Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut June 19, 2017 - 11:45 am

GN workers fear reprisal over complaints to managers: Nunavut’s ethics officer

"While these complaints may or may not be well founded, they do deserve to be given serious consideration"

JANE GEORGE
Jeffrey Schnoor, Nunavut's ethics officer: Previously the deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney-general for Manitoba until he retired in 2013, Schnoor became Nunavut's ethics officer in 2015, following an amendment to the Nunavut Public Service Act, which defines wrongdoing and the actions that civil servants may take to report it. (FILE PHOTO)
Jeffrey Schnoor, Nunavut's ethics officer: Previously the deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney-general for Manitoba until he retired in 2013, Schnoor became Nunavut's ethics officer in 2015, following an amendment to the Nunavut Public Service Act, which defines wrongdoing and the actions that civil servants may take to report it. (FILE PHOTO)

Nunavut needs a way for its ethics officer to investigate allegations of reprisal within the public service and, if proven, to recommend appropriate actions, says Jeffrey Schnoor, Nunavut’s ethics officer.

Nunavut government employees have told him that they fear reprisals if they make complaints within the ranks of the Nunavut public service.

Before going to the ethics officer with a complaint of possible wrongdoing, Government of Nunavut staffers must report a complaint to their senior manager, deputy minister or deputy head, the deputy finance minister or any other deputy minister in the GN.

If, after 30 days of reporting, they don’t think that the authorities in the public service have taken reasonable steps to investigate and/or correct it, they may then make a disclosure to the ethics officer.

But some may be reluctant to take that first step of reporting internally: Some public servants say they fear reprisals for making any complaint—regardless of whether the complaint constitutes a serious breach of the Code of Values and Ethics or otherwise meets the definition of wrongdoing.

This is why Nunavut should allow its workers to get help from the ethics officer if they have made a complaint to senior management and feel they have been punished somehow as a result.

All this is contained in Schnoor’s 2016-2017 annual report which was tabled in the Nunavut Legislative Assembly on June 8.

“This would allow the Ethics Officer to investigate those allegations of reprisal and, if proven, recommend appropriate action.”

Schnoor’s role is to receive and investigate allegations of wrongdoing in the Nunavut public service. Where wrongdoing is found, he makes recommendations to address that wrongdoing.

But “it may be beneficial to consider measures to increase the willingness of employees with concerns that do not relate to wrongdoing to come forward,” he said in his report.

His office is supposed to provide a safe avenue for employees in Nunavut’s public service to disclose wrongdoing that comes to their attention and provide assurance to them—and to all Nunavummiut—that those disclosures will be investigated and addressed “promptly, fairly and effectively.”

That fear of reprisal could explain why the ethics officer was approached fewer times over the past year, Schnoor suggests in his annual report.

“There has been a substantial decrease this year in both the number of requests for advice that I received and the number of disclosures made of wrongdoing. It is difficult to know with certainty whether this represents a positive or a negative trend, ” said Schnoor.

Schnoor—a former deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney-general for Manitoba—became Nunavut’s ethics officer in 2015 following an amendment to the Nunavut Public Service Act which defines wrongdoing and the actions that civil servants may take to report it.

Over the past year, Schnoor reported that he received complaints of inappropriate or unprofessional conduct in the workplace that did not rise to the level of wrongdoing.

He said in his report that in some cases, the allegations, if proven, would amount to conduct that should be addressed by management but that did not constitute a serious breach of the Code of Values and Ethics or otherwise meet the definition of wrongdoing.

“For example, an employee might complain that his or her supervisor lacks competence and is doing a poor job,” Schnoor noticed.

“While these complaints may or may not be well founded, they do deserve to be given serious consideration. However, the employees who have expressed these concerns to me often also express an unwillingness to bring them to management because they fear reprisals.”

It is against the law to penalize a person for making a disclosure of wrongdoing and it can lead fine of up to $10,000.

During 2016-17, Schnoor received notification of two internal disclosures that did not proceed to a disclosure to the ethics officer; this compares with three in 2015-16, his latest annual report notes.

And, during 2016-17, he received three disclosures of wrongdoing; in addition, two disclosures were carried forward from the previous year.

“This is a significant decline from the 11 disclosures received last year,” Schnoor said in the annual report.

The large number—11—received in the previous year could have been because it was the first year an ethics officer was available. Or it could be due to reduced awareness of his office, Schnoor suggested.

But that decline could also be because before going to the ethics officer, a GN employee must first make an internal complaint.

You can reach Schnoor at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or by telephone at 1-844-384-4272 or fax at 1-800-507-0962.

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(24) Comments:

#1. Posted by evil place on June 19, 2017

Many would be shocked to see the kind of toxic behaviour that goes on behind closed doors inside the Government of Nunavut and its Crown Corporations. It’s truly horrifying and just plain evil to see what they do to people in those places. Toxic, unhealthy and terrible government to work for.

#2. Posted by Happy Feet! on June 19, 2017

Where I work is a wonderful place to have a long term career!  I love serving the people of Nunavut and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!

#3. Posted by Just Wait! on June 19, 2017

There will be a major shake up in Nunavut after the next election and in some cases before the election. Pat is a great spokeswoman for the badly treated worker. Expect a lot more than 11 cases by the beginning of Fall.

#4. Posted by agree on June 19, 2017

I totally agree with both #1 and #2.  I had a manager who was extremely toxic and was leaking evil for over 2 years, but at the same time, my workplace is a wonderful place to have since I ve been here for well over a decade.  I love my job too!

#5. Posted by Northern Inuit on June 19, 2017

between your 45 minute coffee breaks and hour and a half lunch breaks and 10 cigarette breaks a day I’m amazed the GN gets anything done.

sure there are a few dedicated Staff who are not jaded enough to flip out on your the minute you actually ask them to do their job and help out the good people of Nunavut as they are *shock of all shocks* public servants.  but they are getting harder and harder to find.

if we completed a random survey of who shows up for work Wednesday after Elks Dart Night on Tuesday nights, or how many ‘sick’ people call in on Monday morning after payday freight arrives on Sunday, I’m sure the numbers would be pretty frightening.

we need a proper reporting system for the Public to discuss their concerns as well.

#6. Posted by Northern Inuit on June 19, 2017

PS, ever notice how many Government of Nunavut “Staff Vehicles” are parked at the Elks Parking Lot on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights?

#7. Posted by Bellyachers Bonanza on June 19, 2017

These “toxic” managers are just decent people who are burnt out from carrying all the entitled slackers.

Their basic civility has gone out the window with the last of their energy reserves. They probably do have a hard time being nice to the slackers, but can you blame them?

When the subconsciously guilt-ridden slacker encounters the grouchy manager a paranoid narrative is born (workplace bullying, toxic workplace, etc. etc.).

That is what’s going on here.

#8. Posted by NUHALT on June 19, 2017

I’ve worked for the GN for 6 years. Most of my supervisors have been wonderful people, with a few exceptions, though those ones didn’t last very long. To no small measure your work place is also what you make it too. So ask yourself.

How would you like it to be?
How can you make it better?

Thanks for reading, I’m glad you are here today.

#9. Posted by hey belly bonan on June 19, 2017

if you think you are so right about what you stated, you are totally wrong.  I am not a slacker and my previous manager didn’t have a hard time being nice because all she was, was a total control freak who had to control everybody and everything right down to a whole penny, and when I mean a penny, I am not exaggerating, I really mean it.  there was a penny difference, she goes “a penny is like a million bucks” I am not a slacker, but she sure was a grouchy manager which sure made my workplace a toxic place to stay 7.5 hrs a day 5 days a week! phew, im sure glad shes out of the picture now!  and oh, by the way, Pat surely is the best spokesperson who those of us who have been mistreated by the employer(s) thanks Pat!

#10. Posted by Think about it on June 19, 2017

My experience with the GN has had its ups and downs, but over all has been great.  There are slackers and people that take 15 breaks a day, but not in our group, maybe I am one of lucky ones.  There are some things that I question; one of is why does the GN ethic’s officer have a Gmail account?

#11. Posted by Desk Auditor on June 19, 2017

A desk audit might be required on this position since there are suchfew files and due to the fact that most do not, or cannot, consider contacting the ethics officer. 

There is an extreme need for employees to feel safe in seeking guidance from whomever they feel from this position or others in power within the Gov of NU.

#12. Posted by Look around! on June 19, 2017

So many bad attitude places. Workers just scared. Upper management in places like Department of Education just get rid of Inuit employees and make everybody feel bad. Get rid of the leaders. Thanks Kathy and John for giving us a good summer.

#13. Posted by Former Insider on June 19, 2017

I’ve met a few toxic people in the GN. But even the worst of them seem to have started as people who wanted to work and wanted to help make things better.

But to make things better you have to change things.  And no GN employee, at any level, is authorized to change anything. They are all required to follow approved policy, regulation and statute.

Regular MLAs cannot change things. They can only discuss and ask questions.

Even a Cabinet Minister cannot change things!

Nunavut has a consensus government. All Cabinet Ministers must agree to even a relatively minor change, because they, collectively are responsible.

Major changes require a consensus of all MLAs.

The Premier can block change by preventing issues from being discussed at Cabinet meetings. But even the Premier cannot change most things!

Everything is set up to keep things the same.

That’s why employees who have to deal with real problems every day either leave, zone out, or become jaded.  It’s the system.

#14. Posted by Non Responsive on June 20, 2017

I send this guy a simple email a couple of years ago, he never even replied. I left the GN and never looked back, thank god.

#15. Posted by Peter.cst.09@gmail.com on June 20, 2017

You know how to be taken care of now Deputy minister’s and Assistant Deputy ministers, don’t blame the manager’s now, your number’s are in direct, you understand, we will take care of you, DM’s and ADM, don’t try to blame the Manager’s, as you are accountable like they are and more, I’m going to start with Community and government and services, and finance is in the brimestone, you are in hell

#16. Posted by Burnt Out on June 20, 2017

Culture and Heritage is the worst for missing work, not calling in and breaking all the rules - this is all due to burning out!

#17. Posted by Talking on June 20, 2017

My boss is a little crazy. That’s just the way that person is when work is really busy. My boss warned me on Day 1 of how he acts when he’s stressed and I appreciate that. I could see someone taking his franticness as rudeness and complaining to the Ethics Commissioner. When bosses are upfront about their flaws, it makes like at work a lot better, but that also requires the director’s employees being rational and/or understanding, which isn’t always the case.

#18. Posted by Laughable on June 20, 2017

#16 The fact that culture and heritage does that is not only unsurprising, it’s just way, way too fitting…

#19. Posted by Office Culture on June 20, 2017

I used to read and experience these negative issues when I was with the GN 10 years ago.  Seems like things have not changed, but have gotten worse.

#20. Posted by Justifiable Nut Jobs Doesn't Make It Right on June 20, 2017

I’m surprised at the few posts that justify problem managers and sustained problems.

#17 your boss throwing guilt your way and not getting help to correct the flaws he’s upfront about, just enables him to carry on with the same old lack of boundaries and problems. It’s not professional. He needs help.

#7 your observations are indicative of a harmful narcissistic personality, again with guilt throwing and seeking unfounded praise to justify the lack of professionalism.

etc

#21. Posted by Talking on June 20, 2017

@20: who said he was a nut job and needs help? We could all use a little help and be more composed. Why does franticness during busy periods at work = bad work environment? Doesn’t everyone deal with some stress sometimes at work?

In a perfect world we could all say please and thank you and there would be no conflicting personalities in the office. But in the real world things need to get done and this government doesn’t get a lot done. I respect the he’ll out of my boss for taking on so many challenges at the expense of possibly rubbing a few sensitive people the wrong way.

I get the point of the Ethics Commissioner, it’s needed. But it’s also abused or used when a simple discussion would have solved everything.

#22. Posted by The Doctor is In on June 20, 2017

@20 Pop psychology, what a great idea! If everyone would just start diagnosing each other with half-baked psychiatric disorders I’m sure we’ll have this thing solved in no time.

Employee: You are a self-justifying nut job with a harmful narcissistic personality.

Toxic Boss: Well you are a miasma of Freudian complexes grafted onto a self-absorbed lump of inertia.

Show me a model professional manager in the GN. Not possible. Disagree? Name her/him. They don’t exist, not because the GN obstinately refuses to hire them but because the environment is, for many reasons, not suited for their existence. Any halfway effective manager in the GN is rife with professional compromises.

All that being said, I am hopeful that other things the GN is doing right now around Inuit employment might improve this whole situation significantly.

#23. Posted by Sigmund Freud on June 20, 2017

#21 & 22

“Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.”

#24. Posted by Stake on June 21, 2017

Nunavut with this small population feels it is a one whole territory.  Each community has its own goals.  By that it is Inuit territory and follows tradition of inuit culture and would be nice to have creating own community values to be put in each community and more and more of each community members would then have more understanding of its own values.  Nice way to grow and have more people involve that way to grow each communities.

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