The Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (the Act), which came into force on April 15, 2007, applies to most of the federal public sector—approximately 400,000 public servants. This includes government departments and agencies, parent Crown corporations, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other federal public sector bodies.
The Canadian Forces, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Communications Security Establishment are not covered by the Act, but they are required to establish their own mechanisms to deal with wrongdoing, which must be similar to those set out in the Act. The Act does not apply to elected officials or their staff, and employees of the House of Commons and the Senate are excluded.
The Act provides a means for employees in the federal public sector to disclose information that they believe could show that a wrongdoing has been committed or is about to be committed in the federal public sector, or that they were asked to commit a wrongdoing. The Act protects public servant who have disclosed against reprisal. It also respects the right to procedural fairness and natural justice of all persons involved in a disclosure or a reprisal process.
The Act is part of a larger picture that begins with the creation of a work environment where dialogue on values and ethics is encouraged, where employees are comfortable raising their concerns without fear of reprisal, and where ‘right-doing’ is encouraged.
The preamble of the Act is particularly helpful in setting the stage for our work. It expressly recognizes that:
- The federal public administration is an important national institution and is part of the essential framework of Canadian parliamentary democracy;
- It is in the public interest to maintain and enhance public confidence in the integrity of public servants;
- Confidence in public institutions can be enhanced by establishing effective procedures for internal disclosure and protection for disclosers;
- The Act strives to achieve a balance between the public servants' duty of loyalty to their employer and the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
- The Government of Canada commits to establishing a charter of values for the public service.
Under the Act, the Minister responsible for the Treasury Board Secretariat must promote a positive environment for disclosing wrongdoing in the public sector. Moreover, the Treasury Board must establish a code of conduct applicable to the entire public sector which came into force on April 1, 2012. Chief executives must also establish a code of conduct applicable to the portion of the public sector for which they are responsible, and that is consistent with that of the Treasury Board.