Changes to 699 leave: PSAC to take further legal action

October 29, 2020

PSAC is filing a second policy grievance against Treasury Board for its most recent discriminatory changes to 699 leave that will force federal workers to exhaust all other leave – including sick leave and vacation leave – before they can request “other leave with pay” for COVID-19-related reasons.  

For the past eight months, federal public service workers have been giving their all to help Canadians grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. PSAC members have been unwavering in their dedication despite the physical risks for those doing front-line work, in additional to ongoing school and daycare closures, and the extra burden of taking care of vulnerable family members.  

In some cases, workers have been forced to use 699 leave when they simply could not work remotely because of child care or elder care responsibilities, including waiting in long lines for COVID-19 testing. 

Despite the modest use of 699 leave, in May Treasury Board changed the guidelines on 699 leave to restrict how public service workers use “other leave with pay” to fulfil childcare needs related to COVID-19. 

PSAC warned Treasury Board that tightening the guidelines would discriminate against marginalized groups, potentially lead to serious human rights violations and violate members’ collective agreements. Workers have a right to use 699 leave because we negotiated it into collective agreements; it cannot be taken away at the whim of managers. 

They didn’t listen.  

Shortly thereafter, PSAC filed a policy grievance against Treasury Board on the grounds that the revised policy disproportionately impacts women, people with disabilities and people with family obligations.  

New policy forces members to exhaust all other leave 

Even before PSAC’s first hearing date with the Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board, Treasury Board doubled down on their restrictions around 699 leave, revising their policy to state that 699 leave could only be considered if workers have depleted all other paid leave available to them, even if they are suffering from COVID-19 symptoms or are unable to work because of child care or family obligations.  

PSAC will therefore be filing another policy grievance for the latest 699 leave policy changes that come into effect on November 9.  

Every day, parents are pulling their sick kids out of schools and daycares and will be forced to use up their vacation and sick leave. Workers caring for elderly relatives must make the impossible choice of putting their loved ones at risk if they go to work and bring COVID-19 home with them. These changes violate both members’ collective agreements and the Canadian Human Rights Act based on family status, sex and disability. The Canadian Human Rights Commission also plans to make submissions on behalf of federal public service workers.  

Without the availability of a vaccine, and with many parts of Canada experiencing a second wave of the pandemic, Treasury Board’s proposed changes are premature and do not reflect the current reality of this public health crisis and its mental health impacts on public service workers. 

PSAC is committed to ensuring that our members, and in particular, women, caregivers and those with disabilities, continue to have the necessary support and leave with pay they need during the pandemic. 


Women’s History Month

When approached to do this article for Women’s History Month, I pondered writing it solely from the perspective of a woman, which is my undeniable fact, but how can I write only from this vantage point, when I am also a BLACK WOMAN, and that too is an undeniable fact. My own personal intersectionality reads like the characters out of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the literary knife and fork, like my duality, inseparable and interchangeable.

As I sit to write, I acknowledge to you my gender and my equity, my knife and my fork. Each day, every day, I live with the barriers and challenges of sexism and racism, for this too is my intersectionality; being black and being a woman are both of my identities. I cannot ever stop thinking about racism, it is not a choice, it is my reality.

I have been preoccupied with thoughts of injustices, heightened after the deaths of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Breonna Taylor and of course, who could forget, the brutal and inhumane murder of George Floyd. I watched (as we all did), in horror as he gasped for air and begged for mercy, all 8 minutes and 46 seconds of “reality television”, one that could easily be my reality.

This year the theme for Women’s History Month is #becauseofyou, I have been mulling this over in my mind and wondering how this translates into my life, not only as a woman, but also as a black woman. Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE) states, “This year’s theme… is inspired by those here in Canada and around the world who work to advance gender equality in their communities”. Somehow, this is not relatable to me and does not seem to include my lived experiences, not in the way I think it is intended. I work in my community, in my union, trying to always bring and utilize the lens of my equity as a woman while challenged by my equity of my race. Most times, I feel that I am failing my community, failing to do enough. Racism against blacks have cornered me into a reality that encompasses:

#becauseofyou I am fearful

#becauseofyou I feel silenced

#becauseofyou I feel powerless

#becauseofyou I feel hopeless

#becauseofyou It is unsafe to stand up for my rights

#becauseofyou I feel ignored

#becauseofyou I am invisible

#becauseofyou I am hyper-vigilant

#becauseofyou I am angry and hurt

In this climate of racial unrest, many women, mothers, nurturers are fighting the effects of emotional fatigue, having to face the new and revisit the old, as attempts are made to navigate the landscape of those now “woke” and demanding change. It is difficult to get people of privilege to care, care after the protests are over, the coalitions have disbanded, the hashtags are no longer trending on Twitter and the social media pages have shut down.

How do you get them to continue to care and remain invested when no one is looking and notoriety is nowhere in site?

As activists, the term ‘’safe spaces” is bandied about but it is those who have privilege that are positioned to create said safe spaces destined for those of us who find ourselves struggling for and demanding equality. It is in this way that they have the best of both worlds, with the choice to hang up their walking shoes, their activism apparel and retire into their own achievements. This simply does not exist for the Black woman.

The privileged amongst us are able to wield the baton of allyship, a privilege that can be used as an advantage or they can simply choose to walk away. For me, I am unable to leave my blackness at the door, just as much as I am unable to dismiss the very nature of my womanhood. Despite the inherent conflict that my intersectionality creates, it also enables the re-creation of one’s own perception of gender and race, my very own Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

#becauseofyou I will be strong

#becauseofyou I will not give up the fight/struggle

#becauseofyou I will be determined

#becauseofyou I will not silence my voice

#becauseofyou I will stand up for what is right

Hayley Millington
UNE National Equity Representative for Racially Visible People

UNE Supports the moderate livelihood fishery of the L’nu

Indian beadwork

Between 1725 and 1761, the L’nu, also known as the Mi’kmaq, signed treaties of peace and friendship with representatives of the British crown.  These treaties did not cede lands and included the right to harvest natural resources to support a moderate livelihood.  These treaties have not always been upheld by the crown, as evidenced by the arrest of Donald Marshall Jr. in 1993 for catching and selling $787.10 worth of eels. 

Marshall, who had been recognized in 1990 by a royal commission that identified racism as a factor in his wrongful imprisonment for murder, went to the Supreme Court to uphold his fishing rights. The 1999 Marshall decision affirmed Mi’kmaw treaty rights to a moderate livelihood from hunting and fishing. The Supreme Court clarified their decision later that year by stating that the treaty rights were still subject to government regulation. 

In September 2020, the Sipekne’katik First Nation, frustrated by the lack of recognition for their treaty rights in federal fisheries legislation, launched their own self-managed lobster fishery with licenses for 350 traps. The seven small boats were met by commercial fishers in larger boats who harassed them, stole, or cut loose their traps and vandalized their boats. While the commercial fishers’ representatives cited conservation issues, many racist taunts were heard on the waters and seen on social media. The Sipekne’katik lobster fishery represents about 0.1% of lobster harvesting in their area, and their off-season harvesting is not considered to be a conservation issue by fisheries experts. 

Similar conflicts have been happening in Mi’kma’ki since the Marshall decision 21 years ago, with federal officials and law enforcement failing to intervene in many cases. 

The Union of National Employees (UNE) recognizes that we are all treaty people and encourages our members in the Atlantic Region and across Canada to uphold treaty rights. October is Mi’kmaq History Month.

Helen Zebedee
UNE Regional Representative for Human Rights, Atlantic

Orange Shirt Day

Native People and non-native people of Canada will be honouring the Indigenous residential school survivors and remember those who did not survive by wearing orange shirts. Orange Shirt Day was started in 2013. It was created to educate people and promote awareness about the Indian residential school system and the impact this system had on Indigenous communities for more than a century in Canada, and still does today.

The Orange shirt has become the symbol of overcoming adversity. Why orange? Because of Phyllis Jack Webstad from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, who went to St. Joseph Mission Residential School. On her first day of school, Phyllis wore a new orange shirt that her grandmother had given her. It was immediately taken away, and that was the start of Phyllis’s alienation from her family and community, a genocide caused by actions of the church and the federal government.

Many Indigenous children, about thirty percent of indigenous children were sent to Residential Schools. Students were taught English and punished for speaking their Native language. However, Canada‘s residential (boarding) schools inadequately preparing students to live in white society or to return to their reserves. Europeans main goal was to “Kill the Indian in the Child”.

Orange Shirt Day is a time for us all to remember those events and to make aware to mainstream society what happened to Indigenous children because it is not in the history books, and the intergenerational effects on today’s indigenous population. This day shows the continuing strength and resilience of Indigenous peoples.

Lenora Maracle
UNE National Equity Representative for Aboriginal Peoples

UNE Multiculturalism Day

By Hayley Millington

Multiculturalism, the very idea in itself speaks to an ideology, a policy enacted by Canada’s government that gave birth to the perception that people of different cultures could co-exist within the wider framework of society. For the most part, Multiculturalism can be defined as the co-existence of diverse cultures, where cultures includes racial, religious, or cultural groups and is manifested in customary behaviours, cultural assumptions and values patterns of thinking and communicative styles. Canadians refer to the cultural mélange as its very own Multicultural mosaic.  

As you read this article, you may ask yourself what exactly does multiculturalism entail?  Well, here in Canada, at the core of Multiculturalism was immigration placing it in a position of social importance. Historically speaking, in Canada, during the 1970s and 1980s, the government officially adopted Multiculturalism and this is reflected in law through the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1988; as well as it being mirrored in section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The policy itself is administered by the Department of Canadian Heritage.

On June 27, 2003, Canada celebrated its first Multiculturalism Day, an opportunity for Canadians to reflect on the uniqueness of Canada’s multicultural mosaic as it relates to the contributions of Canada’s immigrant populations, cultural communities and the values that we all share.

One can say that the diversity displayed by Canada has shaped the wider society and subsequently our way of life. Through Canada’s immigration, people from around the world have made Canada their home with the expectation of having, dare I say, the same opportunities and experiences as all “Canadians”.

As a black Trini-Canadian woman and one of the immigrant populous, I’d like to bring into focus the reality, irrespective of the misnomer that is multiculturalism. In recent weeks, we have had a rude re-awakening as present day events have only served to deconstruct the notion that Canada is immune to racism. The belief, fuelled by the sentiment that Canada, unlike the US, has exercised racial tolerance can be traced back to the country’s role in the Underground Railroad and Canada being a safe haven for runaway slaves.  “Stories” like these have added to Canada’s perception of itself and even contributed to how Canada is viewed on the worldwide stage. This kind of persona has provided its inhabitants with a false sense of security that denies the existence of racism as a tangible reality as black Canadians face systemic racism on all fronts.

Multiculturalism has in no way made us as a country, a society immune to the depravity of a life challenged by inequality and racial injustice. We each should be reminded that a truly multicultural society is one that we have not yet attained and is but a work in progress.

Canada’s strength lies in its diversity and now is not the time to turn a blind eye and miss the opportunity to eradicate the inherent racist policies and practices that litter Canada’s multicultural landscape and institutions while sullying Canada’s vision for a society that genuinely values diversity and richness along with the contributions of all its citizenry.

I would be remiss to not mention how Multiculturalism and inclusivity seems a distant goal as it remains lost and elusive to the people native to this land whose past and present struggles continue to be dis-regarded, dis-respected and dismissed.

These concepts should be a given to all that call this land, whether by birthright, by birth or through immigration, home.    

In Solidarity, I ask you to stand up, speak out, become an ally and align yourself with your fellow citizens who continue to live their daily lives plagued by the pestilence of racism and discrimination for a multicultural society reflects the true meaning of inclusivity, and not simply for the reasons of celebrating another’s culture or sampling their fare. It requires each individual’s commitment and attention. The events of the recent past demand it.

Hayley Millington is the UNE National Equity Representative for Racially Visible People.

June is National Indigenous History Month

By Michael Freeman

June, In Canada, is celebrated as National Indigenous History Month. Indigenous Peoples have lived and thrived in the territory that is now known as North America for millennia. Oh, people may argue with the exact timeline but oral history and traditional knowledge are all that We, the Original Peoples, need as substantiation.

National Indigenous History Month is a time for remembering, a time for learning, a time for celebrating, a time for healing, a time for growth, a time of unification, a time of reconciliation, a time of hope and a time for like-minded peoples to come together to be stronger in unity.

Indigenous Peoples within Canada (defined as Aboriginal, Metis, Inuit) have had a diverse history and a unique experience coast to coast to coast, interrupted, complicated and forever altered by the arrival of explorers and immigration to this land. The struggle to coexist has been the foundation of a fluid relationship fluctuating from confrontational, at the worst of times, to one of pride and celebration, at the best of times.

Through your own search and study, explore the rich history of Indigenous Peoples. Be sure to research a good mix of historical documents, treaty documents, policy and documents of reconciliation. There are many current Indigenous authors and a wealth of their works to keep you connected, reading and learning for many weeks and months to come. Do not fall into the trap of reading only the history tomes written by non-Indigenous authors and filtered through their non-Indigenous lenses.

Due to the current pandemic affecting every aspect of society, many of the gatherings, celebrations and ceremonies planned in honour and recognition of the rich and storied history of Indigenous Peoples have been postponed or cancelled. Look to the virtual experience as you explore the many web portals available.

It is time to loose the bondage of the undercurrent of racism, in this country, against Indigenous Peoples. Become part of the solution, if you are not already, by committing to understanding the true relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples and actively working to improve it. Dig deeper than the spectacular layers of pageantry and the ignorant layers of the stereotypical.

Be curious. Be teachable. Be willing to learn. Be open to new ideas. But above all, enjoy the experience.

Michael Freeman is the UNE’s National Equity Representative for Persons with Disabilities, member of the EB Bargaining Team, President of UNE Local 00128, and a teacher and policy writer for ISC on the Six Nations Reservation in Ontario.



PSAC-Prairies and UNE urge the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to not extend Mr. Young’s term as CEO

Dear Minister Guilbeault,

We have no doubt that you have been made aware of the recent disclosure by former employees of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) in Winnipeg that they experienced ongoing and systemic racism and harassment while working at this institution.

As the union representing 160 members employed at the CMHR, this came as no surprise to any of us. Our union Local Executive has been raising the issue repeatedly for several years. And recently, because management was not acknowledging or taking any action, our bargaining team tabled a proposal for mandatory anti-harassment, anti- discrimination training for all staff. As evidence of management’s refusal to take this matter seriously, the proposal was rejected.

Recently in response to media reports, the CEO, John Young, stated that “the level of concern raised on social media comes as a surprise to many people working at the museum”. This was no surprise to management and in particular the CEO.

The response that administration will reach out to staff and volunteers to listen to their experiences and concerns is, at best, a weak response that does not show the employer taking a stand against racism and harassment in a toxic workplace.

We understand the Mr. Young’s appointment as CEO is due to expire on August 16, 2020. Minister Guilbeault, for the well-being of the employees and to ensure the institution is on a path to restore their credibility, we urge you to not extend Mr. Young’s term as CEO of the CMHR.

We can tell you that “discussions” with staff following the social media posts were in no way sincere and there is absolutely no confidence among staff that the management team of the CMHR, under the direction of Mr. Young, understand or appreciate the seriousness of the situation.

The official mandate of the CMHR is:

“… to explore the subject of human rights, with special but not exclusive reference to Canada, in order to enhance the public’s understanding of human rights, to promote respect for others, and to encourage reflection and dialogue.”

Our members are so very dedicated and proud of the work they do but feel that what is happening behind closed doors is hypocritical to the mandate. Unfortunately, over the years, staff have chosen to leave quietly instead of going public so as to preserve the integrity of the institution. Minister Guilbeault, we urge you to not extend Mr. Young’s term and to ensure that any potential candidates for appointment as CEO have the skills necessary to ensure that appropriate actions are taken immediately to begin the process of restoring trust with employees and confidence with the Canadian public.

We look forward to your response.


Marianne Hladun
Regional Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada, Prairies

Kevin King
National President
Union of National Employees

PSAC Local 50773 Executive

PDF icon Letter to Minister Guilbeault_CMHR

Reflections on National Indigenous Peoples Day

By Lenora Maracle

We have watched the public reaction to racial injustice and police brutality, we must acknowledge our own history of colonialism and the injustices that have taken place and continue today. In communities across the country, people suffer from forms of discrimination.

I want to acknowledge those who endure the effects of racism and the people who support them. So many of us are hurting and angry that cannot and should not be ignored by current events.

I stand in support of Black people, Indigenous people, People of Colour (BIPOC) and the 2SLGBTQ+, as well as people living with disabilities or limitations of any kind. I will participate in the fight against racism, oppression and marginalization.

The one-year anniversary of the release of the final report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was earlier this month. We remember and honour the daughters, mothers, grandmothers, aunties and 2SLGBTQ+people who were taken away from us, and the survivors and family and community members whose lives have been changed forever.

Colonization often leaves its mark on Indigenous populations in a way not visible to the Canadian eye.

It becomes necessary for us to connect those dots for mainstream society; to point out that suicide rates and addictions can be rooted in trauma reaching back generations. And that Indigenous languages, culture and ceremony exist today in spite of that historical trauma.

We are a resilient people. Resilience is the inner strength that helps individuals bounce back and carry on in the face of adversity. Aboriginal identity, land, culture and history are resilience.

Resilience is in Aboriginal communities.

Aboriginal people need to reclaim their traditional culture, redefine themselves as a people of their territory and reassert their distinct identity. This is decolonization.

And we need to heal. To do this we need to learn how to learn and begin a journey to wellness that involves self-care. We need to understand the forces of history that have shaped present day lifestyles. We need to discover, name and transmit indigenous knowledge, values and ways of knowing, all the while understanding selected Western ways. We need to apply and adapt both indigenous and Western knowledge, values and ways of knowing to address challenges in today’s society.

In the Mohawk Language ‘Kanaronkwa’ means love but of an intense feeling of affection and care towards another person, this how I feel for my indigenous brothers and sisters.



Lenora Maracle is the UNE’s National Equity Representative for Aboriginal Peoples.







Message from the UNE National Equity Representative for Racially Visible People

In a turn of recent events, images captured and circulated worldwide have shown a continued pattern of racism and human rights atrocities that has continually plagued Blacks. A series of tragic events, culminating with the killing of George Floyd. And while we know that the Union of National Employees rejects racism in any form, we understand that these events also come at a time when the world is experiencing a heightened sense of isolation, uncertainty, and fear.

The National Representative for the Racially Visible members recognizes the importance of reaching out and sending a message to express ongoing support to visible minorities who may be experiencing outrage, fear and frustration – not only as it relates to recent events, but also at the lack of mechanisms to address the systemic barriers and biases that feed into the racist practices and ideologies which lends itself to the overarching issue of racism and its ongoing impact that we, people of colour, are faced with on a daily basis.

Let’s take this moment to call upon the leadership, specifically union leaders, to speak up and reach out to your Components, your locals, regions and its representatives as well as those in your membership who self-identify as visible minorities.

Time is upon us and the air is heavy with unrest. We need to seize the opportunity to self-reflect and explore, and address the attitudes, beliefs, and systemic barriers that continue to harm Black and minority communities.

It is a time for us to become better informed about all forms of racism by developing and participating in anti-racism and unconscious bias learning activities. It is a time to ask ourselves what we can do as union leaders and activists to be part of the solution. The time is now, we must stand up and become an ally, be compassionate and respectful of those in our membership ranks who may be traumatized by the experience and realities of racism.

Conversations need to include discussions around the creation of safe spaces, racism, and discrimination; as well as unconscious bias as it relates to inclusion practices in the union’s rank and file, while advocating for change throughout all departments.

As part of these efforts, our union leaders need to highlight that as a collective we are all responsible for fostering an inclusive, accessible, respectful, equitable and safe workplace for people of all races.

We no longer have the option of adopting a false sense of security.

We no longer have the recourse of our rose covered spectacles.

We no longer can shield ourselves under the premise that We, this land, our union is immune to the happenings and the events that go beyond our borders.

Let’s stand together, raise our collective voices and work towards being agents of change in addressing anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, and all forms of racism.

Hayley Millington
UNE National Equity Representative for Racially Visible People

Pride Month

Members of the union family,

As the National Equity Rep for LGBTQ2+, I ask that we take some time to bring focus to and ask for support for the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

June is Pride Month, a time were people from within the community get together to celebrate the rights we have gain and fight for those we have not or bring focus to those who have yet to have the same rights. The community works to build the strength to be their authentic self in public, with family, friends and more so to themselves. Not everyone sees pride the same way. For some it is a Pride Parade, or social activities that bring people together, it is being with close friends, or going to a bar, doing karaoke, spoken word or live entertainment, or it is going online and learning about who they are. The list of activities varies and is very personal.

In this time of COVID, a large portion of the events have been cancelled or postponed. It makes for a very difficult time for people as this could be or have been their only time to be their authentic selves in a safe accepting environment. When you look at the news and you see oppression of marginalized groups everywhere, you see Straight Pride movement and town after town saying they will not support pride. It makes it very hard to draw on the strength needed to be who you really are with the lack of community or the feeling of support and acceptance. For some people being with their union family is the first and only time they are safe enough to be their authentic selves and now they are alone and needing more then ever support of there community.

We all know and are living a very difficult 2020 so far. With COVID, being asked to isolate, practice social distancing and work from home or in smaller isolated working groups, we need to take time and reach out and be active in our social communities. There are members in the 2SLGBTQ+ community that had to give up their social and family circles to live as their authentic selves. Their only support is their work community or union family and might in this difficult time, be very alone and need for someone to reach out and see how they are doing. Let them know that they are still apart of a community, they are missed and not alone.

This is also a time when you can learn about and how to support the community. Learn about the 2SLGBTQ+ acronym, about the letters and the umbrella terms that fall from those. Watch a 2SLGBTQ+ documentary or movie. Check out resources from your 2SLGBTQ+ community resource centre. Support and attend a Two-Spirit Pow-Wow. Be an activist, reach out, learn and support how ever you can.

As we are all family, sometimes we need our family members to just be there and be supportive until we are ready and feel safe before we can be our authentic selves.

Chris Little-Gagne
National Equity Representative  for LGBTQ2+
Union of National Employees