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June Benefits Newsletter

By June 13, 2024Newsletters

Personalized Medicine is Coming to Your Plan

GSI is excited to announce that personalized medicine will be coming to the ELCIC Group Benefits Plan in July. Here’s some information that might help you determine if it could be beneficial for you and your family.

What is Personalized Medicine?

Personalized Medicine is about learning how your genetics can affect your response to medication. If you are about to start or currently are using drugs to treat one of the issues listed below, Personalized Medicine could help your doctor prescribe the best drug for you. 

At your option, you can participate in a pharmacogenetic test that identifies how you may respond to medication. A Canadian company runs the test, and the results are only for you and anyone else you give consent to share it with, such as your doctor.

All that is required for the test is a small saliva sample. A pharmacist from Personalized Prescribing Inc. will look at your genetics in the sample and create a report.

This report can help you and your doctor anticipate which drugs are more likely to help and which may have side effects. It may also recommend changes to your medication. Your doctor can use these results to help prescribe the right drug for you at the right dose.

What Tests are Eligible for Coverage?

Manulife notes that this test is only covered for certain conditions:

  • a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety
  • chronic pain
  • neurological conditions
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

And the test is only covered for people who are:

  • starting a new medication, or
  • taking a medication that isn’t working, or
  • taking a medication that’s causing side effects

For more information, please visit the Manulife member site. (This page also explains how to order a test and how you will receive your results.)

Also Coming Soon…

Therapist Assisted Internet Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Our Member & Family Assistance Plan (MFAP), provided by CloudMD, is expanding its services to include access to online therapists who provide cognitive behavioural training (CBT). Starting on July 1, 2024, CBT will be available to Plan Members and their eligible dependents.

The service is online and asynchronous; it should be especially helpful for those who do not enjoy in-person counselling sessions or who find appointment scheduling difficult.

CloudMD has provided the following information regarding this service.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a problem-focused and goal-oriented form of therapy. It looks at how the way we think about things can affect our feelings and behaviours. CBT helps us learn how to change negative cycles of thoughts and behaviours so we can function better in order to improve our quality of life. Rigorous clinical trials have proven CBT’s effectiveness over a number of decades.

How Does It Work Over the Internet?

CloudMD has one of the most-tested TAiCBT programs in Canada, with over 60,000 individuals treated.

TAiCBT stands for Therapist-Assisted Internet-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It’s CBT delivered digitally through the internet, where an individual can be supported at their own pace and on their own schedule, with a dedicated therapist guiding them throughout.

TAiCBT offers employees a combination of highly personalized online content (audio/video, readings, workbooks, exercises) and direct one-to-one therapy with a Masters-level counselor – most of which is done through asynchronous messaging.

The robust library of protocols have all been developed by clinical experts to help our plan members develop the skills they need to thrive.

Engage Difference!

Deepening Understanding for Inter-cultural Ministry (DUIM) Retreat

A few ELCIC folx have participated in the Engage Difference retreat offered by the Forum for Intercultural Leadership and Learning in 2023 and 2024. Thanks to them for sharing with us about the experiences!

From Steve

I was able to use my continuing education funds for travel and programming to attend the Engage Difference – Deepening Understand of Intercultural Ministry. This one was held from April 15 to 19, 2024 at the Sandy-Saulteaux Spiritual Center near Beausejour, Manitoba.

It was an engaging week with a diverse group of colleagues, many of whom were Indigenous folx in Indigenous ministry contexts. They led us in worship and talking circles and incorporated some of their sacred ceremonies.

I was amazed how well the talking circles worked at getting us to open up to one another in intimate and caring ways, which aided in our learning.

There was a lot of education and engagement packed into that short week. We started by examining our own culture and contexts and how that influences how we see the world. We finished by engaging in a compassionate communication process, which taught us how to engage with differing opinions in a healthy way.

We came away with many tools for engaging cultures in our own individual communities and contexts. It was a rewarding and enriching experience, and I would highly recommend it as a great use of continuing education time and funds.

Rev. Steve Hoffard
Trinity Lutheran – Tavistock

From Prema

The profound week began with worship, getting to know one another, and setting the standard and safe place where we would go to share bravely and learn to trust those gathered to carry our stories without bias.

It was only a week, and yet, we were opened to identifying unconscious biases and the rootedness, seen and unseen, of culture. It was enriching to decipher between cross-cultural and intercultural experiences, which paved a way for me to be conscious of the ways in which I see culture and the current society around me.

The inventory on White Privilege, introduced in her book by Peggy McIntosh, was astounding in explaining the way I have been trained to rethink how I see the society around me.

Each day ended with time for us to reflect on the day so we may heal, not always from the harm from outside, but from the harm from within. Knowing that we gathered together on Holy Ground reminded me of the sacredness of the space and of the experience.

Throughout the week we explored power, privilege, empowerment, domination, confidence and competence, liberation, oppression and healing. We unpacked the concepts through various activities which remain with me.

I give thanks to Jonathan Schmidt and Carmen Ramirez, for their wisdom and facilitation in a safe and brave manner making way for each participant to echo the same. This opportunity from the Canadian Council of Churches, endorsed and encouraged by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, is a testament and strength to our ministry with each other to see the Christ beyond the most prevalent image.

Pastor Prema Samuel
Assistant to the Bishop, ABT Synod, Edmonton, AB

From Erin

In July of 2023, I had the privilege of attending the Engage Difference training week hosted by the Forum for Intercultural Leadership and Learning (Canadian Council of Churches) in Edmonton, Alberta. It was some of the best professional developing training I have taken to date in my adult life.

We began and ended each day with worship around our prayer altar — an altar that we all shared in creating together. Our work was bathed in prayer, relationship, and connection. This sacred space became our grounding as we engaged difficult conversations around:

  • systemic racism in religious groups and spaces
  • the barriers queer, nonbinary, and transgender people continue to face in sacred and cultural communities
  • the presence of ableism
  • and so many more systemic injustices our congregations need to contend with as people of God.

We began practicing conflict management and deeper listening skills, learned how to use various techniques in beginning these hard conversations. and even had the chance to take field trips in the Edmonton community. We had the chance to visit some local Indigenous art spaces and monuments and had the gift of a tour of Gurdwara Millwoods.

It was a week full of intensity and intention, hard conversations and healing words, all wrapped in sacred love. I would highly encourage all rostered and lay leaders to jump at the chance to participate in an Engage Difference event. It is training so necessary for ministry and community shaping in our world, and for our own personal transformation.

Pastor Erin Thomas
Trinity Lutheran Church, Edmonton

From Lindsey

Rev. Prema Samuel, Rev. Erin Thomas, Dr. Faith Nostbakken, and Rev. Lindsey Jorgensen-Skakum

In the Summer of 2023, I was blessed to be able to attend the Forum for Intercultural Leadership and Learning Engage Difference DUIM program in Edmonton Alberta. It was an amazing chance to grow both in my understanding of diversity and inclusion but also explore culture, conflict, theology, and their integration within our communities.

Throughout the week, we learned with and from one another as we shared about our backgrounds, privileges, cultures, and gifts. It was also a time of confession, lament, inspiration, and hope as we collectively yearned to bring forth the teachings and lessons we were carrying in our hearts. One quote I have come to hold dear from these times of conversation is:

“The world in which you were born is just one reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit” –Wade Davis

As a capstone moment for our course, we had the wonderful opportunity to join our siblings of faith at the Sikh Gurdwara Millwoods to learn about their devotion and call to service — all while enjoying amazing hospitality and care through food and conversation. We also had the gift to hear from an interfaith panel of leaders on their place within the Canadian context, and explored the ways we might share the rich teachings of this week within our communities when we returned home.

I am thankful for the gift of so many colleagues to share this course with — especially Synod of Alberta and the Territories Assistant to the Bishop, Rev. Bernice Prema Samuel, and ELCIC Assistant to the Bishop for equity, diversity, and inclusion, Carmen Ramirez, who was an amazing facilitator for this course.

Learn more about intercultural leadership and ministry learning: Forum for Intercultural Leadership

Pastor Lindsey Jorgensen-Skakum
ABT Synod

The next Engage Difference retreat is scheduled for Nov. 18 – 22, 2024 at Five Oaks Education and Retreat Centre near Paris, Ontario. This is a five-day residential program. All meals, accommodation, and program activities and materials included. $1575 per person, bursaries are available.

For more information email Carmen at

We're Looking for Board Directors!

The GSI Board of Directors is preparing for several upcoming vacancies as current Directors complete their terms, and we’d love to have you join our team!

Board Composition

The Board benefits from the diverse backgrounds and various life experiences that the Directors bring. Several are rostered leaders. Directors share their expertise in one or more areas relevant to our work (e.g., pensions, investments, Treasurers, benefits, wellness, communications, the ELCIC). Together, we enjoy great camaraderie as we work collaboratively to support Plan Members and Employers.

Applicants should either be a member of an ELCIC congregation or familiar with and friendly towards the ELCIC. Plan Members are particularly encouraged to apply.

We celebrate the rich diversity within our denomination and welcome expertise in any field related to our mission.


If selected, you will serve up to two 4-year terms. Each year you will attend two 2-day Board meetings, at least one of which will be held in person in Winnipeg and occasional special Board meetings (1 hour) by video call. You will also participate in the work of at least two Board Committees (i.e., Investment, Finance & Audit, Benefits, Governance, Communications) that meet as needed (typically once before each Board meeting) by video call.

To assist you in these important tasks, you will have the opportunity to receive continuing education including conferences and presentations by experts at Board meetings.

Application Process

Complete the Board Biographical Data Form found on the Board of Directors page of the GSI website and send it to

Thank you for considering sharing your gifts and helping to enhance the well-being of employees who serve in the ELCIC and its affiliates.

GSI at Your Synodical Gathering in 2024

2024 is a year for Synod Conventions/Assemblies. GSI Staff and Board Directors had a wonderful time meeting with Plan Members at the MNO and SK Synod Conventions and are looking forward to meeting more of you at the Eastern Synod Assembly and the BC and ABT Synod Conventions later this month.

Have you ever noticed an HRV metric on your smartwatch and wondered what it means? Or hoped that there might be a way to feel less stressed without taking more medication? As part of our ongoing effort to promote wellness in the ELCIC, we will be having a HeartMath® practitioner at our display.

The HeartMath Institute has done research to show how heart rate variability (HRV) is tied to your health, your biological age, and your stress levels. Using special equipment, the practitioner will be able to measure your HRV and explain what this tells you about your health and emotions.

If you’re a Plan Member, you are invited to check out the display (and pick up a cool GSI packable shopping bag!) whether or not you are a delegate to the convention/assembly.

Learn more about the science of HeartMath on the HeartMath Institute’s website.

HeartMath® at Your Synodical Gathering

Dates are probable but subject to change. It is anticipated that the person will be at the display from 9:30 am – 3:30 pm.

MNO (Selkirk, MB): May 24 (completed)
SK (Saskatoon, SK): May 31 (completed)
Eastern (Mississauga, ON): June 21
BC (Vancouver, BC): June 21
ABT (Edmonton, AB): June 23

Measuring HRV only takes a few minutes, so no appointments are required. The practitioner will also be at the display during less busy times for those who wish for a more in-depth discussion about how improving HRV can reduce stress.

Photo: HeartMath Practitioner Christine with Lisa Thiessen at the GSI Display. SK Synod Convention, 31 May 2024.

Helpful Suggestions from Barb

June Claims Tip: Medication when Traveling 

Standard Policy

Prescription drugs may be purchased for a limited number of days at a time: 

  • maintenance drugs – 100 days 
  • non-maintenance drugs – 34 days

Travel plans

If you are travelling and your prescription refill date falls within your travel days, or if your travel is for more than 34 days, you may request an exception for certain eligible drugs. 

To Apply for Exception 

Call Manulife customer service at 1-800-268-6195 and provide Manulife with the exact departure and return date from your trip as well as the DIN number(s) of your medication(s). 

Manulife will need 7 to 10 business days to process the request, so allow for enough time before your trip for the request to be approved and for your prescription to be filled. This is a one-time exception for eligible drugs. Future requests if needed will have to be re-processed. 

June Webinar: Inclusivity in the Workplace

Ask an Expert Concern:

I encountered a situation in my workplace where a colleague made an insensitive remark about gender identity during a team meeting. As someone who values inclusivity, I was unsure how to address it without causing discomfort. How can I navigate such instances effectively, fostering a more inclusive environment without creating tension within the team?

It aired yesterday;
The recording is available at the same link

Uncover valuable insights on Gender and Sexual Diversity this month as our expert, Karen Pitt, delves into the intricacies of diverse identities, guiding you on understanding and responding to these expressions personally and professionally. Explore ways to identify and correct biases in your personal life and workplace, fostering a more inclusive environment for all.

As always, the webinar will be recorded. You’ll be able to watch the webinar live or access the recording through the registration button below.

Rebranding HumanaCare to Kii

You may have noticed different branding being used for some MFAP-related services. We first announced this branding change in the October Benefits Newsletter.

In the upcoming July newsletter we will provide you with information on creating your account to access these exciting new services.

To reiterate, CloudMD is the telehealth company that delivers our MFAP program. Previously, we had been with HumanaCare, which specialized in employee health programs; CloudMD bought HumanaCare in 2021 and is now in the process of rebranding some HumanaCare products to a new name: Kii.

Until now, the monthly wellness webinars are using the HumanaCare name; those will be changing to Kii soon. TAiCBT is a Kii offering. It’s all the same company.

We Welcome your Questions & Feedback!

please write to us:

or call toll free: 1-877-352-4247 (in Wpg 204-984-9181)

information and resources can also be found on the GSI website