanding abusive employees. Nunavut is so young but are on the wrong trajectory here. They need to come up with a solution to find talent to build the base. It may be time for them to consider extreme measures to do so. All I know is continuing the way they are will only damage whatever is left

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    • Posted by Targeted 4 on

      Both Non-Inuit and Inuit are all in this together. I do not intend to stir up any trouble or any conflicts, SERIOUSLY, all GN departments must be closely monitored and reviewed. And not target or blame anyone but start working together and focus on having a peaceful workplaces.

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  2. Posted by Eskimos Fan on

    I utterly, totally understand. My children and I tried “living” in Baker Lake and ended up with PTSD.
    At least the screaming nightmares have not been so frequent now.

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  3. Posted by Giving up on the GN on

    Isn’t this the story where our tone deaf Minister of Health recommended using the “processes in place” as a solution?

    Wow… unbelievable incompetence.

    The sad fact is no one will save us.

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    • Posted by Jack Sparrow on

      You’ aren’t related to the “right” people.

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  4. Posted by tom blakey on

    i came to pay off my student loan then i’m gone. never seen a place with so much unprofessional, disrespectful, lack of team play, uncivility, rumor/gossip, no boundaries, invasion of privacy and on and on. and the guys leading the show are generally incompetent and helpless. no set expectations are communicated to staff. its your dumpster fire. you can have it.

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    • Posted by Kellit on

      Everything you just described sounds exactly like my workplace, and I bet many others could say the same. Dysfunctional workplaces headed by incompetent management is a widespread phenomenon here.

  5. Posted by It’s all a joke on

    So many times I have dealt with GN (and feds) workers that have no business having the jobs they do. So many get them because of who they know. Work ethic is out the window here.

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  6. Posted by Harrassed and bullied on

    It’s true. My boss harassed me but to their detriment…. the staff who saw the harrassment also harrassed their own colleagues. There was mockery and pushing people out, under the 1st Premier’s 2nd term. Higher upside were pretty bad. Inuit and non Inuit. The hiring of inexperienced managers, friends, friends and kin of coworkers of southerners and northerners continue to affect good quality services and programming. It also affects the work environment badly. It continues… HR processes are barely followed. Poor management skills reinforce bad behavior.

  7. Posted by Department of Health on

    The northern nursing community is small and that is why no one is coming to Nunavut now. Anyone new will ask friends and get this kind of feedback, almost anyone who asks me I tell them at the most do a few casual stints before deciding and none have ever taken the plunge to move up full time.
    .
    Now any nurse will google GN nursing and these articles will show up along with Healths abysmal response to it all: “sorry you experienced this, is the processes in place” is basically what John Main and this Deputy said!

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  8. Posted by Same same on

    It happened to me too quite suddenly when a young and untrained manager was hired. I tried to get help due to the harrassment but either people were in the same boat or were aware but did nothing. With no one to go to I left while I still had a clean record. GN is toxic on many levels.

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  9. Posted by Manapik on

    Maybe perhaps she brought her toxicity with her up north, generally Inuit are happy childlike and not in a sunny Sonny way.

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    • Posted by 😪 on

      Hug-lu-nang😤

  10. Posted by Tammy Leger on

    I tried blowing the whistle on how bad the social workers were and handling OPR foster homes in ON. The first person I spoke to LISTENED!!!! and said she would launch an investigation. Guess what She Disappeared!!!! And we got black listed as a foster family!! When I day Disappeared I mean it. Even the child advocacy office could find her when the big wigs started calling me and shutting me down

  11. Posted by Tammy Leger on

    Sorry my last comment was not very clear. I tried to blow the whistle on the relationship between OPR foster agencies and Big Wig social workers in NU stick together. The nice worker I talked to and told my storey too said she would launch an investigation. She was never heard from again. Even the child advocacy office in Iqaluit could not find her. The Big Wigs in social services called me a lier (everthrough) I had proof of ON agencies putting money ahead of kids safety but I was crushed and told to shut my mouth

  12. Posted by North bloke on

    Disgruntled workers who want to jump on band wagon take the GN to court,win some money.

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  13. Posted by Bill on

    Im so proud of all the nurses, social workers, employees who stood up to expose the toxicity in this government. Its a government that, in my opinion, operates like a club. If youre part of their club, you’ll always be fine. Even if they are forced to fire a club member because the public caught wind of a scandal, they’ll gently and quietly “recycle” them back into the government in a high position in another department. Meanwhile the good staff who come, notice the issues, and rely upon the stated valued of the government get their names and careers demolished, exiled, blacklisted, and gaslighted if they try to seek any justice. This entire phenomenon is not unlike how…well…ALL of the historical discriminatory and colonial practices used against Canada’s indigenous people. Wake up! It’s still going on.

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  14. Posted by John on

    This rings true for the GN, the smaller communities are very toxic. I know a social work who was harassed by upper management because they had friends in the community. It was frowned upon by management. They wanted this person to stay for extended periods of time but not be a part of the community. There are so many good people in this territory but the GN is poorly managed by people who wouldn’t even be given an interview in any other province.

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    • Posted by Peter on

      I Agree John, but a lot of southern Employees, bring their baggage with them , and cause so much chaos, and leave, it’s hard to find good working people anywhere today.

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      • Posted by Tired on

        Finding good workers has never been easier.

        If you’re willing to pay a fair wage that is.

  15. Posted by RussYoung on

    I’m trying to nominate my friend and inspiration Muckpaloo Ipeelie to the Order of Canada she is a knowledge keeper and she is a survivor .
    If some one can help please email russyoung1959@gmail.com or call 905-994-0947. Muckpaloo and her sisters saved my life ( long story ) l heard Throat Singing for the 1st time it was a very primal experience.

  16. Posted by Ali Sha on

    It’s the same in Justice and Education. With Education I was a teacher who looked for work for months. Willing to relocate. I had assistant jobs at the schools but when I started learning Inuktituk and sharing it with staff, they showed me the door. Obviously there is no work shortage and ego rules. I booked my plane ticket last week. They can’t expect people to stay without jobs which actually seek to improve the quality of life here. Seems like a lot of people in power like the inefficiency going on…because it keeps them in power.

    • Posted by Sounds like Baker Lake on

      Sounds just like a nurse that has been in Baker Lake for 18 years, that told a new Mental Health nurse “we are not here to make friends”. Because the MHN was getting to know the people and making friends. Can you guess where the MHN is now?

      Way to go! Proud of you all for trying to help make toxic less toxic by bringing it out into the open. Unfortunately our officials have their “own way of doing things around here”. Heard that from a Ministers mouth through a Doctor that also wanted to help but Minister kicked him out also. No, Nunavut is not a great place to live. I am from Nunavut, I know!

  17. Posted by Toys and Games on

    There’s a lot of frustration and resentment being expressed in these comments.

    I’m not in a position to fix the underlying problems. But perhaps I can help reduce the frustration being experienced.

    Most of you are used to living by rules. You expect Nunavut to function in accordance with laws, regulations, policies and proceedures. Nunavut has all of these. But they are followed or ignored, seemingly at random.

    You expect Nunavut to be a game, with a set of rules.

    But Nunavut is not a game. Nunavut is a toy. Toys do not have rules. toys have owners. Owners do as they like with their toys. Sometimes toys are used in a game. Sometimes toys are used as weapons, sometimes toys are traded or sold, sometimes toys are ignored. Sometimes toys are used as status symbols. The owner(s) is free to do what (s)he wants.

    Once you recognize that Nunavut is a toy, what you see is much easier to understand. You still won’t like what you see, but you will understand and be less frustrated.

    Taima

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  18. Posted by Peter Parker on

    According to a study by Statistics Canada, Nunavut is the most violent place to live in Canada.

  19. Posted by Tired on

    We tried like hell to be Nunavumiut. We loved it here at first and planned to stay indefinitely but I can’t keep doing three people’s jobs for one salary. I have never had a place make me regret being dependable like Nunavut has.

    I won’t keep subjecting myself to this place. We’ll be on a plane with one way tickets as soon as we’ve extracted our 20% down payment from this disaster of a territory. It’s hard not to see this as a decade wasted … I hate to think about all the things we missed out on because Nunavut pulled the wool over our eyes for so long.

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  20. Posted by John doe on

    I know what’s it like in baker lake lots of people talking behind everyone back hard to work with them very bad place to work its like working with 2 years old kids, I don’t see any kindness everyone just walking dead seems like everyone angry. We tryed to live in baker I don’t see anything that made me happy everone just want to stab each other not good for my kids very bullying place. I found better place never going back or think about that place ever again.

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  21. Posted by Cuggies Rock on

    Jessica Garner 💖 is the hero for Nunavut. Not “Super Shampoo”.
    Real Wonder Woman.💖🥰

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