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Public Service FAQs

Why should I disclose wrongdoing?

  • because you believe that a breach of the law or other gross mismanagement discredits all employees of the public service;
  • because you have strong values and the courage of your convictions;
  • because you can contribute to the resolution of cases of wrongdoing and reprisal;
  • because you want to continue to be proud to work for the public service.

Would it help to get more advice? Think about:

  • what are the potential consequences of the disclosure for yourself and those who live and work around you;
  • what are the potential consequences for allowing the wrongdoing to continue unreported;
  • whether there are others who are willing to assist or who would consider making the disclosure with you;
  • whether it is appropriate to talk to legal counsel, a trusted co-worker, family or other trusted friend; and,
  • whether you should seek advice from the Citizens’ Representative.

Are there time limits?

The Act only applies to wrongdoings that occur after July 1, 2014. If you believe that a wrongdoing started before July 1, 2014, and is ongoing, you should call the Office to discuss the matter.

While there are no strict time limits in the Act for filing a disclosure, the Citizens’ Representative can decline to investigate a matter if he or she is of the opinion that too much time has elapsed between the date when the subject matter of the disclosure arose and the date when the disclosure was made to the Citizens’ Representative.

Does your concern fit the definition of wrongdoing?

Wrongdoing is defined in Section 4 of the Act. It states:

4. (1) This Act applies to the following wrongdoings in or relating to the public service:

  • an act or omission constituting an offence under an Act of the Legislature or the Parliament of Canada, or a regulation made under an Act;
  • an act or omission that creates a substantial and specific danger to the life, health or safety of persons, or to the environment, other than a danger that is inherent in the performance of the duties or functions of an employee;
  • gross mismanagement, including of public funds or a public asset; and,
  • knowingly directing or counselling a person to commit a wrongdoing described in paragraph (a),(b) or (c).

(2) This Act applies only in respect of wrongdoings that occur after the coming into force of this Act.

Gross Mismanagement

The Act does not define gross mismanagement. This permits the Citizens’ Representative to take a flexible approach when assessing potential disclosures. When assessing a potential disclosure, the Citizens’ Representative will ask if the allegations as stated are proven, would they engage any of the following:

  • matters of significant importance;
  • serious errors that are not debatable among reasonable people;
  • more than a de minimus wrongdoing or negligence;
  • management action or inaction that creates a substantial risk of significant adverse impact upon the ability of an organization, office, or unit to carry out its mandate in the public interest;
  • the deliberate nature of the wrongdoing; and,
  • the systemic nature of the wrongdoing.

Not all of these factors have to be present before a disclosure is accepted for investigation. As well, the existence of one of the factors alone may not constitute wrongdoing for the purposes of the Act.

What can I expect when I contact the Office of the Citizens’ Representative?

We appreciate that making a public interest disclosure can be stressful. When you contact the Office about making a disclosure, you can expect to have:

  • confidential advice about the subject matter of your disclosure and the possible impacts of filing a complaint;
  • to the extent possible, your confidentiality will be maintained throughout the investigation of your disclosure;
  • an investigation conducted as expeditiously as possible;
  • to be treated with procedural fairness throughout the process, which means you will have a right to have your position assessed and to know and challenge any adverse evidence to your position; and,
  • a report, in a manner deemed appropriate by the Citizens’ Representative, at the conclusion of the investigation.

What are “Reprisals?”

A reprisal is defined as one or more of the following measures taken against an employee because he or she has, in good faith, sought advice about making a disclosure, made a disclosure, or cooperated in an investigation including:

  1. a disciplinary measure,
  2. a demotion,
  3. termination of employment,
  4. a measure that adversely affects his or her employment or working conditions, or,
  5. a threat to take a measure referred to in sub-paragraphs (i) to (iv);

Can a disclosure be made anonymously?

Yes, but it can be difficult to investigate a disclosure without confirming details about the alleged wrongdoing with you. Allegations that are given anonymously may not be investigated if the particulars are insufficient. If you are considering an anonymous disclosure, contact us, and speak with an investigator about the positive and negative aspects of anonymous disclosure. You do not have to reveal your identity to the investigator at this stage.

Can I have a representative come with me if I choose to disclose?

Yes, if you choose to bring a union representative, legal counsel or confidante come with you they will not be excluded.

How long does the process take?

This may vary between weeks and months depending on the seriousness of allegations, the number of documents and witnesses, or other external factors. The OCR is committed to completing thorough investigations in as timely a manner possible.

Is participation in the investigative process mandatory?

Yes. Any public servant required to provide evidence, assistance or other information, or required to give access to government property or facilities, must do so. It is an offence, punishable by fines of up to $10,000, for misleading or obstructing the investigator, destroying, concealing or falsifying evidence, or counseling anyone to do these things.

Allegations of wrongdoing have been made against me. What can I do?

The OCR is committed to procedural fairness and the principles of natural justice in its investigations. You are within your rights to be represented by another person, including legal counsel. The OCR will treat you with procedural fairness, which means every reasonable effort will be made to inform a person of the substantive contents of the disclosure; and to extend to you the opportunity to make a comprehensive response.