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Feds don’t know how many employees speak an Indigenous language at work

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OTTAWA — The federal government says it doesn’t know how many of its employees are expected to speak an Indigenous language as part of their job.

Ottawa has been facing calls to expand the compensation it offers to employees who speak both French and English to public servants who speak an Indigenous language.

The bilingualism bonus is an extra $800 per year employees receive if they work in a position where it’s required they speak both of Canada’s official languages.

Some senior public servants suggested last year the government introduce similar to pay for Indigenous-language speakers. That was part of internal discussions around how to alleviate concerns raised by some Indigenous federal employees about official language requirements, which The Canadian Press obtained through Access-to-Information laws.

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The Public Service Alliance of Canada has also proposed creating an Indigenous language allowance and has said it’s identified nearly 500 federal employees who speak an Indigenous language on the job.

So far, the federal Treasury Board has rejected the idea.

In a response to a question from the federal New Democrats this fall, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat says “there is no public service-wide data” about how many employees are expected to speak an Indigenous language as part of their daily responsibilities.

“It points to the fact that providing Indigenous Peoples with services in their language is not a priority for the federal government,” said Nunavut New Democrat MP Lori Idlout, who speaks Inuktitut.

“With that being the case, it means that maybe reconciliation is not as important as they say … and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to make sure that reconciliation is realized.”

The Treasury Board has not yet responded to a request for comment. In the past it has said it’s working to remove barriers in public service.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made advancing reconciliation with Indigenous people a major priority for his government, and specified it would work to preserve and promote the use of Indigenous languages.

The Liberals passed legislation with the stated goal of doing so back in 2019.

The law recognized that governments bear responsibility for suppressing and trying to eradicate Indigenous languages through policies like forcing children to attend residential schools, where they were not allowed to speak their mother tongue.

According to the legislation, federal institutions may provide access to services in Indigenous languages “if the institution … has the capacity to do so and there is sufficient demand for access to those services in that language.”

Kevin Lewis, a Cree language teacher based in Saskatchewan, said he only recently learned the bilingualism bonus existed, and he believes the federal government would be wise to extend it to Indigenous-language speakers.

Doing so could promote employment opportunities nationally, he said, and incentivize non-Indigenous people to try and learn one.

“The government apologizes and they have been apologizing … an apology is usually followed up by action.”

Lewis, who has provided Cree translation services to the federal government, said he believes it should collect data on how many employees use an Indigenous language at work.

“It could be a hiring or recruiting strategy,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 13, 2022.

 

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

Politics

Therapy: The Opposite of Politics

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Therapy is about the authentic, while politics is about the artificial.
Source: cottonbro studio/Pexels

One lesson I have learned from experience is that therapy and politics are contrary skills. Not only that, but they are often fundamentally incompatible with each other. I find this to be true from the smallest of personal settings, such as the mundane dynamics of the workplace, to the far-reaching impact of governmental authority.

Personal Level

As a therapist, I’ve had to be clear with my clients that politics and therapy represent opposite poles of the human condition: advancement in the eyes of the world versus inward reflection and authenticity. For example, let’s say a client is experiencing significant levels of depression and is considering asking for accommodations, or even a medical leave of absence from work. They may ask me, “Should I tell my bosses what I’m going through? Will they be helpful or would this put an invisible stain on my prospects for advancement at my company?”

While a company may not legally retaliate against an employee for their health care conditions, therapists know that the world can be unjust. Sadly, it is sometimes the case that employees are discriminated against, and it can be difficult or impossible to prove. It’s not a therapist’s job to encourage the client to live their life as if life were fair, but to help them navigate the fact that it isn’t.

So the answer to the client’s question about whether they should tell their boss is a relatively simple one: I have no idea. Some managers would be supportive. Some wouldn’t. In some workplaces, an employee may be praised for their bravery in coming forward; in others, they would be stigmatized. Many organizations would pay lip service to the employee’s rights while tacitly blacklisting them from future promotions. I don’t know which type of workplace my client is subject to, nor the inner motives of their supervisors.

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One support I can provide is to ask the client questions to help them explore their own appraisal of the situation and their tolerance for risk, basically guiding them in their own cost–benefit analysis. However, if the client lacks sufficient career experience, or their thought process is impacted by their mental health symptoms, they may be guessing blindly as to the likelihood of different scenarios. In this case, neither I nor the client can provide any real insight into the implications of such a decision.

In a case like this, I recommend that my clients seek the input of a mentor figure, a career advisor, or someone else who has the practical savvy to maneuver through the metaphorical game of chess. The wisdom of a guide can be beneficial for our clients in other ways in which we lack skill or life experience. For example, I am thankful to a number of amazing Black and Latinx professional colleagues who have been open to contact from my clients seeking workplace advice.

National and International Levels

The incongruity between therapy and politics exists not only on the personal level but on the national and international levels as well. I don’t think any reasonably informed person would argue that national politics is a bastion of integrity and fairness. Subterfuge, deception, misdirection, and many other nefarious tactics have been a fundamental component of the internal and external functions of every government since the dawn of civilization. While “Game of Thrones” is fictional, it brilliantly captures the inherent treachery of statecraft.

THE BASICS

Of course, this does not imply that every system of government is morally equivalent. Nor does it mean that a therapist or client is prohibited from being politically engaged. Fighting for a just cause, such as to protect the vulnerable or to relieve suffering, for example, can and should fall very much within the purview of therapists and clients alike. But, to try to distill a complex distinction down to a few words, I would say that these ethical causes usually fall under the umbrella of “power to” another person rather than “power over” them.

As I stated at the start of this piece, politics is the exercise of power over others while therapy is the exercise of power over oneself. Therapy is about the authentic, while politics is about the artificial. They are both necessary skills, and they are both tools that are inherently neither good nor evil. But they are the antithesis of each other. As we seek a healthy balance of these opposites, we benefit from recognizing the conflict they represent.

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What lies ahead for Sask. politics after fall sitting begins in controversy, ends with $500 cheques in mail

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The fall sitting of the Saskatchewan Legislature started with controversy and ended quietly on Wednesday with confirmation $500 affordability cheques have been mailed.

The past seven weeks have seen the typical disagreements on what the government’s priorities ought to be, but it began with an incident that made international headlines and led to an apology by the premier.

On Oct. 26, Lt.-Gov. Russell Mirasty delivered the government’s throne speech. Seated in the crowd was convicted killer and former Saskatchewan cabinet minister Colin Thatcher.

Thatcher, 84, was found guilty in 1984 of the first-degree murder of his ex-wife, JoAnn Wilson, who was found beaten and shot to death in the garage of her home the previous year.

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He was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years and granted full parole in November 2006.

Thatcher was invited by Thunder Creek MLA Lyle Stewart, who initially defended the decision, before calling it an “error in judgment.”

The Saskatchewan Party government relieved Stewart of his legislative secretary duties. Five days after the throne speech, Premier Scott Moe apologized.

On Wednesday, deputy premier Donna Harpauer met with reporters, as Moe was in Washington, D.C.

“It was a mistake, one that the premier addressed on behalf of all of us, but we are very focused on the government agenda and got back to our agenda very quickly,” she said.

Colin Thatcher, a former Saskatchewan MLA and a convicted murderer, walks out of the chamber after the speech from the throne at the Saskatchewan Legislature in Regina on Oct. 26. (Heywood Yu/The Canadian Press)

NDP Leader Carla Beck said the invitation was a “slap in the face” to survivors of domestic violence, those that work in the field, and the assembly.

“We’re looking at a government that is out of touch,” the Opposition leader said.

“The fact that they did not see a problem with inviting a convicted wife killer to the legislature on throne speech day and then took five days and international embarrassment to even table the weakest of apologies,” said Beck.

“It sent a terrible message in a province that has twice the rate of domestic violence in the country.

Saskatchewan First Act

A day after Moe’s apology, Justice Minister Bronwyn Eyre introduced the Saskatchewan First Act, which the government said will confirm the province’s autonomy and jurisdiction over its natural resources.

“This isn’t about fed-bashing for kicks,” Eyre said on Nov. 1.

“This is about quantifying, assessing, and defining economic harm. It’s about our place in this federation and our responsibility to the people of Saskatchewan to foster economic growth.”

The Saskatchewan First Act has been overshadowed by new Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act which was introduced on Nov. 28 and is already going to be tweaked by government.

On Wednesday, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations called for the proposed Alberta Sovereignty and the Saskatchewan First acts to be withdrawn.

Moe and Eyre have said the Saskatchewan act is inclusive.

“It doesn’t change the intentions the government has to include all Saskatchewan people, Indigenous or otherwise, in the economy,” Moe said last week.

“What the act is focused on is to make sure we have the focus on Saskatchewan so we can collectively benefit.”

Last week, Beck and members of her caucus received some criticism for voting to move the bill to committee.

Beck said it is not clear what the bill accomplishes.

“My observation is that this was an act that was designed to have a political motivation behind it, but really materially wouldn’t have had that much of an impact on the people of this province. It reasserts rights that already exist.”

Beck said she has concerns about a lack of consultation with Indigenous and Métis communities.

$500 cheques not enough, says Opposition

Beck and the Opposition spent much of the sitting calling on the government to spend more to help people facing increased cost-of-living.

The government said it had responded with its decision to spend $450 million to send $500 cheques to more than 900,000 adults.

After an initial delay in getting the cheques mailed, they have been sent to people who filed their income tax by Aug. 31.

Harpauer said Wednesday the government is addressing needs by spending in areas of need like health care and education.

“We have committed additional dollars in a plan for health care for recruitment, retention, training and incentivizing more workers, recognizing that there is stress in the health-care system,” she said.

“We also addressed stresses within education by providing additional dollars for inflation for our school divisions as well as an increase in student enrolment.”

Beck said the government’s priorities do not match the Opposition’s, mentioning the government’s decision to create a Crown corporation, the Saskatchewan Revenue Agency.

The bill to create the agency was introduced this week. The government said its aim is to “pursue greater autonomy in tax collection.”

“We think this is a priority,” Harpauer said.

“The piece of legislation I introduced this week is a very high-level piece of legislation that won’t come to fruition for a few years. But at some point, we do want to explore it, and this lets the public know what our agenda is.”

Saskatchewan Finance Minister Donna Harpauer released the mid-year update last month. The government is projecting a $1.1 billion surplus for 2022-23. (Matt Howard/Radio-Canada)

Beck said the public was not looking for a new tax collection and administration agency.

“There’s a very big distinction between the priorities that we brought forward because these are concerns that people in the province have,” she said.

“The government seems very pleased with in this building I don’t think translates very well to the people out there who are struggling to just get by right now.”

Harpauer disagreed, saying the proposed revenue agency is a response to what the government has heard.

“We are listening to stakeholders around the province, to different groups as well as our own constituents. This isn’t just coming from nowhere. This is something that people are raising concerns about.”

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The Many Ad Bans of Disney+: No Booze, No Politics, No Netflix

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(Bloomberg) — Walt Disney Co. debuts the ad-supported version of its Disney+ streaming service Thursday with strict rules: No alcohol commercials, no political spots and no ads from competitors.

The new service, which is priced at $8 a month, has signed up 100 sponsors across a wide swath of business, including finance, retail and automotive, Rita Ferro, Disney Media’s president of advertising, said in an interview. The company intentionally left some slots open to accommodate marketer interest after the product’s debut, she said.

Although Disney’s position on some of the restrictions may change over time, the Burbank, California-based company will shut out rivals including Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Video to prioritize its own shows and films, Ferro said.

“Our content is going to be the only thing you see on our platforms,” she said.

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The ad-supported version of Disney’s flagship streaming platform will have 4 minutes of commercials per hour or less, or about half the ad load of Hulu, its sister streaming service. It’s becoming available at a tough time for the media industry at large amid a pullback in ad spending and fears of an imminent recession.

On Tuesday, shares of CBS owner Paramount Global fell 7% after Chief Executive Officer Bob Bakish said the company’s advertising sales this quarter will be “a bit below” the third quarter in a “challenging” market.

Industry Challenges

The comments echoed those of Jeff Shell, chief executive officer of Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal division, who said the advertising market is “definitely getting worse.” Last week, AMC Networks Inc. announced plans to fire 20% of its US staff, Warner Bros Discovery Inc.’s CNN division laid off employees, and NPR said it would “severely restrict” hiring after a sharp drop in sponsorship revenue.

So far, Disney has been less affected than peers by the wider downturn in ad spending and has benefited from a “flight to quality,” Ferro said.

“There’s no question that the marketplace is challenged, and there’s no question there are more challenging times to come,” Ferro said. “But we have not necessarily seen the slowdown that we have seen in the marketplace.”

With the debut of the ad-backed Disney+, the price of the commercial-free version is increasing by $3 to $11 a month. Achieving profitability in Disney’s direct-to-consumer division, which lost $1.5 billion last quarter mainly due to expenses at Disney+, is a priority for the company.

C-Suite Tumult

Disney shares fell by 13% on Nov. 9, the worst daily drop since 2001, after the company reported the loss. They were down 41% this year through the close Wednesday.

In response, Disney on Nov. 20 ousted Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek and brought back longtime CEO Bob Iger. Iger told employees at the first town hall held after his return that the company will prioritize breaking even on its streaming initiatives over subscriber growth.

As of last quarter, Disney had about 236 million subscribers across all of its online TV businesses, including Hulu and ESPN+. Chapek said at the time that losses had peaked in the direct-to-consumer division, which Disney expects to reach profitability in 2024.

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