Nunavut MLA seeks an end to workplace bullying within territorial government

“There should be no room for bullying or harassment within the GN,” premier says

Premier Joe Savikataaq told the Nunavut legislature on June 5 that “we want the Government of Nunavut to be an employment of choice, a nice place to work, a good place to work, where people want to come to work and not be fearful of going to work. We want to have a good atmosphere.” (Photo by Jane George)

By Jane George

Bullying within the Government of Nunavut remains a big problem, says Gjoa Haven MLA Tony Akoak.

“There are individuals who use their positions of power and authority to bully and put down employees. Shame on you!” said Gjoa Haven MLA Tony Akoak during the recent sitting of the legislature, on June 5.

GN employees who are being bullied don’t want to go on the record because they worry about losing their jobs, he said.

On Pink Shirt Day this past February, nearly all the regular MLAs and ministers wore pink ties or pink tops to show they do not tolerate bullying. (File photo)

While Akoak said he knows whistleblowing legislation is supposed to protect employees who report bad behaviours, “in reality, when employees talk to their supervisors, they are often the ones who face repercussions, not the wrongdoer.”

Akoak said bullies are often hard to deal with.

“As anyone who has been a victim of bullying knows, some behaviours are difficult to describe,” he said. “Bullies can be very clever in justifying their actions and words. Who else do the victims of bullying turn to?”

During question period, Akoak asked Premier Joe Savikataaq to tell him what protections are offered to a GN employee who “blows the whistle” on suspected wrongdoing by another government employee.

Saviktaaq was firm in his response: “there should be no room for bullying or harassment within the GN.”

“We have, like the member stated, whistleblower protection.

“No employee should be afraid to come forward if they have concerns about bullying or harassment,” he said. “We want the Government of Nunavut to be an employment of choice, a nice place to work, a good place to work, where people want to come to work and not be fearful of going to work. We want to have a good atmosphere.”

If GN employees have issues about bullying, then they should come forward and they can report it, Savikataaq said.

Meanwhile, the new Human Resources Department is finalizing an anti-harassment policy, he said.

“In this house we can’t talk about specific human resources issues very openly, but my main part of the message to the member and to everyone listening is that there is no place for bullying in this department, in this government,” he said. “And if it’s happening, the workers have the right and they should report it.”

Savikataaq also said employeers should feel free to talk to their MLAs.

“We’re all MLAs here, all of us. Some of us are MLAs and ministers, but we’re all MLAs,” he said.

Employees can also report alleged wrongdoings to the ethics officer, Jeffrey Schnoor, who tabled his annual report on June 6.

During 2018-19, he said he received four disclosures of wrongdoing, down from 11 in 2015-16.

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(24) Comments:

  1. Posted by Preferential Treatment on

    I have been at the receiving end of bullying within the GN. I have witnessed harrassment within the GN. We tried going the route of reporting it to Directors, when that went nowhere, we reported it to Ministers. Just like MLA Akoak said, we, the ones reporting it, got into trouble instead and we were told we cannot go directly to MLA and/or Ministers. Nothing happened to the one doing the bullying and harassing. What made this the worse, the harrassment was sexual harrassment witnessed and reported to 2 staff members. Something was finally do when the image of the Manager was tainted while in a meeting, not because of the bullying and harrassment but because one’s self image was ruined. Managers and Serior Management always always receiving preferential treatment over “regular staff”. I agree that some people are more sensitive than others and corrective action can be seen as bullying but managers, directors, serior management often hide their bullying with corrective action.

  2. Posted by Red on

    I wonder how much of this “bullying” is managers/directors asking their staff to show up to work on time and to stop taking extra long lunch and smoke breaks?

    • Posted by Guessing on

      I suspect this is part of the dynamic some of the time, lol. A lot managers / supervisors don’t know how to handle situations like this. My guess is they let their frustrations build to the point that when they do air them out they end up going overboard.

      • Posted by Preferential Treatment on

        It can be hard, wanting to improve work performance and punctuality in an office. I did attempt to start having staff come into work on time but my supervisor put a stop to it. My supervisor started making excuses for staff who are coming into work late, and not 5 to 10 minutes late, 20 to 40 minutes late daily. I wasn’t allowed to have staff fill out leave forms. It can be very defeating when one body is attempting to get an office to perform better but is shutdown by a supervisor. All the while the same supervisor is treating a work work as their own and breaking a policy they are enforcing on “regular staff”. You cannot use the truck for anything personal related but when my work truck is being used, I need your work truck to run personal errands. Yeah, fun eh? The joys of Preferential Treatment and that preferential treatment always working against you.

        • Posted by Really It Happened Friends on

          The same used to happen with a recently retired supervisor in our workplace. In this case his wife would come in and sneak the keys to use the department car to go grab groceries for them. Or they would take it out on the weekend to pick berries. Some people think they are above it all.

          • Posted by Funny on

            To (R)eally (I)t (H)appened (F)riends.
            I see what you did there.

  3. Posted by victim on

    I for myself was victim of bullying after Nunavut established. Many of them were near word of mouth land claim thinkings of superior but they are entrenched with no By-Laws development as written in our NLCA. Today many still bully GN workers by using our race and language. Our GN staffing are vacant mostly due to community don’t support outsiders and more dominate with cacausians. I think many of these bullying, talking about person’s career in a bad way can be put to courts for legal proceedings and that would save lot of bullying. I remember many incidents that occurred to me in local level and unfortunately statue limitations is few years but severe ones are open for good.

  4. Posted by Uqajau on

    Different story for me here . I work for the government . grandparents were the last ones to move where everyone was moved to back in the 70’s . To this day we are refused for water deliveries and sewage pump out or any other services . Our kids that are in school are always left out for any special ocations that goes on in both schools . My family all of them have become criminals , my uncle is still stealing food in both stores . His son was forced to drop out of school because his father is criminal and unfit . Our own people hurt their own people too .

  5. Posted by Bunched Up on

    Red, are you stereotyping Inuit in the workforce?

    • Posted by Odd Ball on

      That’s strange, I didn’t see the words ‘Inuk’ or ‘Inuit’ anywhere in Red’s post.

      • Posted by Preferential Treament on

        Being Inuk, what is said by “Red” it’s a lot to say without stereotyping Inuit.

  6. Posted by Bullying has no Race on

    This article does not say who are bullying, whether its Inuit or Qallunaat or whoever it is. ALL THEY ARE SAYING IS THAT THERE SHOULD BE NO BULLYING, PERIOD! No matter what ethnic background it is, NO MORE BULLYING! TAIMA! Just pointing fingers and saying did this and that is so immature and it doesn’t work! Just stop the bullying and start making things work. Let it end with you!

  7. Posted by Putuguk on

    These are open questions. Is supervisor training mandatory for GN Managers? Is screening against aggressive workplace habits a part of their recruitment?

    I think it is fine to say you have a Whistle blower policy and anti-harassment policy but that is all after the fact. These only kick in after someone has already been a bully.

    The first step in getting the behavior you want is to exclude people from your organization that you know will not behave the way you want. Just do not hire them.

    Then you train the behavior you want into your people you do hire as leaders.

    The last thing you want to do is pin all your hopes on dealing with incidents that have already happened, which seems to be case over and over again.

    The public has had to endure hearing about these same problems for years and years. Obviously whatever is being attempted is not working. Do something proactive to fix this already.

    • Posted by Agree on

      The burn out rate is very high at the senior management level. Departmental managers/supervisors don’t have the support nor the experience needed to deal with the varied complex personnel issues we face on a day to day in the workplace. Managers don’t manage, who can blame them. If you do, then you know they are coming after you….all guns blazing.

  8. Posted by Bbff on

    There are mid level and regular employee bullying too. I’ve seen it all! This is why we can’t keep senior level leaders very long they burn out from all the unprofessional adult workplace behaviours. All new people form the south sould only get 3 yr contracts and if they can no act and behave according to IQ they should not be renewed.

    • Posted by Fake it til you make it on

      No one acts according to “IQ”. It’s completely ignored by Inuit and Non-Inuit managers alike. What is really needed is good quality management training.

  9. Posted by Clearly on

    I was a victim of bullying as were many of my coworkers all bt the same individual. This individual was finally let go by the government only to come back 2 years later as a contractor. So if government really wants to be transparent regarding bullying surely this manner of social promotion shouldn’t happen. It will soon all be divulged and the government will be left with a lot of covering up.. cant wait til that day finally arrives

  10. Posted by all talk – no action on

    How many times must we listen to the same issues over and over again just to see no changes at the end of the day? I am sick of it.
    The majority of Supervisors, Managers, Directors working do not have experience or qualifications and want to use power and control to abuse staff. No matter how many complaints employees make, how many HR investigations are done, how many staff quit, they NEVER seem to get rid of bad management. They tend to still keep them …for years too.
    What is HR going to do about it? Nothing, so do not waste your time.
    People just quit and then people complain about high turnover.
    Until workplaces start firing toxic employees in upper management…harassment and bullying and high staff turnover will always be an issue.
    As for the employees that barely come to work, that’s another reality people do not want to face. People constantly missing work or not showing up for work and it’s like no big deal.
    I am sick of hearing what the issues are.
    Time for serious action and changes .

    • Posted by Clearly on

      Completely agree with you. These bullies names should be published once complaints are found I can guarantee you they will think twice about bullying the next time. Once a Billy always a bully these individuals are narcissistic this behaviour very rarely can be turned. The individual that bullied me was hired by the GN after being fired for bullying in another government organization. And now works as a contractor for the GN…totally unacceptablenamdnsomeone at the GN should be accountable for this.

      • Posted by Willy on

        I totally agree: once a Billy, always a Bully. It’s right up there with: “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, won’t get fooled again.”

    • Posted by Curious on

      Are there procedures to follow to deal with attendance issues or is there a GN expectation to to go there? I hear different things from different people and I’m a new manager needed support. Maybe clarification from the GN on how this should be handled would be helpful. This could be a contributing factor why people feel they are being bullied by management. One manager deals with it, then there other who don’t. HR should be proving support in this area. So confusing!

      • Posted by Survival Advice on

        Some survival advice for a new manager in Nunavut, from a slight experienced one:

        Learn to be flexible my friend, and learn to embrace the unknown and the unknowable. You will deal with ambiguity and contradictions constantly. Be like water… always, be like water.

  11. Posted by Ron Klein on

    Thank You Tony
    You have brought a issue that is so true and no one wants to talk about. It is here and it is real. This is only going to get worse. As a former GN worker both my wife & I who did work for the Government we know this first hand.
    Being threaten with our job, being stripped of salary levels and more.
    In reality no support for what happened to me. I tried to commit suicide, I tried to get help but I had to wait, till what to become a number on governments wall of shame. I was told by a mayor that suicide is cowards way out. We live in the now not the I remember when. The support system broke and we where left with no help from our own government. The support had to come from our own pocket. Our own government (NU) left us out in the cold.
    The night Tony came and spoke to me & my wife was the first time I felt warm inside. I have never seen him cry as I told him the story of what has happened to me.
    I was asked by him if I will come back and work in my old job. He told me that people are asking him is he is coming home? I do not know I need to get better and help is not there. Mental health wanted to place me in the RCMP cell, this guy profiled my wife and I.
    Bosses need to be held accountable at this time they answer to no one. One group is worst as no one checks them or keeps a eye on them, they know who they are. They need to go through a harder screening process and at least 2 to 3 sessions on how to treat there workers. You need to set up a separate body to keep an eye on them. Cause who will they be the cause and maybe the end of something good.

  12. Posted by Lost & Conserned on

    Thank You Tony
    You have brought a issue that is so true and no one wants to talk about. It is here and it is real. This is only going to get worse. As a former GN worker both my wife & I who did work for the Government we know this first hand.
    Being threaten with our job, being stripped of salary levels and more.
    In reality no support for what happened to me. I tried to commit suicide, I tried to get help but I had to wait, till what to become a number on governments wall of shame. I was told by a mayor that suicide is cowards way out. We live in the now not the I remember when. The support system broke and we where left with no help from our own government. The support had to come from our own pocket. Our own government (NU) left us out in the cold.
    The night Tony came and spoke to me & my wife was the first time I felt warm inside. I have never seen him cry as I told him the story of what has happened to me.
    I was asked by him if I will come back and work in my old job. He told me that people are asking him is he is coming home? I do not know I need to get better and help is not there. Mental health wanted to place me in the RCMP cell, this guy profiled my wife and I.
    Bosses need to be held accountable at this time they answer to no one. One group is worst as no one checks them or keeps a eye on them, they know who they are. They need to go through a harder screening process and at least 2 to 3 sessions on how to treat there workers. You need to set up a separate body to keep an eye on them. Cause who will they be the cause and maybe the end of something good.

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