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Anti-racism training for Customs and Immigration Union members: Letter to Minister Blair

Photo of CIU flag

CIU National President Jean-Pierre Fortin sent the following letter to the Hon. Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, on June 5, 2020.


Dear Minister,

This past week, people from around the world witnessed the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. These events lay bare the systems and culture that result in unequal treatment and racism in the law enforcement and other institutions. Canada’s Prime Minister and many federal representatives have rightly pointed out that although this event took place in the United States, our country is not immune to racism, unconscious bias and systemic discrimination. Police Chiefs and associations have issued open letters calling for reform. The cries of Canadians are loud and clear, they will not tolerate injustice and the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) adds its voice to theirs.

As you know, the CIU represents some 11,000 members, many of whom are Border Services Officers. While they enforce the law, their role is unique in that they are the first to come into contact with travellers to Canada from around the world.

Many of the CIU’s members are racialized and we know that they are hurting. We also know that racism is everywhere, within various groups and in all workplaces. Its impact is far reaching. Our union wants to take concrete steps in an effort to support our members and all those who are also suffering due to racism, discrimination and unconscious bias perpetrated in workplaces and beyond.

The Prime Minister has pointed out that far too often, our current systems condone and normalize inequality and injustice. He also stated that the Government of Canada is ready to work with Canadians to eradicate racism and has called on allies to help build a fair, better and more equitable country for all.

The CIU National Executive discussed ways in which our union might become such an ally and call on you to work with us to create genuine change. If Canadians are being called on to combat unconscious bias, we asked ourselves how we might participate in that fight. We believe that to achieve societal reform, we will need to replace current “reactive” methods and processes with “proactive” ones. No doubt the Federal government and perhaps you, as Minister of Public Safety, are contemplating various avenues to address this matter. Unions and employers must be active partners in the dismantling of systemic discrimination and the development of a more progressive model of law enforcement.

It is our understanding that many law enforcement organizations provide anti-racism training. The CIU wants to ensure its members have the tools necessary to combat discrimination of all kinds. In-person, comprehensive training will go a long way to preventing the suffering of our members and those they meet and serve, be it in an office, at the border, in an airport or elsewhere. Current and short “presentations” to new recruits do not go far enough and neither will online training ensure that we are equipping our members to address systemic racism and unconscious bias.

The Canadian government has taken a proactive approach to combatting racism, funding a variety of initiatives. In keeping with that approach, we strongly believe that in the long term, funding enhanced training initiatives will be to everyone’s benefit. It is clear that current “reactive” policies and procedures, such as the ones the world has been witnessing lately, are costly and ineffective. Investment in training for CIU members is an important first step to help them to become stronger allies and leaders in the fight against racism and discrimination of all kinds.

Yours truly,

Jean-Pierre Fortin
National President
Customs and Immigration Union

Click here for the PDF version.

Phoenix: New Training Must Be Accessible to All Employees

Fix Phoenix Pay System Logo

After almost two years after launching the disastrous Phoenix pay system, the government has finally rolled out basic training for all employees.

“This is the kind of training that should be provided before rolling out a new pay system, not two years after the fact,” said PSAC National President Robyn Benson. “Now that it is finally available, the employer must act to ensure all employees are given the time and resources to do the training.”

PSAC reminds our members that they are entitled to take the training during their work hours.

“While this comes two years too late, we nevertheless encourage all of our members to take the training,” said Benson. “But, the employer must ensure all employees timely access to the training and that they are given sufficient time to complete the training at work.”

Important information for everyone paid by Phoenix

Whatever your position, occupational group or employment status (for example, indeterminate, term or student), if you are paid through Phoenix, this training is for you.

These courses are intended to explain how human resources information that affects your pay (such as your work schedule, leave and overtime) is fed into Phoenix, and how to ensure you enter the correct information into the system.

Courses will be tailored for employees, managers, human resources staff, and compensation advisors.

The initial courses will be web-based and are available through GCpedia, on the government’s intranet. Additional courses will be delivered in person.

More information

All employees should be receiving a message with information about the training, including links to the online courses. Treasury Board has prepared a Frequently Asked Questions document with additional information.

If you have trouble gaining access to this training, or if you are not being given sufficient time during work hours to complete the training, please contact your local PSAC representative.

This article was first published on the PSAC website.