Children practise throat singing in August 2012, during the Iqaluit Music Society’s annual summer music camp. It remains to be seen how COVID-19 precautions will affect summer camps this year. “In the event parents among the Government of Nunavut workforce are not able to find appropriate childcare, what then?” asks a letter writer. (Photo by Darlene Nuqingaq)

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?”

By an Iqaluit resident

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
Iqaluit

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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by Most GN Staff dont put in 37.5 hours on

    I can sympathize with the parent trying to figure out options and work but let be honest here….. most GN staff do not put in 37.5 hours a week. There are some very hard working GN staff that do, but the majority do not. We see them getting the mail for an hour, or grocery shopping, getting coffee or smoking more then in the office and that’s pre covid. Lets also be honest the workload of most GN employees would not fill a 37.5 hour day. So why not say hey get your work done and the rest of the day leave your phone on available to take a call and answer emails through out the day while working from home. I don’t know about everyone else but GN service levels did not seem to decrease during covid….. not saying they stepped up, just saying the people killing time did so at home instead of at the office.

    • Posted by Yes on

      Yes that is a great idea to be on call or check emails from home. Most productivity at work can be done in a much shorter time than people are putting in.

      We should be promoting family time and mental health as that will be what keeps Nunavut strong. If we wear down employeess during this time we are making for a more stressed out community.

      How about the Gn bring down the work hours to 4 days a week and being on call 1 of the days? As well as having the on call time available for anyone who has children. 9-4 is much more reasonable for a workday. Most people aren’t burnt out after 4 anyway.

      This is a time to think out of the box and a chance for the government to make positive and flexible changes for the greater good.

    • Posted by The Future of Work on

      Most employees of any kind don’t put in the full hours at their workplace; there are a few exceptions. This is why a 4 day work week and 6 hour work day have been proposed in some places. It may be the future, who knows…

  2. Posted by Reality on

    Too bad in most communities daycare is not an option since most of the staff decide to only show up if they want. If no staff, no daycare. No daycare, no going to work.

  3. Posted by Don’t blame on

    Don’t blame the GN for this situation. What do you expect? Isn’t it already bad enough that the GN is pushed continuously to provide housing. Permanent and casuals were paid as usual, CSA’s were extended, special leave was and it provided and yet it’s not good enough? Get realistic and look at other Provinces or Territories, people were supported to a certain extend (just like in Nunavut), but you’d find millions who lost their jobs, declared bankruptcy, etc. Be for once happy that you have a job and make arrangements that your children can be accommodated. Yes, it’s a hard time for all Canadians and that the issue with daycare’s that did not open, or summer camps that will not happen have a huge impact on families. You have a job and I hope your CSA will be extended, so at least the cash will be flowing. Just stop blaming the GN will not help you and it shouldn’t.

  4. Posted by Anonymous on

    I think we need to rethink productivity. Beyond the fact that it’s a new Covid world, it’s 2020. Work is evolving. If the GN wanted to continue to support these employees, they wouldn’t be holding a 37.5 hour noose around their necks, making sure they can account for every last minute. I agree with the author on this point. We know from countless studies that more time in the office or sitting at a computer does not equal more productivity. Judge people by their output. Are the meeting deadlines? Are they meeting targets? Are they doing there work? That’s all a supervisor should really care about. I see the author’s point in that the 37.5 hours as a measure of contribution is ridiculous (and outdated).

  5. Posted by Opportunity? on

    I note that in Ontario, and specifically Ottawa, summer day camps are now sanctioned operational effective July 6th. There are conditions to ensure campers and staff remain safe, but it is recognized young people need social engagement and older youth need employment.
    It seems that Nunavut has been in the somewhat envious position of continuing to have 0 cases of covid-19, and also likely has the greatest per capita number of high school and post-secondary students in the country, and the highest ratio of younger children, too? I also suspect these young people are hopeful of finding summer employment, and that the potential campers also would LOVE to be with their friends in a controlled and organized (and safe) situation.
    In parts of southern Canada, in recognition of ways to support students to get summer employment wages (recognizing that it may be difficult to have adequate jobs given the realities of social isolating, etc.) a thought/suggestion is that Nunavut Government (aka the GN) could sponsor a territory-wide summer camp program with a better camper/counsellor ratio to ensure social isolating, and possibly use school facilities (classrooms, gyms, and other community facilities) and run possibly the best summer camp program ever offered?
    I am suspecting this would be extremely well received by all Nunavut communities, including young people who miss their classmates, and also the older students that would get a wonderful job opportunity?
    Perhaps GN could work with Hamlets/City of Iqaluit and offer subsidized wages? This could also likely engage recreational staff already employed by Hamlets.
    Covid-19 inadvertently allows Nunavut to do things differently (and possibly better) and this seems to be a solution to the letter submitted, and also pushes Nunavut to ‘get back in the game’ as far as social engagement for youth, offering programming and employment, and showing leadership to Nunavumiut and Canada

  6. Posted by Work From Home on

    The GN has seen that it can function from home. The logical next step is why can’t I do my job from my cottage in Ontario instead of living in this place. They don’t want it to get that far because they’re hamstrung by some outdated ideas that it equates to colonialism and because better qualified people in the south will take a lot of people’s jobs. They are now employing these tactics on parents teachers and Healthcare workers this week to try and regain some power. Don’t worry, they’ll panic and it will go back as it was as soon as one of these construction workers bring Covid here this summer. They need a long term plan if they think the border will be closed until there is a cure, and it sure as hell isn’t expect parents to work at the office and childcare simultaneously.

  7. Posted by Paul Murphy on

    Let’s not get carried away here. People seem to think that the GN has carried on as usual. Well in three departments, if not answering multiple phone calls for the past month and despite leaving many messages and no returned phone calls is carrying on as usual, then I have serious concerns about whether these stay at home workers are, in fact, doing their jobs. For many workers and in the interest of our taxpayer employers, many DO need on-site supervision. There are exceptions of course but not many.

    • Posted by Lets be honest on

      I wish the GN would hold employees accountable the same way public service employees in the rest of Canada are held accountable for their actions. Using “its the north” is not always a fair excuse, especially when these are tax-funded positions.

      GN employees were on a “work from home” directive these last ten weeks or so. Many were out camping, partying, even traveling, while on a “work from home” directive. It was seen as a vacation for many, and while some were honest and provided the appropriate leave forms, the majority refused to submit sick leave while unable to perform their duty, or annual or special leave while being out on the land. One day the GN should hire a third party auditor so taxpayers can truly see how much of their dollars are being flushed away by GN workers.

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