Global Affairs Canada should consider increasing compensation for U.S. expatriates who face increased risks of gun violence and difficulties accessing health care, the union representing Canadian diplomats abroad says. claims.
Pamela Isfeld, president of the Professional Association of Diplomats, suggested that Ottawa’s assessment of security threats is not as rigorous for the United States as it is for other countries.
“If you’re talking about a post in Africa that experienced six lockdowns last year because of mass shooters, that would be included in the security assessment of that post,” she said.
Isfeld said International Affairs Canada is facing “significant problems” getting people to serve south of the border, which the department believes may be due to diplomats seeking more exotic posts. He said he was thinking about it.
That’s a misunderstanding of the situation, Isfeld said, noting that the federal government often emphasizes the importance of the Canada-U.S. relationship and the need to staff its diplomatic missions with top talent.
“There is still very little support,” she says.
Global Affairs Canada did not respond to questions asked early last week if it had difficulty filling out these posts or if it wanted to address Mr. Isfeld’s comments.
Canadian diplomats are based at the embassy in Washington, D.C., as well as consulates and trade offices across 15 cities, from Boston to Los Angeles and Minneapolis to Houston.
Isfeld said part of the U.S. mission’s alleged understaffing problem is the result of compensation that does not reflect the risks and inconveniences of living in the United States.
During an appearance on the Canadian Global Affairs Institute’s podcast “Global Exchange” earlier this month, she said that police departments in unnamed cities are underfunded and crime is spiking, so the U.S. mission is currently closed to police. He said one of the diplomats stationed there was about to be transferred.
“There were all sorts of lockdowns and evacuations in the office. The person said he had personally witnessed five mass shootings, but no one was aware of the difficulty level or the incentive package or even how to deal with it.” They don’t look at things like beefing up the security budget for the mission,” Isfeld said in the episode.
In a recent interview with the Canadian Press, Isfeld said that, unlike in many other countries, there are many advantages to an assignment in the United States, including proximity to relatives in Canada and an agreement that allows spouses of diplomats to work in the United States. said there are certainly benefits for staff.
But he said there were growing safety concerns for diplomats and civil servants in other federal departments working in the United States.
Isfeld said Ottawa tends to send more personnel to the U.S. from other Canadian government departments because not enough diplomats want to go there. He said no formal data analysis on this issue has yet been conducted.
According to Isfeld, one student left a post in the United States early a few years ago because his child was too scared to attend class after a shooting at a nearby school.
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Additionally, Global Affairs Canada has experienced difficulties in transitioning to new health insurance providers, with diplomats reporting delays in claims and responses to questions while abroad.
Isfeld said this poses a particular problem in the United States. Public health care is virtually non-existent in the United States, and health care providers often withhold treatment until insurance pays.
He said other countries often have publicly funded schemes that diplomats can rely on or provide primary health care services before sorting out claims.
There may be a problem with insurance in the US: union leader
He cited two recent cases in which either Canadians who were posted to the United States, or their relatives in that country, experienced problems obtaining medical care.
One of them “suffered a heart attack, and his trip to the emergency room was delayed because he couldn’t get the information he needed from his insurance company,” she said. Another person had to delay cancer treatment due to similar issues.
“That shouldn’t happen. And when people hear stories like that, they don’t want to go.” [to the U.S.]” Isfeld said.
“It all adds up.”
Isfeld said it would be “very politically inflammatory” for Canada to officially name an American city as a site of distress.
This is a label typically applied only to posts from developing countries, where crime rates are high, infrastructure is dire, and disease is widespread.
Former diplomat rejects idea of extra pay
Former Canadian diplomat Roy Norton disputed Isfeld’s comments.
He said the department needs to correct coverage issues, but there is no obligation to pay diplomats extra pay for working in countries where Canadians regularly take vacations.
“Any suggestion or inference that we might have to essentially treat the United States as a series of difficult missions and compensate them accordingly seems to me almost absurd,” he said. .
After stints in Washington, Detroit and Chicago, Mr. Norton assumed the role of Chief of Protocol, a senior position that included overseeing security at Canadian diplomatic missions overseas.
Norton, now a professor at the University of Waterloo, said the US post is unique in that it is a job that overwhelmingly involves engagement with civil society and business leaders, rather than just being a “bureaucrat” in the capital. .
Canada’s ambassador to the United States belongs to a similar culture and has access to schools that can teach the children of diplomats a curriculum similar to that of many states.
Norton said increasing compensation for U.S. assignments would leave the department with a “substantial” share of the burden, as the Trudeau government seeks to open new embassies in more countries while cutting the department’s budget. He said it could face a backlash.
In fact, he said, given the importance of the United States to Canada, Global Affairs should consider expanding rules that require certain types of diplomats to undertake difficult assignments early in their careers. He said that Japan should consider supplementing this with missions to U.S. embassies. What I’m interested in.
“But I admit it’s not for everyone,” he said.
“Many people don’t join Global Affairs Canada to go to a location they can drive to.”