The union that represents Canadian diplomats overseas says International Affairs Canada ought to take into account boosting compensation for these posted to the USA as a result of they face elevated threat of gun crime and issue accessing well being care.

Pamela Isfeld, head of the Skilled Affiliation of International Service Officers, prompt that Ottawa’s value determinations of safety threats aren’t as sturdy for the U.S. as they’re for different nations.

“In the event you had been speaking a couple of put up in Africa the place you had had half a dozen lockdowns due to energetic shooters within the final 12 months, that will go into the safety evaluation of that put up,” she stated

Isfeld stated International Affairs Canada has confronted “main issues” getting folks to serve south of the border, and he or she says the division is chalking this as much as the concept diplomats may need extra unique postings.

That’s a misunderstanding of the scenario, Isfeld stated, noting the federal authorities usually emphasizes the significance of the Canada-U.S. relationship and the need of getting high performers on diplomatic missions there.

“And but there’s little or no assist,” she stated.

International Affairs Canada didn’t present a response when requested early final week whether or not it has issue filling these postings or wished to handle Isfeld’s feedback.

Canadian diplomats are posted to the embassy in Washington, D.C., together with consulates and commerce places of work unfold throughout 15 different cities, from Boston to Los Angeles and Minneapolis to Houston.

Isfeld stated the alleged shortfall in staffing U.S. missions comes partly because of compensation that doesn’t replicate the dangers and inconveniences of dwelling in America.

Throughout an look on the Canadian International Affairs Institute’s International Trade podcast earlier this month, she stated one diplomat at the moment posted at a U.S. mission is attempting to get transferred out as a result of the unnamed metropolis’s police division is underfunded and crime is spiraling.

“There was every kind of lockdowns and evacuations within the workplace. The particular person says they’ve personally witnessed 5 shootings, and but no person will have a look at hardship ranges or incentive packages, and even enhanced safety budgets for these missions to cope with that,” Isfeld stated within the episode.

In a latest interview with The Canadian Press, Isfeld stated American postings actually have benefits for workers, comparable to proximity to their Canadian family members and an settlement that enables spouses of diplomats to work within the U.S. — not like in lots of different nations.

However she stated issues of safety are an rising concern for diplomats and public servants from different federal departments taking on U.S. postings.

Isfeld stated there’s a development during which Ottawa is sending extra workers from different Canadian authorities departments to the U.S. as a result of not sufficient foreign-service officers are keen to go. She stated there hasn’t been any formal knowledge evaluation on the matter.

One particular person left an American posting early a number of years in the past, Isfeld stated, as a result of there had been a faculty taking pictures close by and their baby was scared to attend class.

As well as, International Affairs Canada has had a rocky transition to a brand new health-insurance supplier, and diplomats have reported delays in getting responses to claims and questions whereas overseas.

Isfeld stated that poses a specific drawback within the U.S., the place there may be nearly no public well being care and suppliers usually withhold remedy till an insurance coverage fee is sorted out.

Different nations, she stated, usually have a publicly funded plan that diplomats can fall again on, or will provide main medical providers earlier than finding out the billing.

She cited two latest circumstances during which both a Canadian posted within the U.S. or certainly one of their family members in that nation skilled issues accessing medical care.

One “had a coronary heart assault and was delayed within the emergency room as a result of they may not get the knowledge that they wanted from the insurance coverage supplier,” she stated. One other needed to delay most cancers remedy due to an analogous situation.

“That form of factor simply shouldn’t be occurring. And folks hear these tales and so they don’t need to go (to the U.S.),” Isfeld stated.

“All of it form of provides up.”

Isfeld famous that it might be “very politically incendiary” for Canada to formally identify an American metropolis as a hardship posting.

That’s a label often solely utilized to postings in creating nations the place there are excessive charges of crime, woeful infrastructure or rampant illness.

Former Canadian diplomat Roy Norton pushed again on Isfeld’s feedback.

He stated the division ought to rectify points in its insurance coverage protection, nevertheless it doesn’t owe diplomats additional pay for working in a rustic the place Canadians often take holidays.

“The implication or inference that we’d need to deal with the USA as successfully a hardship set of postings, and compensate in a corresponding vogue, strikes me as virtually ridiculous,” he stated.

Norton was posted in Washington, Detroit and Chicago earlier than taking up the position of protocol chief, a senior job that features overseeing the safety of overseas diplomatic missions inside Canada.

Now a College of Waterloo professor, Norton stated postings within the U.S. are distinctive in that the job overwhelmingly entails partaking with civil society and enterprise leaders, as an alternative of simply “officialdom” within the nationwide capital.

Canadian envoys to the U.S. are positioned in an analogous tradition and have entry to varsities that may educate the youngsters of diplomats a curriculum much like that of many provinces.

Norton stated the division might face “appreciable” public pushback if it did increase compensation packages for American postings, on condition that the Trudeau authorities is attempting to open new embassies in additional nations whereas chopping again the division’s price range.

In reality, he stated that International Affairs ought to contemplate increasing guidelines that require sure varieties of diplomats to do a hardship posting early of their profession, and complement that with a posting at an American mission as properly, given the significance of the U.S. to Canadian pursuits.

“However I acknowledge that it’s not all people’s cup of tea,” he stated.

“Lots of people don’t be a part of International Affairs Canada to be posted someplace that you might drive to.”

By Dylan Robertson in Ottawa

This report by The Canadian Press was first printed Jan. 21, 2024.


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