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A Conversation with John Hannaford on Values and Ethics (FON3-V03)


This event recording features John Hannaford, Clerk of the Privy Council, and Christiane Fox, Deputy Clerk of the Privy Council, who discuss the critical role that public service managers play in upholding our shared code of values and ethics, and in fostering values and ethics at both the individual and team levels.

Duration: 01:13:58
Published: May 1, 2024
Type: Video

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A Conversation with John Hannaford on Values and Ethics

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Transcript: A Conversation with John Hannaford on Values and Ethics

[00:00:01 The CSPS logo appears onscreen.]

[00:00:07 The screen fades to Aïchatou Touré standing at a podium.]

Aïchatou Touré: My name is Aïchatou Touré, and I am the manager of the Respectful and Inclusive Workplace team at the Canada School of Public Service. It is great to see so many of you at this very interesting event, whether in person or online.

Before going any further, I would like to point out that I am joining you from Ottawa, Ontario, on the unceded territories of the Anishinaabe People. I recognize that some of you are joining us from several regions that are on lands that have histories, each on distinct traditional territories. I invite you to pause, reflect and honour, and to understand the deep history at this time.

We are grateful to the Clerk and Deputy Clerk for providing a unique opportunity at today's event to share their insight with the managers community. We will first be addressing prerecorded questions, and following this, the Clerk and Deputy Clerk will both respond to live questions from our onsite and online audiences. We welcome you to engage throughout the session, and especially during the live Q&A portion to make it all the more dynamic session. This is not my conversation with the Clerk and Deputy Clerk, this is our conversation. Throughout the event, online participant can send us a question using the participant button at the top right banner of the screen. It looks like a little person with a raised hand. Clicking this button will generate an email that come directly to us and we will ask the questions here in the room anonymously. I'm not sure I can say that word in French or English.


Onsite audiences, members wishing to ask question, we will ask you to please line up behind one of the microphones, and in order to be heard by the participants online, we will queue you when this portion of the session opens up. And now, it is now my great pleasure to hand off the mic to the President of the Canada School of Public Service, Taki Sarantakis.


[00:02:26 Taki Sarantakis walks up to the podium.]

Taki Sarantakis: Thank you so much. It shouldn't be your great pleasure, but thank you anyways.


So, welcome. First, I'd like to I'd like to thank the participants of this event, which is you, for coming. This is a very important topic. Second, I want to say that this is brought to you in partnership by the National Managers Community, by the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer, by the Privy Council Office, who are the people who, like, make the decisions, and the Canada School of Public Service, who are the people that implement decisions.


So, with all seriousness, though, I just want to say a few words to maybe set the context. We're living in difficult times. We are going through a war, we are going through a second war, we have just kind of as a society and as a globe, we have just exited a global pandemic where we left work on, I remember March 13th, 2020, and we weren't sure what was going to happen. We weren't sure how to protect our children, we weren't sure how to protect our parents, we weren't sure if the grocery stores would be open on Monday. We've gone through a lot in the last little while, and it's a very, very difficult time. And some of that has also become difficult for our institution. And we're not alone. Every institution in the world is grappling with difficult things right now. Whether you're a university, whether you're a corporation, whether you are a school, whether you are a charity, things are difficult right now. And one of the reasons why things are difficult is we're losing, or our guideposts are changing. The ground beneath our feet is shifting, and when the ground beneath our feet shifts, we don't have anything to hold on to.

But I would suggest that we do have something to hold on to. And that's our values. The more things get difficult, the more you should fall back on your values. In fact, the worst moment to throw away your values, to put them aside is when things are difficult. The more difficult things are, the more you need your values. Go back to the fundamentals. Why am I here? What am I supposed to do? How can I help in this moment? And we all have individual values, we all have personal values, but we also have institutional values. And our institutional values in the Public Service of Canada they're pretty clear and they're pretty good values in terms of having some durability over time. Yes, values change. Yes, things have to kind of go with the times and the world around us changes. But at the end of the day, our values are pretty much the same institutionally as they were in 1867, which is we're here to help, we're here to serve, we're here to be good stewards, we're here to help Canadians, we're here to help Canada. And as times get difficult, it is even more important that we stand up as an institution because we're the institution that helps Canadians and Canada navigate through these difficult times.

So, thank you for being part of this conversation, thank you to the Clerk for kicking off this conversation when he assumed the position of the head of the Public Service of Canada. And remember, our values are really important, and it's really important that we have a conversation about our values because these are difficult times. And the more times are difficult, the more you have to rely on values.

With that, I would like to give the floor to my dear colleague, Nathalie Laviades Jodouin, who has a more difficult name than I do.


And we worked together for six years—six years ago, and I think that was the first time I tried to say the name all at once. So, Nathalie, the floor is yours.

[00:07:31 Nathalie Laviades Jodouin walks up to the podium.]

Nathalie Laviades Jodouin: Thank you very much, Taki. Thank you, everyone, for joining us. As Taki mentioned, my name is Nathalie Laviades Jodouin, notice how that "flows"?


I like to tease him! I am the Vice-President here at the School and responsible for information that affects the Public Sector Operations and Inclusion Branch. To build on what Taki was saying, if I may take a moment to directly address the managers, I believe we recognize the challenges you are facing. You are the front lines, and so I think this conversation resonates. I believe we learned that the National Managers' Community called you and you specifically asked to have time to create a space where we can have these conversations and important discussions.

As Taki mentioned, and I will not repeat, the environment is becoming more and more complex. The challenges are becoming increasingly bigger, and in this context, it is important to be able to remember and return to the source and to the foundations for precisely these values. So, I think this is one of several conversations that the clerk and the deputy clerk will begin over the coming weeks and months. We are very happy that there are a lot of people joining online—no pressure, but over 8,000, according to the latest figures, so we are hoping you can make the time. And not just today, but to continue and pursue this very, very important dialogue, and even more importantly when you are in a management position and have responsibility for, I would say, "our most precious assets," which are our people.

So with that, I am going to hand the floor back to Aïchatou, and thank you again for joining us today, on the first day of March. Thank you.


[00:09:26 Aïchatou Touré is shown sitting next to John Hannaford and Christiane Fox.]

Aïchatou Touré: Thank you very much, Nathalie, for these opening words and this context you have given us. And now, without further ado, actually, I am going to give the floor to our clerk for maybe a few opening words before we can begin the round of questions.

John Hannaford: Yeah, look, thank you very much to the School and to, and I got a bit of feedback. Look, I want to thank everyone for participating in the event today. I think this is a series of conversations that we've been having over the course of the last period of time, and I really welcome the opportunity to discuss with you today the importance of some of the core aspects of the work that we do.

Like Taki said, we are in a pretty difficult situation on a number of sides. There are a series of current challenges, namely geopolitical and climate problems, problems… not necessarily problems, but facts concerning technological changes. And, as Taki said, we are still living with some of the ramifications of the pandemic and what we collectively lived through. And what I believe is very striking is that each of these would be kind of challenging in and of itself. But this is a series of challenges that are now together. That is a fact, too.

And you add to that the rate of change, so we've got a series of things that are presented to us and each of them are evolving in ways that are sometimes hard to foresee. Sometimes we can foresee them and those aspects are concerning, but all of that is a complicated operating environment and that is just simply a fact for us as an institution. And that's the reason why I really felt when I took this job eight months ago that this was an opportunity for us to think about what our core role is in a complicated world. And that was sort of defined by the values and ethics that are our North Star. And the code, when it was created by John Sims, well created, when it was codified by John Sims, or John Tait, rather, 25 years ago, was an encapsulation of a series of norms that had been present with us as a profession, as Taki says, really since confederation and before. And those norms are not only the kind of defining characteristics of how we should be conducting ourselves, they're also kind of our strategic purposes. Defensive democracy, people values, stewardship, excellence, integrity. Those should be the things that are not only kind of seen as the rules within which we operate, but those should be the inspiration for what it is we're trying to achieve. And so, and they are incredibly relevant at a time of rapid change and challenge, because ultimately, I would just like to underline that point that Taki made. Taki delivered, essentially my talking points, but…


But I really would like to underline that critical point. In a moment of, moments of change, in moments of challenge, knowing what it is you are trying to achieve and knowing what your North Star is, is essential. And so, we went through an exercise over the course of the fall led by Catherine Blewett, but involving Chris, and involving Donald (inaudible) and Steve Lucas, Caroline Xavier, to engage in a conversation across the community. And 90 some odd discussions were had with various parts of our organization with a view to kind of getting a bit of a sense as to where the conversation on values and ethics is currently within the public service. The report, that you will have seen that came out in December, was then a manifestation of that series of conversations. And I think what it did, with real honesty, is capture some of the dynamics that we are seeing right now, some of the things that are preoccupying for people, some of the things that are inspiring for people and some of the things that we need to talk about as a group. And so, we've then, as a result of that, done several things. I've asked each of the deputies to engage in precisely this set of conversations, down to the level of divisions and units, because I think that this is something that needs to involve our entire community, all 375,000 of us.

I've asked Chris to take a leadership role across the system, and I am profoundly grateful that she agreed to do that. And we are going to have a series of sessions like this where we will talk about the values and ethics as a more global aspect of the work we do. And one of the reasons I think this is incredibly important, apart from all the points that I've just raised, is we are a growing organization which has a lot of new members. As I mentioned, we're at 375,000 right now. About 80,000 people joined in the last five years. That's a lot of people who are now part of this community, and I think given that we now work in different ways than we did in 95 when I joined the government, I think it's really, really important that we have these fundamental conversations to just ensure that we all are operating in accordance with our North Star. So, I'll leave it at that.

Aïchatou Touré: That's amazing. And I think the fact that we are starting the conversation, that it's not the end of the conversation, it's not a one event that will solve that, we will need to continue having the conversation in our different teams, within our groups, continue the conversation. I think that is one of the things that resonates with me right now. Thank you for that and we're really grateful to have you, Chris, knowing that you were very involved in the task force on values and ethics. All right. Well, let's get to the heart of the session, then. Let's start with the questions. As you know, we have a few prerecorded questions from participant, from managers, from various departments and regions. It will be followed by an opportunity for a live Q&A in the session, so online and the people here in the room. Let's get to the first question.

[00:16:21 Jordan Charbonneau appears in a video chat panel.]

Jordan Charbonneau: Jordan Charbonneau, I'm a Regional Director with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. My question for the Clerk is what difficult situation involving values and ethics that you managed did you learn the most from, and what would you have changed if you could do it over again? Thank you.

John Hannaford: Yeah, it's a great question. I think where I honestly learned the most was actually near the beginning of my career where I had, I have said this in other contexts, but I started as a lawyer in Department of Foreign Affairs at the time, in '95, and I really, I didn't come from a foreign public service background, particularly. I had not much exposure to the public service prior to actually joining it. I had been a summer student, and that had been kind of my introduction. But I think that initial phase, as it is for all of us, was just kind of an apprenticeship. It was an opportunity to kind of see how public service operated vis-à-vis the political side, it was to see how departments operated vis-à-vis each other, it was to see what the kind of norms were of the office and how we treated each other. And those were all things that were pretty profound learning opportunities, and I can think of instances of conflict within the office, which I'm not sure I managed all in every instance as perfectly as I might have. I can think of watching how briefings happened, where each one of those you learn something about how it is that you present information, how it is that you draw a line between what is political and what is public service advice. And I was incredibly grateful. It was in some ways kind of a benefit of being in a legal position. I was I was able to, relatively early on, be in situations where I was having those conversations and that, because we're offering legal advice in specific contexts, and because it was legal advice that in and of itself kind of drew lines as to what the difference was between my role and the political role.

But in each of those, you learned. And you learned sometimes by failing and sometimes by feeling like you kind of got it right, and you try and reinforce that. But I think each of those was also ultimately really a values lesson, a normative lesson, as the substance, of course, you pick up as well. But it's the manner in which you do these things, the manner in which you interact, the role that you have vis-à-vis the people you're talking to, those were all kind of profound things for me, and I reflect on those daily.

Christiane Fox: Well thank you very much, and it has been a real pleasure to be with you all to talk about a subject that is important to me because I am a proud public servant, and I think that we often need to remind ourselves a little about the importance of our role and not forget the impact we can have on people.

I think like the people impact, the service to Canadians, to clients, is something that we just always have to remind ourselves about why we do the work that we do, and that regardless of where we are in the organization, we actually have an impact, and not lose sight of that. And so, that's why I was incredibly proud when the Clerk asked me to take on this role, and it's not an easy role. I think as Taki and as the Clerk described, like, we're all operating in a pretty challenging environment. And I think that when we have a conversation around values and ethics, I always kind of think back about when I joined the public service and the conversation that my then Deputy Minister had with all of us about the role, about the responsibility, about kind of the Values and Ethics Code, and I think that we have kind of gotten away from that. But I also remind myself that when I joined the public service, we weren't having conversations around mental health, around racism, around what the institution has been to people that work for it. And so, in kind of my reflections in taking on this role, it's not about going back to the past, it's about reminding ourselves of what brings us together as public servants through values and ethics, but also challenging ourselves when it comes to the call to action, when it comes to reconciliation, when it comes to creating a workplace that is healthy for people to come and join it, because we want the best and the brightest to come and join us and see purpose and see impact.

And there was a couple, when I reflected on the question, there was a couple of moments in my career where I have felt that my values and ethics were challenged, and I have seen how it can impact people. Like, I worked at Industry Canada at the time where the Chief Statistician for the country resigned as a result of a decision that the government made that felt like he, his values and ethics were challenged in the role that he played for the country. And I watched that from a distance, and I remember thinking how real that challenge was for him at that moment. And I did a lot of work in communications when I started my career. And communications is an interesting, and I think Jordan comes from a communications background, but it's an interesting place where sometimes the lines between public service and political communications can get blurred in the eyes of people who operate in that space and that kind of gray zone that we call. And I remember once when I was kind of a younger public servant giving my advice about what I felt crossed the line of political communications, and I remember being sort of challenged by a pretty aggressive Chief of Staff who kind of dismissed my position as being one of resistance or not wanting to help. And I remember going back to my office, and sitting through and combing through the comms policy, and looking at values and ethics, and thinking through kind of what I could do in that moment. And I went back to them and I challenged them again and received the same level of resistance and aggressive response, and they brought in the minister so that I had to then explain it to the minister firsthand why I felt that that may have been inappropriate.

And I learned a lot in that moment, first, because I felt probably a little bit intimidated and a bit worried about the outcome of my advice. But I felt empowered by kind of the code, the communications policy. And I think if I were to reflect on it again, I would do kind of two things differently. I probably would have, hopefully had kind of a bit more courage and confidence at the first go and not doubted myself. But the second thing I probably should have done is talk to my colleagues after, because I didn't really talk through what it meant for me, and maybe that conversation with them could have helped them if they were in that moment. And so, when the Clerk and I were speaking at a recent conversation with deputies, Deputy Minister Gina Wilson talked to us about storytelling and sharing, and I think that's part of what this conversation is about. It's about sharing your challenging experiences to make, first of all, so that we can, through our team dynamic, feel empowered, but also through kind of learning in the moment and hoping that others can pick up as we kind of navigate sometimes what can be challenging spaces.

John Hannaford: And just to build on that point, I think Gina's comment was, really resonated with me too, that there is, there's a power to the practical application of the norms, there's a power that comes from storytelling, and that that brings to life what it is that we need to be living in terms of the kind of basic principles that should be guiding us. And I think, for the audience that we have today, about the incredible power that you have as the leaders of teams. You have experience which you have lived over the course of your careers, which is incredibly relevant to everyone who is now part of your immediate community. And what I'm hoping, through the kind of conversations we are trying to foster here and what I have asked deputies to pursue in each of their institutions, is precisely this. Like, to talk about experiences that you have had, when you have come up against conundra, how you solve those issues. And you didn't necessarily have to be right in every instance, because goodness knows it's a pretty rare person who is. But I think that sort of live application of the norms is really, really powerful. And that's what resonates. Like, I think back at my own experience as a young officer, as I say, I learned an enormous amount from watching people, but you learn an enormous amount just from hearing people tell their war stories. And again, it wasn't always that you thought, oh boy, I would not have done it exactly that way. But what you got is a bunch of facts that you had to think through yourself, and you think about then how you would behave in those situations. You guys are in incredibly powerful position to do that.

Aïchatou Touré: But it is interesting to learn that we, in fact, have not found ourselves confronted once with problems of values and ethics, it is throughout the career, but it can happen at any time in our careers. However, it is the way we create spaces, when we can discuss them, so that we can enrich each other, and then allow others to learn from these experiences. Very interesting.

John Hannaford: Yes, and I think it is not necessarily easy to be a leader in this context, and that is an aspect of our experience because of the pandemic. We are in a distinct situation now, but at the same time, we must find the spaces for this type of conversation. Because it's…

As I say, I learned a lot from watching people. We just have less opportunity right now to do that. So, I think we as leaders need to be more explicit in some ways that we might have been before.

Aïchatou Touré: Thank you, alright, let’s go to the next question.

[00:27:02 Johanne Boudreau appears in a video chat panel.]

Johanne Boudreau: Hello, my name is Johanne Boudreau. I work as Corporate Counsel for Justice Canada. My question is for the Clerk of the Privy Council. So, how can we make the Values and Ethics Code more alive? It seems to be a document our employees are asked to read when they join the public service, and it disappears as soon as it is read. Should we reissue it in a way that speaks more to our employees? Thank you for your attention.

Aïchatou Touré: Isn't this true?


Raise your hand, who read it? Didn't we all read it?

John Hannaford: Well…


Christiane Fox: You raised your hand.

Aïchatou Touré: Did we talk about it? I don't think we do. I used to have the little book.

Christiane Fox: Yeah.

John Hannaford: Well, this is the goal of this process, to have a series of conversations to make the Code a living document. And the reason why this is important is because the Code is, in itself, a little abstract. That is simply one aspect of a code, that is, being sufficiently abstract and relevant in a range of different situations. But, at the same time, it is absolutely relevant to our current situation, and that is why a conversation in distinct contexts is so important and so powerful.

I do think, look, as I say, the code, codes are inherently abstract. That's why you have them. And if you look at those abstractions, they are absolutely guides and give you some kind of indications as to the kinds of things that we should be thinking about. But the only way they become life is if you talk about individual situations. And so, I've asked Taki and others to think about how we kind of bring out specific vignettes that we want to be thinking about, because those will then give you a life situation to talk about what it means to be in the service of democracy, say, or in the service of people values or stewardship. Those abstractions then become life in that context. But it's the reason, again, why I really think it's so important that these conversations happen at the unit level, because my reality of support for democracy may be very, very different from somebody who is a fisheries officer or somebody who is counsel in Department of Justice. And it's not to say that those values are not pertinent in those contexts, they absolutely are, but it's just different meaning. And so, that's the reason why I do think it's on all of us, actually, to make this a living document.

Christiane Fox: But maybe just to add a few points. The first, I completely agree, is, in fact, the conversation and it's… It's how we bring values to life. However, there are interesting examples within the ministries; during the consultations, we noticed that we have ministries, in our national security community, that produce certifications every year. It is like a reminder of the responsibility we have as a civil servant. So, this is a more concrete way we can force the conversation a little. Because if we go about our day to day and accomplish our tasks, it might be easy to not think about why. Then it disappears, like the question said. But I think it is good practice to perhaps give a reminder in a fairly concrete way.

I also think it's not just about sort of onboarding but it's about sort of, throughout your public service career, thinking about the steps that you take along the way. And I think onboarding is a big part of it. I do think we have to think about that, and we have got to do it a little bit differently. We've onboarded a number of people during a pandemic, who at times had not been into a physical office, never met their manager face-to-face. So, onboarding looks very different now than it did, and I think it has to be a lot more deliberate. So, to give you a good example, because I had the good fortune of being on the task force, I was sort of exposed to conversations. Like, I was at Immigration at the time, and I spoke to a lot of our, we had hired a lot of people during the pandemic, and many of them never really got onboarded properly. So, what we did was we created a new system by which we actually kind of periodically throughout the year, create these onboarding sessions to kind of talk to employees who have just joined the department and speak to them about the role of the department, the mandate, the Values and Ethics Code. But to finish the day, we've now instituted that we organize a citizenship ceremony so people can see the beauty of becoming a Canadian citizen.

And I think that that can be different at Corrections, or at Fisheries, or I know that our colleagues at Parks Canada have done sort of an exercise around living their values and they really kind of speak to what it means to work at Parks and what it means for them and the code. So, I think we've got to think about how do we make it across the public service, have a conversation, but also within departments, within groups, within units, being very deliberate about how do we kind of continue the dialogue. And I am really contemplating and would love to get some of your ideas around how do you kind of work with people through that journey, that first time you become a manager, that first time you may be an executive. The challenges will change, the values will remain true, but the experiences you face will be different. And so, how do we kind of think about this conversation over time? And then I'll end with how do we think about when people leave the organization and how do we get back before they depart so we can learn from their experiences. So, I think it really is a way to have a conversation across a long period of time in someone's journey.

John Hannaford: And the power of that, I love that example that Chris uses about the citizenship ceremony, because that is essentially highlighting the purpose of the organization. And it's inspiring. That's the end point in a bunch of work that gets people to now join our country.

And that is, in my opinion, an example that is so powerful because we have a set of fundamental goals in every organization, and there is an opportunity to reinforce the importance of that mission.

And that's part of this conversation too. My poor child who I run out in each of these sorts of events, but I have a daughter who's 26, who entered the workforce during the pandemic and, not the federal public service, but she had an experience of joining a large organization. And what that meant for her was lots of busy work. She was online immediately and she was sitting in a relatively small apartment in Toronto, but she didn't have a sense as to how she was contributing to anything greater. What she had a sense of was a series of tasks and a series of meetings she had to attend. And nobody took the time, really, to say this is why we are doing this. And I think it's fundamental. I think Chris talked about how we sort of, this needs to be thought of over the course of a career. I think we all need to be inspired a little bit over the course of our career. We want to think we're making a difference. And we are. Like, if you think of those problems that I mentioned at the outset, those are all problems that require government attention, and they are high stakes problems. So, if you want to be in part of a, organizational purpose, we are that. And you can't think of much higher purposes. But it also highlights the downsides of us getting stuff wrong. And so, again, I think these conversations can be instructive, but they could be inspiring too, and I think that's super important.

Aïchatou Touré: It is true that the context of the teams also very much defines the very understanding of the Code of Values and Ethics, and I am under the impression that people will often understand certain aspects of the code and others less because they are less exposed to some of these cases. Therefore, the bigger picture and conversation in our context really makes a difference. And ultimately, we are serving Canadians, so we need to keep that in mind.

Thank you very much, but we are going to move on to the next question, I know time is passing very quickly.

[00:35:43 Kavita Trehan appears in a video chat panel.]

Kavita Trehan: Hi, my name is Kavita Trehan and I'm the Acting Manager of Citizenship IRCC Mississauga. My question today for John Hannaford is what steps can be taken to ensure that public servants feel empowered to raise ethical concerns without fear of reprisal? And how can organizations foster a speak up culture? As managers, how can we communicate these concerns without jeopardizing relationships within the team? Thank you.

John Hannaford: Yeah, that's a terrific question and I think I have a multi-part answer. I'll start with culture, because I think culture actually really matters here. I think it's kind of, I have always believed deeply in a culture of collegiality, and by that, I mean basic civility in the workplace. I have always tried to be, in any teams I have been a part of, to try and have those teams as respectful and as inclusive as they can be. And I think that's important on a number of levels. I think you're just much more effective as a team if you have that base level of respect and you are kind of focused on the tasks at hand. But I think you also draw out of the team then the best of each of the individuals. We can come back to issues around inclusion, but I think in the context of having honest conversations around things like values and ethics, if you start from a baseline of respect, then I think you have the atmosphere for genuine concerns to be raised, and discussed and resolved.

So, take that as kind of a baseline point. I think there is also, though, we need to be thinking about more formal governance around some of these issues too. And like, I will say, one of the aspects of the work that Chris and her colleagues did, and we are exploring as part of this overall exercise, is how would you kind of capture dissent in our system? Because our system is inherently going to have dissent. We are not always going to agree with every aspect of the work that we do. We're 375,000 people. There are going to be a whole diversity of views there. And so, how do you allow for there to be a rich conversation, for there to be development of advice in certain contexts, but also recognition that there will be consent, or dissent, rather, and that that dissent can find expression in some ways that doesn't involve leaks to The Globe and Mail, say. And I think that that, again, is an aspect of respect. And I think that, again, is an openness. And I think the other piece of this is leadership. Like, we, this is one of the reasons why I want to be fostering these conversations. I think we as leaders of this organization need to be open to conversations that can be challenging, and that can be challenging of us.

And I think one of the things that I have found powerful in the last eight months is that the Values and Ethics Code gives us the vocabulary to have those conversations and some touch points that can allow us then to sort of have a meaningful exchange on what it means to be in support of democracy, what it means to be respectful of individuals, what does stewardship mean. Those things are all kind of, I think, conversations that we have to be open to as leaders and encourage. And like, as I say, in some instances, there may not be a resolution to those questions. It may just be that we have to acknowledge that these are complicated things that we are wrestling with. But I think that kind of climate of exchange is kind of critical, and is a necessary precursor to us continuing to improve and continuing to be mindful of the principles that should be guiding us.

Christiane Fox: Thank you. I think the three things I would say, and I think, John, you've covered it off really, really well, like first, I think we need to have safe spaces for people to be able to speak up and voice these concerns when they have them, and I think that that it's not kind of one formula that will work for everybody. So, I think the creation of, first of all, I think everyone should have a values and ethics champion within their department for people to have an outlet to go to. I think that we need to empower the ombudsperson, and we've got Dr. Ferrara here who's helping us at PCO, but that is another space. I think we have got to think about the strength of our networks and actually making sure that our networks are operating in a way to support our employees. So, that's another way in which we can support that sort of culture, that people feel safe in talking about it, feel safe in reporting bad behaviour, because there will be some. And so, the mechanisms need to be there. And I think, as leaders, all of us have to be prepared to listen. And we don't always have the answer. And I think one example that I recall, when I was the Deputy Minister of Indigenous Services Canada, we had a really difficult situation where we had nurses in our nursing station in Pikangikum, fly-in community in northern Ontario, and the Chief of the First Nations had made a decision to ask the OPP to leave the community.

So, there was no security in the community and our nurses felt conflicted by their duty to provide health care services to the population. But there were some safety concerns around kind of the status of the community and where they were located. And I remember thinking, as somebody called me in my office and said they're, the nurses are not feeling safe, they're not feeling, but they're feeling conflicted, and I actually didn't have the answer. Like, I didn't know what we were going to do. And so, I had a series of calls with them. I ended up flying to the community and sitting down with them and just listening. And we didn't have, again, we didn't know how we were going to manage it because we all felt a responsibility to serve the population who needed health services, but at the same time, I felt a responsibility to protect the employees of my department. And so, we worked through it with the Chief, we worked through it with police. We were able to empower the community and we got to a resolution, but I think that if I had waited for me to find an answer in my office, I probably wouldn't have gotten the answer, because I didn't actually know what to do. But collectively, we came together, we listened, we acted, we communicated. And so, those are the spaces that, and that's maybe an extreme example, but it has to be part of how do we bring people together and how do we create situations where we're listening to each other at all levels of the organizations to get where we need to be?

And so, it's about safe spaces, it's about dissent channels, and I think it's about a hard conversation sometimes, that being a public service means that we have an obligation to give our best advice, that it has to be based on evidence and data. But we also have an obligation to implement a decision of government, and that sometimes can be the biggest challenge. And we don't talk about that enough, implementing perhaps an environmental regulation that we fundamentally personally disagree with, or being in a context of making a really hard decision personally but that is good for the collective. This notion of implementation can be really challenging. And I think that's where we need to focus the conversation because it is our responsibility as public servants. But when we see that there is an ethical issue, when we see there is wrongdoing, we need to have places where people can express that.

Aïchatou Touré: Really interesting, (inaudible) here to support people and the employees throughout the process. Not an easy process.

Christiane Fox: No.

Aïchatou Touré: To be able to speak up. Thank you. We'll go to the next question, because I'm really mindful of the time.

Eric Neudorf: Hi, I'm Eric Neudorf. I'm a Manager on the advocacy team PacifiCan, the Regional Economic Development Agency for B.C. I'm based in Vancouver. And my question for the clerk is this: The public service has a tendency to spin its tires when it comes to public information requests from reporters, parliament and through Access to Information. More and more time is dedicated to wordsmithing public messages rather than delivering real services to Canadians. Do you have any advice for public servants navigating this ethical tension between respect for democratic accountability and delivering excellent values to Canadians? Thank you.

Aïchatou Touré: That is a great question.

John Hannaford: Yeah, it is, and it's not an easy one. Like, I mean, there are obviously two sets of considerations there. One aspect of our work is clearly to provide services to fellow Canadians and to be as forthcoming as we can be within the confines of law and ethics, and to meaningfully engage with the public. We are also, though, not public figures in and of ourselves, and we report to a government which is duly elected and has the responsibility to think about how messaging is communicated, and how it's framed and the manner in which that engagement takes place. And that's just challenging in some instances. I think that it is important, though, I really like the way you framed that question, because I think it is really important that we meaningfully respond to questions, though I think in some instances we can be a little less responsive than perhaps we should be to questions that come from outside of government. We have a responsibility to be honest, and to be informative and to think about how our words can have a broader effect. So, take some very tangible examples. I think during the pandemic, obviously, communications of the government was incredibly important to the health and safety of Canadians, and I think we learned a lot, I think, through the pandemic as to how we try and respond as quickly as possible to the kinds of circumstances that people were being challenged by.

And that was in a context of extraordinary tension. Think how nervous everyone was in looking for the kind of insights that we could provide. And I think the communications role of government, was there kind of fundamental to the well-being of our fellow citizens. And so, thinking about that as a responsibility is critically important. But we also, as I say, we have a duty of loyalty to a duly elected government. And in some instances, there are areas where there's going to be particular sensitivity around the kinds of communications that we could be engaged in, and there we need to make sure that we are reflecting what the political reality is and the direction is. That's a responsibility for us too, as servants of a democracy. And there's nothing wrong with either of those things, they're just, those are things that we just need to be thinking about as we engage in communications. But I do think that the issue of speed that you also mentioned is something that we need to reflect on, and this wasn't part of your question, but is something that preoccupies me.

We live in an age of mis and disinformation, where things that can be harmful or can undermine people's confidence in our institutions can become very live in people's minds if they are not rebutted quickly or if they are not addressed in a meaningful way. And that's just very challenging for governments. And honestly, this is something that we're thinking about right now, is how best to respond to these sorts of situations. And the reality as well, of technological change, is we have all sorts of facilitations of precisely that kind of information dissemination. How do we, as an institution, which is not always as nimble as it could be, respond to very rapidly deployed information that could be very damaging? And there's a geopolitical aspect to that, there is a public safety aspect to that, there's just a reputational aspect to that. And those are things that I think we need to continue to really wrestle with because that's not going to get easier.

Christiane Fox: Quickly, I'll add two quick things. One, I think it's actually linked, because in my experience, if you are actually not getting your service delivery to Canadians right, then you're going to get a ton of media calls, a ton of A-tips, a ton of lawsuits, like it's kind of, so you actually have to kind of focus on number one, good service to Canadians, and that will actually make the other pieces more manageable. Because you're being open, you're being transparent, you're delivering on what people expect from you, and as such, they don't need to kind of circumvent the system because in, if I think back of summer of 2022, we had a lot of kind of service challenges post-COVID, whether it was passports or immigration backlogs or whatever it may be, and that created like tension across the system because people were just desperate to get what they needed from government, so they tried every single angle. So, I think we've got to think about that.

And the second point I would make is we do have a responsibility to be open and transparent, and answer questions to the media and parliament. And we talk a lot about the state of parliament right now and the toxic environment that we seem to face when we go to parliamentary committees, or the frustration that we get from media, and I think we have to kind of think about are we playing our role as public servants to provide information when asked, to be transparent about the things that we do? And I think that, in all cases, I don't think we can say, yes, we're doing everything we can, and I think that we need to, because it speaks to who we are as an institution, it speaks to the trust and it speaks to the broader democratic institution that we are a part of. And so, I think we do have to give a lot of focus on our ability to deliver when it comes to media, parliament, Access to Information and services collectively. I think we are challenged.

John Hannaford: That goes to institutional reputation as well. And this has been sort of implicit, I think, in some of the comments we've had already, but we are in a world where there's probably not the same degree of confidence in institutions that there was, say, 30 years ago. I think that's just demonstrably true, And that's due to a whole bunch of things. But we should think about each interaction we have with our fellow citizens is a way of either confirming people's poor impressions or rebutting poor impressions, if those exist. We make the reputation of our institution, and so we should treat each opportunity for service delivery, for communications, to think about how that reinforces the positive aspects of what we do and people's confidence in our institution, because we are ultimately, that's how we are generally judged, is by how people experience their interaction with us.

Aïchatou Touré: That is true.

A few more minutes. We will go directly to the next question. Thank you very much for your answers.

[00:52:12 Victoria Patacairk appears in a video chat panel.]

Victoria Patacairk: Hello, let me introduce myself, my name is Victoria Patacairk I am from the Labour Program at ESDC, a Lead Analyst and Indigenous Career Navigator. My question to you, Mr. Clerk, is how does the government plan to actively rebuild trust with diverse and disadvantaged groups, including people with disabilities and Indigenous Peoples, while addressing their unique challenges and ensuring transparency and accountability in order to respect the Values and Ethics Code and to promote trust and fairness in public service workplaces.


John Hannaford: Miigwech.

By a show of hands, that is [inaudible] our conversation regarding our values and ethics, because it is a question of inclusion, of respect for individuals and, fundamentally, of values. And for this reason, the call to action and all other manifestations of our efforts in this area are central to this process too. And at the same time, we have a lot of work to do in this context, and that is clear. There was a period of progress, and that is important to recognize. But, clearly, at the same time, we were celebrating Black History Month in February, and that was an opportunity to observe our Black colleagues' contributions, but at the same time, it was a time to recognize that there is a lot to do in this context.

And I think we have seen some progress as a result of the call to action that my colleague Ian Shugart issued three years ago. That is now my call to action, and that is something that we need to continue to make progress on. That's with respect to anti-Black racism. But we need to think about inclusion in broad terms as well. You mention issues of inclusion of persons with disabilities. That is something where we clearly have progress to be made. Now, we have made some important progress, and I think we need to recognize that, too. The passport that's now part of the reality for people to be able to carry the equipment that they need, with respect to, accommodations and in order to do the work that we need them to do to their best ability, that's something that was a long time coming, but it's a material change in the way that people can now live their lives within this government.

They can move between institutions and continue to make contributions in a number of different contexts and I think that's something that we should recognize and continue to build upon. And issues around reconciliation in the Aboriginal community, those are obviously fundamental and we have real opportunities to continue to advance there too. So, I think there's always tension here in the sense that we need to recognize the shortcomings of our institution, and historically, there have been many, many shortcomings. At the same time, I think we are making progress. I think there is a commitment to making progress. Well, I know there is a commitment on my part to making progress, and I think that needs to be an aspect of our role as leaders within this institution too, is to get back to what I said at the outset. Like, this, I attach great significance to collegiality. Collegiality to me is making sure that every member of our team can make the contribution they're capable of, and that has particular focus then in the context of inclusion.

Christiane Fox: And I think that when we held our consultations last fall, there was a great concern that the discussion of ethical values was replacing the activities for the call to action, for anti-racism within the federal government. Then we were very clear with everyone, and I want to be clear with you today, that this is something that is integrated. We can't have a conversation about ethical values if we don't make very fundamental changes across our organization in terms of the call to action, etc. So it's really united.

And in fact, like, I want us to kind of think about when we talk about sort of the endpoint of kind of this work, it's never an endpoint. First of all, it's about the process, but it's about the integration of these things so we can think about them collectively and that we integrate, essentially, the work that we're doing on values, ethics into the bigger frame. So that's, I really wanted to be clear that they are not two distinct conversations. It is one conversation.

Aïchatou Touré: Very well said, that is exactly what I was thinking. This is how all these tools will work together to create a more inclusive public service and country. Thank you. We will move on to the next question quickly.

[00:57:26 Michel Leblanc appears in a video chat panel.]

Michel Leblanc: Hi, my name is Michel Leblanc and I work with Transport Canada. My question for John Hannaford is: With social media being more popular than ever and people claiming to individual rights, how do we balance government values and individual values with freedom of speech? What can managers do to help their kids navigate this climate? Thank you.

John Hannaford: Yeah, that is a, that was a fundamental theme that came out in the conversations that Chris and her colleagues had over the course of the fall, and it's, I think it's, I'm delighted that the question has been asked, because I do think this is a fundamental part of the work we need to think through, as well. And look, this isn't simple either. We live in a democratic world where we have constitutional rights and there are a series of, and we are a huge organization, we are 375,000 people. That's a lot of views that a lot of people have, and we all have things that we believe in strongly. At the same time, we have a very specific place in our society, and we serve a government that is duly elected by the citizens of this country. And so, we need to think about our role as that nonpartisan support for a democratic process. And I think this, bear with me because this might get slightly abstract, but I think like, I have been describing us as sort of aggregators of wisdom, and I think that this is essentially right. We are going to have a whole diversity of views on any given question. Our role is to give the best possible advice we can to the government of the day. And that advice should be based on the best evidence we can muster, data that we may have available to us, judgments that we are going to bring to bear. We should not pretend that we are the only people who are the sources of fact or wisdom in these contexts.

But we have many, many assets that we bring to providing the best advice we can bring. But that process of kind of moving from 375,000 views to a single point of advice is going to involve a lot of exchanges, is going to involve a lot of refinement, and ultimately, it will not reflect the views of every person who was part of that chain. And that's okay. And ultimately, the government may decide to do something completely different than what it was that was suggested by the public service. And they could well be right. That's okay too. That is part of our process. They were elected. So, there is an accountability that comes to the electorate that is a result of our constitutional order. Our part of the constitutional order is to make as informed a body of advice as we possibly can. But that process then means that, a, there should be both candid advice to our political colleagues, and there should be a degree of loyalty and confidence that is part of that set of exchanges. So, you hold that process against the fact that social media now makes it very easy for all of us to express our deeply held views, and that is something that is simply a fact of all of our lives.

I think what we're, I'm hoping for out of conversations we're having this year, is a bit more refinement around how one uses social media in the context of our work. There is already good work that has been done there, and that's part of what I hope will be part of the conversations that each department has, because there are expectations as to how we will use social media. Now, this isn't a brand-new issue, but I do think it, in given all the complications that I mentioned at the outset, I think there's a lot of pressure on the system to be kind of expressing views in all sorts of different ways. So, I think we need to be very, very careful as to how we engage in those sorts of conversations. I think we need to know what the rules are and we need to be mindful of our overall purpose, which is to support the duly elected government of the day. And I think, as Chris mentioned earlier, we also need to reflect on the, I think it was Alex Himelfarb who came up with the fearless advice. Was it, Taki, do you know? Who is the source of the fearless advice and faithful implementation?

Taki Sarantakis: (inaudible)

John Hannaford: Is it?


Taki Sarantakis: It's a phrase, it has a long, long…

John Hannaford: Okay. Well, I attribute it to Alex Himelfarb.


But it does capture something, which is that process of refinement of our collective wisdom, and then accepting the decisions within the law and within our norms to implement those. And that is a, all of that is subject to relationships of trust, and those are extraordinarily important things. I find it deeply important to think about how central we are to the functioning of our state. But that's pursuant then to, as I say, that set of relationships that we need to maintain, and we need to think about and we need to reinforce. And at the end of the day, as I say, we may be confronted with decisions that wouldn't have been the ones we would have made, but that's okay. That's okay. We need to take comfort in what it is that we have brought to that conversation and if we have done our level best, if we have been excellent, then that is our job. That should be enough.

Aïchatou Touré: Do we have time for one more question from the (inaudible)? Okay, let's go with the last one, and then we'll turn to the room.

[01:03:32 Christine Hill appears in a video chat panel.]

Christine Hill: Hello, Clerk Hannaford. My name is Christine Hill and I'm from the western region of Canada Revenue Agency. My question for you today is: In the process of deciding where to direct the public services' focus each year. For example, values and ethics, or inclusion, diversity and anti-racism, or reducing red tape. What considerations are made to give managers the space in their workload to really focus on the priority being identified? Thank you.

John Hannaford: Yeah, look…


Aïchatou Touré: Sorry I asked that last question.


John Hannaford: No, no, no, that is a very, very, very fair question. And I can tell you as well, in fact, we are just having a conversation right now. We set these corporate objectives that then become sort of, they flow down into everyone's PMAs. And that's something we literally were just having an exchange on today. And I can tell you, like, we have all been in your jobs in a certain sense, like I know the demands that there are on the system right now and I know the demands that are placed particularly on people in the middle management positions. It's challenging. I mean, all those challenges I mentioned, those are the big global pieces. And then you think about how that works structurally, you are leading the teams that need to actually be implementing our responses to each of those problems. And those are all, so all of those challenges kind of become very, very manifest, and in the work that you're doing on a day-to-day basis. And I recognize that that is challenging. And so, I can tell you, as we think about how we're setting our corporate objectives, I am conscious of not just adding another thing to the list. What I'm hoping is that the conversation we're having right now is actually a way of refining some of the work that we do in the sense that I think we are a more effective organization, we are, will be… I think when guided by our values, we are as effective as we can be. And that is a pretty critical piece.

And I think, as well, I find it inspiring to talk about these things. And I think if you are in a situation where you feel like, okay, I can see what I'm contributing now to the bigger good and I can see why I am being asked to do X, Y and Z, that's a different kind of environment in which to be doing your work than if you just have a series of tasks and you're not 100% sure what they're adding up to. And so, I think that that question of inspiration is really important. It's important to me, and I think it has been over the course of my career, and I think giving people that sense of the higher purpose, that is something that we should be doing. And that, hopefully, is then a spur to the actions that we all need to be taking. But the other piece of this, and Chris alluded to it earlier, we are just a very different organization than we were 30 years ago. And the issues around resilience, issues around mental health, those are things that are relatively new aspects of the work that we do, and we are better for that. We are a stronger organization by virtue of the recognition of challenges that we have to our resilience.

And so, I think we need to, as leaders, be mindful of that, too. And there are many things we learned through the pandemic, some of them great, some of them not so great. But I think one of the things it did reinforce, to me anyway, was the community aspects of the work we do. We became much more kind of, we were, I was worried about the wellbeing of my team in a much more material way than would have been evident before because I was worried about people getting sick because of the pandemic itself. But also, it became fairly clear fairly early on, it had such a differential effect on people. Some people were so much more… I live in a house, it's just my wife and me so we had ample room. I know that there were many people who were working in much more trying circumstances than that and that there was a cost to that. And that sort of sensibility to those, what might have been considered extraneous factors, I think has made us a stronger organization as well.

But it makes it a much more challenging environment for managers because managers are now thinking about things they probably wouldn't have to think about before. And so, all of that to say, I'm very sensitive to this set of issues. And we do try and avoid having kind of an endless list of things that you must do apart from the work that you are doing. But I really hope that this exercise is actually a critical enabler to that work and will be an opportunity for us to have kind of things to rally around.

Christiane Fox: I see it as kind of two things, And I agree that it's, we were actually talking about this in the lead up to this conversation, is that there's a lot of pressures on managers. There is a lot that is thrown at them, and they also have the responsibility for that direct engagement with the staff that report to them. So, it's kind of coming from both sides. And I think in wrapping sort of values and ethics, call to action, this to me is culture and environment. And I hope it's not seen as yet another thing that you have to do, because if we do it in a way that's not checkbox, and that is meaningful and it is kind of wrapped around, it's actually creating the culture to then do this success in execution, which is your red tape reduction or whatever efficiency measures. And I often, I coach a girls U14 basketball team, and there's so many parallels between coaching a team and the workplace, right? You have to create a culture of respect and trust as teammates. And that's true on the basketball court, it's true in the office. You have to work at your trade to get better, and excel, and perform, and that takes excellence and effort. But when you combine those things, you actually get to success because you have a group of people who are having the right conversations, who feel empowered, who trust each other, who can then execute on the things that they are experts at.

And I think that that's what we try to convey, and I know it can feel sometimes like yet another thing, or I have to report on this or I have to, so let's maybe try to think about the conversation about the culture and the environment we're trying to create. And at times, we tend to kind of give to you to execute, but let's have the conversation where you can also tell us what's helpful to do your work and how you see it manifest "sur le terrain" – as we say in French. So, I see it as a conversation that we want to have with you, and not a list of tasks that we want to give you.

Aïchatou Touré: Thank you. I'm a little less seasoned than our Clerk here at the public service, but I can tell how…

John Hannaford: Less old.


Aïchatou Touré: Seasoned. Seasoned.


But I have actually witnessed that change that we had through the years and the conversation that we can have today that we didn't dare to have a couple of years ago. So, having those spaces, having the opportunity to have a conversation like that today, making the change. There's still a lot to do, but I think we are going somewhere. Unfortunately, we are running out of time. I wish this conversation could last more and more. And I actually…

I challenge you all, specifically as managers, to continue this conversation in the days and weeks to come. Do not wait months to continue these conversations with your teams. Bring it back to the table, continue the conversation, bring in your ADMs, your DM to have a conversation and continue that. But I think it is something that is important, and today's interest demonstrates how important it is to be able to continue the conversation. I was very honoured to be here to represent the managers' community.

And speaking of the managers community, it is my pleasure to now introduce the Champion of the National Community, and Deputy Minister of Transport Canada, Arun Thangaraj. Thank you.

[01:12:04 Arun Thangaraj approaches the podium.]

Arun Thangaraj: Thank you very much, Aïchatou.


And thank you to the Clerk and Deputy Clerk. And this has just been a, just a fantastic and a fascinating discussion, and I know for those here, like, the gears are turning. And the discussion about culture and how do we make this live, and real and enduring, and the role of managers in the nourishing that culture, and a culture that fosters excellence and inclusion. It has just been fantastic, and we look forward. We will connect with you as part of the National Managers' Community to keep this conversation going both nationally in your departments, but also in regions. And so, I wanted to thank all of those who participated here today, for those of you who are virtual and who recorded those fantastic questions in the lead up to this day. But thank you very much for that. And thank you to our partners at the School, at the Privy Council Office and the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer as well.

Your comments are important to us, [inaudible] take the time to complete a quick survey on this event, which will be sent to you in the coming days. The School and the NMC have several other events and resources to offer you, and I encourage you to check the websites regularly to keep up to date with the latest news and to register for other learning and collaboration opportunities.

Thank you, and merci beaucoup.


[01:13:50 The CSPS logo appears onscreen.]

[01:13:53 The Government of Canada logo appears onscreen.]

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