Public Service Act

Overview

The Public Service Act (S.Nu. 2013, c.26) provides protection for public servants who report wrongdoings. The purpose of the act is for employees to be able to balance their duties of confidentiality, impartiality and loyalty with their duty of protecting the public from wrongdoings.

What kind of disclosure is protected?

The Act protects employees who, while acting on the basis of reasonable belief, report a wrongdoing in the public service. An employee may consult with the Nunavut Ethics Officer to seek advice prior to making a disclosure s. 39(3).

Under the Act, wrongdoing means any of the following conduct by an employee acting in his or her public service capacity s. 38:

  • contravention of an Act of the Legislative Assembly, the Parliament of Canada or the legislature of a province or territory, or of a regulation made under any such Act;
  • failure to comply with applicable directives made by the Minister, the Minister responsible for the Financial Administration Act, or the Financial Management Board with respect to management of the public service or public assets for which the employee is responsible;
  • misuse of public funds or public property;
  • gross mismanagement of public property or resources for which the employee is responsible, including an act or omission showing a reckless or willful disregard for the proper management of public property or resources;
  • harassment or verbal or physical abuse of any person other than an employee or violation of the human or contractual rights of any person providing services to or receiving services or information about services of any kind from a department or public body;
  • an act or omission that creates a substantial and specific danger to the life, health or safety of persons, to public or private property, or to the natural environment, other than a danger that is inherent in the performance of the duties or functions of an employee;
  • a serious breach of the Code of Values and Ethics;
  • any act of reprisal against an employee or other person; or
  • a request, direction or encouragement by a supervisor or senior manager to an employee or by an employee to any other person to commit a wrongdoing set out above

Under the Act, public service means the several positions in or under any department or public body listed in Schedule A of the Act, and does not include individuals referred to in Schedule B of the Act.

If the Nunavut Ethics Officer finds that a disclosure if vexatious or made in bad faith, the Minister may take disciplinary action against the employee s. 54(3).

Who is eligible for protection?

In order to be protected under the Act, the employee making the disclosure must have reasonable grounds to believe that a wrongdoing has occurred.

Under the Act, an employee is defined as a person employed in the public service s. 1.

Before making a formal report of wrongdoing to a Deputy Minister, Deputy Head, the Nunavut Ethics Officer, or law enforcement, employees shall make reasonable efforts to disclose the wrongdoing to the appropriate authorities within the public service s.40(1).

If there are reasonable grounds to believe that the wrongdoing will cause imminent harm or danger to a person, property, or the environment, the wrongdoing can be reported to any other person s. 40(5).

How are whistleblowers protected?

If a disclosure regarding wrongdoing has been made in good faith and on the basis of reasonable belief, no person shall commit an act of reprisal against the employee s. 46(1). Acts of reprisal may be subject to a fine under the Act s. 46(2).

Under the Act, an act of reprisal includes any action, threat or attempt to suspend, demote, dismiss, discharge, expel, intimidate, coerce, evict, terminate a contract to which the person is a party without cause, commence legal action against, impose a pecuniary or other penalty on or otherwise discriminate against the person because of a disclosure of wrongdoing by that person or because the person assists in the investigation of a disclosure made by another person s. 38.

If an employee is subject to a reprisal, a complaint may be filed with the Nunavut Ethics Officer s. 47(1).

How should disclosures be made?

Be careful! Despite presenting some challenges for follow ups, one of the best protections for whistleblowers is their anonymity. Be cautious when providing any information through electronic means, especially emails! Read the security tips section.

To report a disclosure to the Nunavut Ethics Officer, contact: 

Telephone: 1-844-384-4272
Email: ethics.officer.nu@gmail.com

Be mindful that the email address provided is not a government-issued address, and is not secure.