Nunavut addresses workplace bullying with new management seminar

The Government of Nunavut is addressing concerns about workplace bullying with a series of seminars for managers, but a high-level bureaucrat says the issue is not as common place as people may think.

'Some would say it's commonplace,' says deputy finance minister. 'I, personally, don't believe that.'

Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak says she's encouraged by the work the Nunavut government is doing to address workplace bullying, but she hopes managers will remain vigilant. (CBC)

Several months after the issue made waves in the Nunavut legislature and media, the territorial government says it is addressing workplace bullying by delivering workshops to all of its managers. 

In the fall sitting of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly, Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak called for a review of how harassment complaints are handled, saying she has heard about serious issues from several constituents. 

Human Resources officials were set to answer questions from the Committee of the Whole during the winter sitting, but that had to be postponed to the spring when budget deliberations took longer than expected.

"Human Resources is just so complex," said Angnakak at the end of the recent sitting. "We would all like to paint the picture that everything is just great and that we have policies and procedures in place that's going to take care of any problems that we have.

"In reality, that's not how it is."

Angnakak says she's looking forward to the spring update, but is encouraged by what the government is already doing.

Recently, the government travelled to Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay, delivering anti-harassment seminars to everyone who manages staff.

Government 'concerned'

Chris D'Arcy, the deputy minister of finance and the bureaucrat responsible for the Public Service Act, says the government is "concerned" about the issue. 

"Some people would say it's commonplace in the workplace," he said. "I, personally, don't believe that that's true."

While D'Arcy says he cannot comment on any specific cases, he says it's important to remember that there are two sides to every story. 

"Is it harassment for a manager to say it would be nice if you came to work at 8:30 and didn't take two hour breaks in the morning? If you have to do that with an employee repeatedly and then the employee claims harassment, that's a bit of a problem for us."

When employees believe they are being harassed, D'Arcy says there are a number of people with whom they can lodge a complaint: their manager, a human resources employee, himself or the territory's new ethics officer, Jeffrey Schnoor. 
Deputy Finance Minister Chris D'Arcy says the government is 'concerned' about workplace bullying, but he doesn't personally believe the issue is commonplace in GN offices. (Vincent Robinet/CBC)

Since he began in the position last April, Schnoor has investigated at least 46 cases — although D'Arcy says only a portion of those were related to human resources issues. 

"The whole thing is designed so that if people, if they're feeling difficulty, if they're feeling harassed or stressed at work, should be able to find their simplest solution to go and talk to someone about getting it fixed and making it right."

Managers receive training

At the simplest level, D'Arcy says the government tries to make employees aware of its code of values and ethics on a regular basis.

"There's a few things that go along with that and we've just started, quite frankly," he said.

More recently, the government has developed a two-and-a-half hour anti-harassment seminar, which talks about "what is harassment, what isn't and how you deal with that."

In the future, D'Arcy says the government hopes to adapt the seminar so that it can be given to every employee, although "as you can imagine, with about 5,000 employees, it's logistically a little more difficult to figure out."

Angnakak says this effort shows the government is recognizing workplace bullying as an issue. 

"I know what they're really trying to install into offices and departments and everything is that bullying will not be tolerated," she said. 

"I just hope that even after all that, that the government still remains vigilant to things such as bullying in the office."

D'Arcy adds the government has also been improving its long-term service awards and encouraging the use of Inuktitut in an effort to create a more respectful workplace.

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