Nunavut government needs to do more to help workers with school-aged children
“In the event parents among the Government of Nunavut workforce are not able to find appropriate childcare, what then?”
The author of this letter is a casual employee of the Government of Nunavut who asked to remain unnamed in case openly criticizing the government led to repercussions regarding their employment.
Open letter to the Government of Nunavut:
As a parent of school-aged children in Nunavut, I’m deeply concerned by a Government of Nunavut email to employees on June 4.
In this information bulletin, there’s information about return to work and a series of Q & As.
On the one hand, the email honours the current situation of parents of school-aged children and clarifies that those working from home, those opting for special leave and/or those using a combination of the two accommodations (so that they can mind their children) can continue to do so. On the other hand, the email clarifies that special leave accommodations will disappear at the end of the school year.
I find this quite alarming and alienating. In fact, I’ve noticed in the past few weeks, a reversal or change in tone of Government of Nunavut communications in general. At the beginning of this pandemic, when shutdowns were occurring, Government of Nunavut communications were supportive and promoted the well-being of Nunavummiut. Not so anymore. And yet, for many Nunavummiut, despite some restrictions easing, our situation is identical to that in March.
I cannot fathom why the Government of Nunavut sees the end of the school year as a time to reduce supports to families. In normal times, Iqaluit and many communities run day camps to not only keep kids engaged but also to allow parents to work.
In the event that these programs become available and/or in the event individual parents have appropriate (safe, continuous, engaging) childcare, I understand the expectation that parents return to the office. But in the event that parents among the Government of Nunavut workforce are not able to find appropriate childcare, what then?
Personally, I would love for my children to be able to participate in camp, as they have done in the past. I hope this is an option. But what is the Government of Nunavut doing on my behalf to support me in the event that camps do not run?
The post-school expectation is that I find a way to work a full 37.5-hour week, outside normal work hours. When am I expected to sleep, buy groceries, check the mail? When am I expected to self-care, to take any time for myself? Does the Government of Nunavut see this as reasonable?
This situation is not a vacation for Nunavut parents. It’s extremely difficult to manage work obligations and full-time homeschooling/care for our children. My family is juggling more and working harder than ever as it is—late nights, early morning, going non-stop. There is nothing we would love more than to return to normal circumstances and be able to return to our offices.
I am definitely feeling the pressure to “figure out” my situation, to “arrange childcare” when my problem is deeply entrenched in decisions and closures imposed by the Government of Nunavut. I understand these closures and restrictions have been necessary and I am doing my best to contribute and not complain, but I am lost in how to navigate a world where all the systems designed to support me and allow me to enter the workforce are gone and, now, the exemptions previously provided to mitigate that are eroding.
In taking away the necessary accommodations so families can take care of themselves, the Government of Nunavut is not promoting Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, and the Government of Nunavut is setting the wrong example and standard for employers in the private sector. I’d like to remind them of Turaaqtavut, the Government’s current mandate: “We function as an inclusive and balanced society in which people and communities contribute to a positive future for all.”
The Government of Nunavut is making those of us who are not able to contribute the same way as others feel as though we are a burden, as though we are cheating the system. I strongly urge the Government of Nunavut to reverse this decision around special leave, which is not at all inclusive, and which penalizes and marginalizes one segment of the population.
Parents of school-aged children have a lot on their plates right now, and are indeed contributing to the well-being of Nunavut. Do not take away our supports and saddle us with undue stress. Allow us to contribute in the manner and to the degree we can at this time. And, most importantly, allow us to prioritize the most important contribution of all: keeping ourselves and our families safe, cared for and healthy at this very difficult time.
Name withheld by request
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