28 December 2016
Canadians for Language Fairness is an organization whose mandate is to speak against the policy of Official Bilingualism. We have public servants in our readership & we hear from them constantly about the unfairness of the policy. Most of them complain to us in confidence because they are too afraid of speaking up publicly. They suffer in silent frustration whenever they are denied well-deserved promotions for which they know they have the skills but are denied because they cannot get the creditation of CCC/CBC. Very few English-speakers can attain those levels, apparently, even after years of practise at French-speaking classes. Many people believe that even French-speakers find it difficult to pass those language tests. This is the cause of a lot of frustration & mental stress in the PSC. We have come across one person who is not afraid to take on the challenge to expose this travesty of justice. Krishan Kumar decided to respond to a message from PM Justin Trudeau about the increasing occurrence of absenteeism in the PSC & directed it squarely at the policy of Official Bilingualism.
Read the message from the PMO first & then read Krishan's excellent response. Thank you, Krishan, for your great courage.
From: PMO - CPM [mailto:pm@PM.GC.CA]
Sent: May 2, 2016 2:05 AM
From the Prime Minister's Web Site
Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on Mental Health Week
May 2, 2016
The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on Mental Health Week:
'This week is Mental Health Week, an occasion for all Canadians to have a candid discussion about mental health and wellness and help put an end to the stigma around mental illness once and for all.
'In Canada and around the world, many suffer in silence with an illness that is invisible to others. One in five Canadians will struggle with mental illness at some point in their lives. Too often, they hesitate to seek the help and support they need out of fear of discrimination or shame.
'We all have a responsibility to raise our awareness about mental health. We must actively encourage honest and open conversations - in our homes, our workplaces, and our communities - about what mental health is and what we can do to increase our collective well-being. We must listen to our loved-ones, our colleagues, our friends, look out for signs and offer them support and advice in times of need. It can be a challenge for all of us to cope with the fast pace of life, daily stresses, and obligations. We all need to stand strong together.
'This week, we also thank those who have publicly shared their personal struggles with mental health - including my own mother, Margaret. They are true examples of courage, bravery, and resilience. Their stories help us all become more understanding, more compassionate, and more empathetic.
'Let us use our voices this week to help change the way society views mental health issues and those living with them. Now is the time to GET LOUD for mental health.'
Reply from : Krishan Kumar
08 May 2016 04:59:19 PM >>>
Subject : Causes of Mental Health issues in the Federal Public Service and possible solutions.
The Right Honourable Justin P. J. Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
As you may be aware, the disability claims in the federal government have increased 37 per cent since 2006 i.e. since the 2005 coming into force of the 2003 Public Service Modernization Act. Mental health related disability claims accounted for more than 48 per cent of all claims filed in 2011.
Health Canada's Employee Assistance Program, which puts federal government workers in touch with mental health professionals, saw a huge spike in calls in 2012. By late summer of 2012 more than 150 callers had been identified as at risk for suicide.
"The government workplace is especially toxic. Public servants are off work due to diagnosable mental disorders at a rate 300% higher than the general workforce." - Bill Wilkerson, co-founder of the Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health
The main causes of poor workplace mental health are lack of recognition at work, harassment and discrimination in hiring and promoting qualified applicants to director and above levels.
A selection process in the federal government is anything but merit-based.
Jobs and promotions are for those who have some previous connection with the selection committee. This faulty recruitment process informally comes to light when an unsuccessful candidate challenges at the first/second/third step of screening in a selection process, and s/he is presented with faulty, unacceptable and unjustified reasons as to why s/he was unsuccessful in the process. Since this inquiry process is informal, the unsuccessful candidate cannot challenge further due to some peculiar HR and privacy laws restricting the disclosures of the marks given to successful candidates in the written test and at the interview in a selection process. Though there may be logistic challenges, the interviews should be videoed and used in case of official and justifiable complaints.
In almost all selection processes, applications are vetted by HR officers who are surprisingly not qualified to judge who is qualified for the job and who is not. The role of HR thus becomes oxymoronic. In fact, the HR officers often do not have a college degrees and lack proper knowledge about job-fitness. This should be stopped.
Many times, jobs are advertised as an eye-wash. Basically, the incumbent is already working in the job. A part of his/her CV (qualification portion) is copied onto the job posting, and then the advertisement is made public.
Selection of that person is predetermined and the selection process is evidently fixed.
Directors are informally involved in the recruitment/promotion processes, and they play a big role invisibly by asking his/her "confidante" to run a selection for a candidate. Later, the director reciprocates. It's a pure case of nepotism. It is an open secret. HR knows about it.
A new trick being played in these processes is to ask for the professional references first i.e. before the written test and interview. This way, the applicants are screened-out based on what the referee says or does not say exactly what the hiring Manager/Director wanted. Sometimes, the HR advisor or the hiring Manager / Director doing the reference checks, puts the words in the mouth of the referee by asking as to why s/he has not mentioned anything negative about the applicant.
There is NO priority given to the people with disabilities, visible minorities, or the Aboriginal community, let alone qualified immigrants.
Also, there is NO serious consideration given to the PSC Referred Priority/Surplus Candidates who do not even have a right to any recourse and hence they are intentionally screened-out during the first or the second step of the process.
Additionally, being not bilingual is used as another tool to keep an otherwise highly qualified candidate even from the jobs in non-Anglophone or non-Francophone countries. Not being perfectly bilingual i.e. CCC or CBC is used to deprive a deserving candidate. By such practices, we are not building an inclusive competent public service. As such, being not bilingual should not be a criterion to hire public servants especially when technology is available for simultaneous interpretation from one language to another i.e. English to French and vice-versa.
Canada is one of the major G-7 countries and the international community looks at Canada in terms of any global decision-making process. There is evidence that the qualified candidates are not offered the right job simply because they are not perfectly bilingual i.e. they may not have CCC/CBC.
Also, PSC language testing centre should not have a monopoly in language testing because in the Oral proficiency test, a qualified candidate is not given the needed "C" or "B" even if s/he already received a "C" in Reading and a "B" in Writing test, because the Oral test is subjective. In addition, to review the recording of the Oral test, the department/agency is asked for more than $1,000 that it will not pay and hence there is no Appeal process for the candidates to overcome this hurdle.
The most informal hiring takes place at the Global Affairs - the place which is the face of Canada to the entire world. The Canadians posted abroad to work in Canadian Missions and to work/participate in Canadian Delegations to United Nations and International Organization are selected based on being bilingual and not on the basis of their education and experience and hence spoiling the image of Canada abroad. This also negates the rest - majority of Canadians from public service employment and/or representing not only in the international for a but also at the country or bi-lateral levels.
Recently, our government rightly announced a competitive process for getting a top bureaucrat in the federal administration. Same is justified for the federal public service to use Merit-based processes nationally, without creating artificial barriers and unreasonable discretion, to an efficient Merit-based twenty first century Canadian Public Service.
Also, there should be opportunities for employees' personal growth and development, and the federal departments/agencies must protect workers from bullying, harassment, and discrimination. The Managers/Directors should be trained in Talent Management and they should not only think of the immediate needs in their division but for long term needs of the Federal Public Service as a whole. Also, PSC should be given more resources and the powers to audit the selection processes and investigate the complaints seriously.
In addition, the PCO and the Treasury Board Secretariat should lead by example by hiring / promoting qualified Visible Minorities, Aboriginals and the people with disabilities.
Finally, I apologize for sending this long e-mail consolidating the issues raised by many in the Federal Public Service and request your immediate intervention to improve their Mental Health.
M.A. (Econ.), M.Com.
LL.B., M.B.A., C.P.A., C.I.A.
COMMENTS from readers
Krishan has described the situation exactly!! This is exactly my experience with government. For all the years I've been in government and for all the positions I've competed for this is exactly how it played out. The result, for me, was to give up on the grounds of fixed and totally unfair system that I won't subject myself to anymore. I stopped applying for internal positions back in 2009 or so.
This guy has nailed it on the head.
Thanks for sending Kim
Another obvious. My immediate supervisor has been de throned as my supervisor after 10 yrs. He is not bilingual. His wage is the same, they named a position for him that will likely never be refilled after he retires. Sent to pasture. He is very frustrated and working in futility to get his french. He has only a few yrs to go before retirement and he wants to contribute - I see his health being compromised. The 3 people under him were English only. We are all secluded and generally only work and interact for the most part, amongst ourselves.
In another department beside ours a similar situation. The supervisor there is also non-bilingual and interacts with many departments. That supervisor is a great guy, we are friends, he is non bilingual . He is also a visual and verbal minority. He is not alone in hanging onto his position, mamagement " afraid" to remove his status as a visible minority.
The pecking order is obvious. French/bilingual, visible minority bilingual, bilingual, English white males at the bottom.
In the end, credible applicants for jobs offered are overlooked all of the time. We keep our head down, whisper our complaints amongst ourselves and pray that we are able to HANG IN until retirement.
Tom, stories from public servants, suffering from this policy, should be posted on our web-site, leaving out your contact information. It is time that we let the world know how Canada treats its English-speaking majority. Kim
I agree and I am glad that Mr. Kumar came forward. For Mr. Kumar, his concerns that he reveals do not come without protection for him. He has exposed himself by bringing forward concerns that we all have and good for him, our government is more likely to show concern for him and others in his similar situation. Some of us here are damned by the bilingual laws, some are helped. Kumar would not receive the "same" wrath the bilingual laws are able to apply.
No- one talks about this stuff loudly. They are bothered by it and live with it. Our unions are not sympathetic to the problem and in fact support the law. What Kumar is pointing out is a real problem and I hope the PM moves on it, but I have my doubts. The PM is non sympathetic to the people at the bottom of the pecking order. We are where he wants us.
More "should" speak up. Retired people, ones that have seen it, been thru it.
I had a career before coming to the FEDS. I got in here because they needed a particular expertise. I filled that and that is as far as I go. Until I retire. I don't leave here with a lucrative pension. I am here happy to be putting money away for my retirement, aside from the "lucrative" govmnt pension, I may get 20k/per year before taxes.
Bilinguals also have the option to advance to get their last 5 yrs of a raise in pay along with their bonus every year to help stash away for that pension . That advantage is for a select few. Stress? Animosity? It's here. Not because the job or because work itself is taxing, I guess some may disagree. No the government policy has created it. And they were trying to remove sick benefits, adding more fuel to the trapped feeling. You "learn" to accept and live with it, don't rock the boat.
We also see the lack of talent and expertise at the top making the decisions and at times wasting a lot of money and time due to ineptitude. And they give themselves bonuses for a job well done. When the real talent is stymied.
I can go on. Someday I'll retire. Then I can speak. In the meantime we just whisper amongst ourselves and go to work, where I am headed right now.
Thanks again for what you do.
Response to reply from the PSC to Krishan's letter of complaint
Great to see Krishan received a prompt reply to his excellent letter. As far as I can tell, the individual replying to him just danced around the issue. In the end she just reiterated government policy on hiring practises and bilingualism. I doubt if the hiring practises that favour French speakers and special interest groups in the public service will ever change. If they do, it won't be done to enhance fairness. I noticed that her title and department which followed her signature placed French before English. I guess that should tell us something. Nothing is going to change as long as the French are allowed to run this country and we keep electing French speaking Quebeckers as Prime Ministers. It is that simple. As long as the majority of Canadians do nothing and accept the status quo we are lost. At my point in life it really doesn't matter, but future generations will be the ones to suffer. Electing Trudeau was a very big mistake.
What a perfect letter. I can relate. Thank you for posting this.
If you have co-workers who want to be kept informeded in our battle to make language testing fairer, please tell them about our work. Krishan says:
If we can break the monopoly of PSC on language testing, we can demand that job interviews are recorded to stop the examining body from using purely subjective assessments. Currently, they take notes during the process and then decide to fail the candidates without any analysis given as to the actual reason for failure. There is NO recourse for the candidates & the dept. sending the candidate must pay $1000 for a review - so they don't bother.
We need more public servants to help raise awareness of what is wrong in the PSC.
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