Commissioner's Statement - HTML Transcript
Hello. I am Joe Friday, the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.
I would like to inform you of founded cases of wrongdoing that I have presented to Parliament. These cases relate to Correctional Service Canada.
As a result of a whistleblower coming forward and after my Office’s investigation into the matter, I concluded that both Ms. Brigitte de Blois, a Director, and Assistant Commissioner Larry Motiuk committed gross mismanagement and a serious breach of the Correctional Service Canada Code of Discipline and of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector.
It is important to note that we do not investigate individual harassment complaints, but rather instances of behaviour that are systemic or that can have a detrimental effect on employees and the workplace generally. A key feature of the federal whistleblowing regime is its focus on accountability, particularly that of senior executives. As a result, when we receive disclosures like this one, we look to management’s actions in addressing and resolving problems that are within their authority and responsibility.
The Director and the Assistant Commissioner, as well as 27 other witnesses were interviewed.
The evidence clearly shows that the Director engaged in repetitive abusive behaviour characterized by frequent screaming, insults and making denigrating comments, and that she was aggressive towards her employees. As a result, over a long period of time, the Director’s inappropriate conduct had negative consequences on those reporting to her.
The witnesses’ testimonies demonstrate that they were working in an environment of fear that adversely affected their well-being. The Director neither treated them with respect nor helped to create and maintain a safe and healthy workplace as required under the Correctional Service Canada Code of Discipline and the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector.
The findings of wrongdoing against the Assistant Commissioner specifically relate to when further incidents of abusive behaviour by the Director were reported to him. Of critical significance is that the Assistant Commissioner did not inform a manager of Ms. de Blois of her past conduct, thereby minimizing the importance of her alleged misbehaviour. This information would have been essential to allow the manager to properly determine how best to address the issues.
In the workplace, complaints of repeated and ongoing harassment must be taken seriously, especially when made against a senior executive occupying a position of significant authority over employees. It is not in keeping with management’s responsibilities and certainly does not demonstrate transparency, engagement, collaboration and respectful communication.
A different set of rules should not apply to senior executives than to the rest of employees. Management must take immediate action to address instances of systemic or repeated harassment and must continue to monitor the issue to ensure that the behaviour has stopped.
It is my hope that these findings of wrongdoing will send a strong message that abusive behaviour is neither acceptable nor tolerated. Given the current government’s priority on mental health in the workplace, this report can serve to highlight the importance of ensuring a professional environment. All employees, regardless of their level and function in any organization, must be treated with respect.
Finding: Ms. Geneviève Desjardins, Vice-President, Communications and Public Affairs, committed gross mismanagement and a serious breach of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector as well as the CFIA Code of Conduct, by making, on an ongoing basis, inappropriate comments to employees, soliciting personal information from employees about other employees, mistreating and harassing staff, abusing her authority, and failing to show reasonable due diligence in regard to an employee’s termination of employment.
Outcome: The CFIA has responded that appropriate action is being taken with regard to Ms. Desjardins, workplace wellness and promoting an environment where all employees are respected.
Finding: The former Director of the Conservation and Protection branch in the Maritimes Region as well as its regional and national management failed to take necessary and appropriate action to respond to a clear and demonstrated health and safety issue.
Outcome: DFO has committed to taking appropriate action including measures to protect the hearing of its employees who may be exposed to high noise levels, possible discipline and administrative measures to ensure that the wrongdoing is not repeated.
Finding: Dr. Bruce Archibald in his capacity as President of the Agency, and Mr. Gérard Étienne in his capacity as Vice-President of Human Resources, committed gross mismanagement when they failed to take appropriate and required action to deal fairly and thoroughly with three serious harassment complaints, filed against a Senior Executive who reported directly to Dr. Archibald.
Outcome: CFIA has taken steps to verify that the three harassment complaints will be fully and fairly considered, and will be retaining the services of an experienced independent third party for this purpose. Moreover, it will examine whether it should be standard practice for CFIA to refer all harassment complaints made against senior executives to an independent third party. The Agency also had an independent third party review its harassment procedures and processes. Furthermore, the Agency developed training on harassment prevention and awareness and made it mandatory for all employees, and has also partnered with PSAC to provide enhanced respectful workplace training to employees.
Finding: An Executive, who at the time of the disclosure was an Acting Director General, committed a serious breach of the Agency’s Code of Conduct and committed gross mismanagement by engaging in the verbal abuse of staff, other employees of the Agency and of other government organizations, and also by displaying physical anger towards staff, including outbursts of violent rage.
Outcome: The Executive left PHAC in 2014 to work for another government department. PHAC identified measures that were taken by Senior Management to foster a respectful and healthy workplace, free of harassment. The Executive’s current workplace environment is being proactively monitored to ensure no recurrence of any wrongdoing, and his current employer determined that disciplinary and corrective measures were appropriate.
Finding: Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge, a penal institution under the authority of the Correctional Service of Canada, committed gross mismanagement by repeatedly allowing employees to bring children to the institution creating a substantial and specific danger to their safety. The children were exposed to some inmates who had been sentenced for crimes involving children, and others who had specific conditions imposed on them to not be near children.
Outcome: Department took immediate action to stop the practice and put in place measures to address the situation.
Finding: Some pilots of Ottawa Air Section contravened regulations by flying aircraft overweight and not properly completing logbooks regarding weight.
Outcome: Corrective action plans put in place; health and safety not at risk.
Finding: Former CEO committed a serious breach of his organization’s code of conduct by appointing four individuals who had publicly demonstrated ties to the Conservative Party of Canada or the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia, without justification and nothing to demonstrate the appointments were merit-based. This gave the appearance of partisan appointments.
Outcome: Individual’s employment terminated.
Finding: Former Regional Vice-Chairperson contravened legislation by placing himself in a conflict of interest situation regarding a decision on a file. He also breached the organization’s code of conduct by demonstrating inappropriate behaviour towards female employees in the workplace, criticizing Parole Board members to outside parties and disclosing information to individuals who were not authorized to receive it.
Outcome: Individual was demoted during the course of the investigation; Minister responsible ordered an inquiry; organization ensured additional training was provided to all board members.
Finding: Former President of the Canada School of Public of Canada committed wrongdoing by breaching confidentiality provisions during an investigation under the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.
Outcome: Following recommendations made, organization took steps to establish proper procedures to protect confidentiality regarding disclosures of wrongdoing.
Finding: Former CEO of Blue Water Bridge Canada committed serious breach of the code of conduct and misused public funds by awarding two excessive severance payouts to two managers of the organization who were married at the time.
Outcome: CEO left the organization; organization implemented appropriate guidelines to address issue.
Finding: Former Chairperson of the CHRT committed gross mismanagement by harassing and abusing her staff and appointed members of the CHRT, disregarding advice and creating a dysfunctional workplace, which jeopardized the ability of the CHRT to fulfill its mandate.
Outcome: Chairperson left the organization during the course of the investigation; recommendations made to organization to ensure workplace health issues were addressed.
Finding: Border Services Officer breached a code of conduct and failed to fulfill his enforcement responsibilities by maintaining a social relationship with known organized crime figures. The officer failed to take enforcement action on these individuals as his duties required. The officer also attempted to evade the law during a police operation.
Outcome: The Border Services Officer was dismissed.
Finding: A Director General breached the code of conduct by engaging in private business activities and not disclosing them to the appropriate supervisor. Government property and assets were misused and the DG’s administrative staff were instructed to complete tasks related to these private business activities.
Outcome: DG left organization; Recommendations made to the Department to ensure similar wrongdoing does not reoccur.
Finding: Wrongdoing was committed by two Senior Officials who breached the Pilotage Act and Laurentian Pilotage Authority Regulations, by issuing two apprentice pilot permits to individuals who did not meet all criteria.
Outcome: Breach occurred following unsuccessful recruitment efforts; Commissioner recommended measures be put in place to meet objectives set out in legislation.
Finding: Manager responsible for four regional offices committed wrongdoing, including contraventions of the Financial Administration Act, misuse of public funds and public assets, and gross mismanagement. Deficiencies were also found on the part of the Department regarding the lack of oversight mechanisms to ensure that department and Treasury Board policies and procedures were respected.
Outcome: Manager left the organization, assets were recovered; Department implemented measures to ensure better oversight.