Value & Ethics for the Public Sector:

Disclaimer: This information is provided for information to promote the implementation of Value & Ethics for the Public Sector. THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE.
Acknowledgement: Special thanks to my colleagues who worked with me to clarify many of my questions.

Topic: Posting in social media the content that relates to government messaging, government data and inappropriate behaviour of particular government officials.

Questions and responses

Key takes away from  Navigating Social Media as a Public Servant (TRN125) Course
Provided by the Canada School of Public Service



1) In which cases are Public Servants allowed to criticize government officials and publicly express opposition to the policies of a government ?

2) Can  Public Servants publicly seek for answers on questions related to vaccine safety and efficacy, significant increase of excess deaths among young Canadians since January 2022 (as confirmed by StatCan), raise concerns about using vaccine for themselves or members of their family?


Key references:


The first reference provides the following guidance:

"As a general rule, federal public servants should be loyal to their employer, the Government of Canada. The loyalty owed is to the Government of Canada, not the political party in power at any one time. A public servant need not vote for the governing party. Nor need he or she publicly espouse its policies. And indeed, in some circumstances a public servant may actively and publicly express opposition to the policies of a government. This would be appropriate if, for example, the Government were engaged in illegal acts, or if its policies jeopardized the life, health or safety of the public servant or others, or if the public servant's criticism had no impact on his or her abilities to perform effectively the duties of a public servant or on the public perception of that ability. The Duty of Loyalty paper from which this excerpt derives, quotes and references several court cases of public servants who have spoken out publically against their department’s policies in some way. This qualification (jeopardy to life, health or safety) forms one of the criterion for assessing when a public servant is justified in breaching their duty of loyalty to the GoC. The cases referenced, and jurisprudence that exists around this issue are talking about public servants who wish to criticize their department/agency for their programs/policies, etc. (or make public, some internal information [e.g. whistleblowing]) -- not public servants who are simply reposting and commenting on already published articles in mainstream media.


Insight gained:

A public servant may  post on matters where “Government policies [that] jeopardize life, health or safety” , which include the policies related to covid vaccine administration, as it has has been confirmed (including in official document) that they may lead to more severe adverse reactions, including deaths, even if it is stated that the "benefit from these vaccines significantly exceeds the risk"


The second reference provides an example of wrongdoing

From here it appears that Not sharing vaccine risk-benefit recommendations in a timely manner , or preventing me from doing so, or not allowing me to express my concerns related to matters that affect lives of many Canadians – Firstly, the quote you reference from the document (link) above is public information. This isn’t internal information from the Agency you work for that isn’t being shared with Canadians – Canadians can find this information easily. The GoC is not hiding this information. Therefore – you need not post a blog about it. Secondly, a balanced news outlet various sides to an issue in an objective manner – such as the fact that the COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to be effective at preventing hospitalization due to the virus. The excerpt you share above however is only one aspect of the quote, the overall message still that of encouragement to get vaccinated: Dr. Tam encourages “anyone who has not yet received their primary series or their fall 2022 bivalent booster to get these vaccinations now to reduce their risk of severe outcomes of COVID-19.” (such as those I cover in my blog – child trafficking, sexual mutilations , war etc)  may fall under this category too.


Other key messages from the TRN125 training:

"Do shout out the great work that you and your team are doing and get permission to share team and event videos or photos."

Insight gained:

GC employees are allowed and, in fact,  are encouraged to publish about such results reported by Government of Canada as

-         new guidance on masks (no longer required  since July 2022)

-        new guidance related to boosters (no longer recommended for children and general public since March 2023)*

-         new data and insights published by StatCan such as the one published in Sept 2022 that reports "significant excess mortality", particularly among "young Canadians" observed since January 2022

Don't forget the Values and Ethics Code: Try to avoid discussions that criticize or attack the government or its policies. 

        Examples of breaches include:

§  Texting or posting messages that criticize managers, the CBSA, or the Canadian Government

        When we use social media, we must ensure that we: 

§  Maintain our personal and professional integrity,

§  Respect Canada’s democratic institutions, and

§  Respect our fellow Canadians, travellers and the CBSA family