Values and Ethics Code of the Department of Justice

Chapter I: Values


The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that the federal public sectorFootnote 1 remains professional, non-partisan and ethical, and worthy of the trust and respect of Canadians. As public servants, we contribute to good governance, to democracy and to the well-being of Canadian society. We are committed to respecting the law and to upholding the highest standards of integrity and fairness.

In accordance with section 6 of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA), the Values and Ethics Code of the Department of Justice (the Code) sets out the values and ethics that guide public servants at the Department in all their professional activities. It also provides a set of guidelines and principles to support ethical behaviour and decision making for all public servants. Established in consultation with the Department's employees and bargaining agents, it is our common guide.

The public servants at the Department are proud to work together, drawing on the richness of its diverse staff. As a group, we are conscious of the fact that Canadians expect transparency and respect for the principle of accountability from public authorities at all levels and that this has an impact on their work.

This firm commitment to the values and ethics enshrined in the Code will allow us to carry out the mandate of the Department and build a healthy and productive work environment that fosters innovation, while at the same time meeting the high expectations of Canadians. This is our collective commitment, and it is our individual responsibility.


The Code outlines the values and expected behaviours that guide public servants in the Department in all activities related to their professional duties. By committing to these values and adhering to the expected behaviours, public servants strengthen the ethical culture of the public sector and contribute to public confidence in the integrity of all public institutions.

The Code provides guidance for common situations involving our work at the Department. In all circumstances, each employee is expected to adhere to the highest ethical standards that are to be expected from a public servant.


The Code is inspired by the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and consistent with the Treasury Board’s Policy on People Management and Directive on Conflict of Interest.  These documents have been adapted to reflect the distinct culture and procedures of the Department and to provide its public servants with an integrated reference document that will guide them in matters of values and ethics.  By respecting the Code, employees will be respecting the public sector documents that it was based upon. 

The Code applies to all public servants at the Department. Acceptance of the values and adherence to the expected behaviours contained within the Code is a condition of employment for every public servant, regardless of their level or position. A breach of these values or behaviours may result in disciplinary measures being taken, up to and including termination of employment.

In addition to the requirements set out in the Code, public servants must comply with any applicable specific codes and standards of their profession.

The Code came into effect on February 26, 2013 and was administratively updated on April 24, 2020.

The Role of Public Servants

Public servantsFootnote 2 have a fundamental role to play in serving Canadians, their communities and the public interest under the direction of the elected government and in accordance with the law. As professionals whose work is essential to Canada's well-being and the enduring strength of the Canadian democracy, public servants uphold the public trust.

The Constitution of Canada and the principles of responsible government provide the foundation for the role, responsibilities and values of the federal public sector.Footnote 3 Constitutional conventions of ministerial responsibility prescribe the appropriate relationships among ministers, parliamentarians, public servants and the public. A professional and non-partisan federal public sector is integral to our democracy.

The Role of Ministers

Ministers are also responsible for preserving public trust and confidence in the integrity of public sector organizations and for upholding the tradition and practice of a professional non-partisan federal public sector. Furthermore, ministers play a critical role in supporting public servants' responsibility to provide professional and frank advice.Footnote 4

Statement of Values and Expected Behaviours

The following values guide public servants at the Department in everything they do. They cannot be considered in isolation from each other as they will often overlap. The Code is an important source of guidance for public servants. Its values will guide us in our decisions, actions, policies, processes and systems. Similarly, public servants can expect to be treated in accordance with these values:

  1. Respect for Democracy
  2. Respect for People
  3. Integrity
  4. Stewardship
  5. Excellence

The Code also describes clearly, though not exhaustively, specific behaviours that allow public servants to respect these five values.

1. Respect for Democracy

The system of Canadian parliamentary democracy and its institutions are fundamental to serving the public interest. Public servants recognize that elected officials are accountable to Parliament, and ultimately to the Canadian people, and that a non-partisan public sector is essential to our democratic system.

Expected Behaviours

Public servants shall uphold the Canadian parliamentary democracy and its institutions by:

At the Department, we support democracy by helping to ensure that Canada's justice system is accessible, fair and efficient as possible, and that the public sector institutions we advise are acting in compliance with the law and the Constitution.

2. Respect for People

Treating all people with respect, dignity and fairness is fundamental to our relationship with the Canadian public and contributes to a safe and healthy work environment that promotes engagement, openness and transparency. The diversity of our people and the ideas they generate are the source of our innovation.

Expected Behaviours

Public servants shall respect human dignity and the value of every person by:

At the Department, we recognize that our greatest asset is employees who are determined to work in an atmosphere of confidence, cooperation and mutual respect. We also recognize that each person we deal with deserves to be treated in that same spirit.

3. Integrity

Integrity is the cornerstone of good governance and democracy. By upholding the highest ethical standards, public servants conserve and enhance public confidence in the honesty, fairness and impartiality of the federal public sector.

Expected Behaviours

Public servants shall serve the public interest by:

At the Department, we are committed to respecting the law and maintaining the strictest rules of integrity and fairness.

4. Stewardship

Federal public servants are entrusted to use and care for public resources responsibly, for both the short term and long term.

Expected Behaviours

Public servants shall use resources responsibly by:

At the Department, we recognize that the responsible use of resources is a duty of every public servant, and we are committed to ensuring that this is reflected in our daily activities.

5. Excellence

Excellence in the design and delivery of public sector policy, programs and services is beneficial to every aspect of Canadian public life. Engagement, collaboration, effective teamwork and professional development are all essential to a high-performing organization.

Expected Behaviours

Public servants shall demonstrate professional excellence by:

At the Department, we strive to create a workplace where public servants at all levels work toward common goals, and are committed in particular to providing high-quality legal services.

Avenues for Resolution

The expected behaviours identified above are not intended to respond to every possible ethical issue that might arise in the course of a public servant’s daily work.  When ethical issues arise, public servants are encouraged to discuss and resolve these matters with their manager.  They can also seek advice and support from other appropriate sources within the Department, including the Human Resources Division and the office responsible for values and ethics, or their union representative.

Public servants at all levels are expected to resolve issues in a fair and respectful manner and consider informal processes such as dialogue or mediation.

As provided by sections 12 and 13 of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA), if public servants have information that could indicate a serious breach of the Code, they can bring the matter, in confidence and without fear of reprisal, to the attention of their immediate supervisor, the senior officer for disclosure or the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.

The senior officer for disclosure is responsible for supporting the Deputy Minister in meeting the requirements of the PSDPA. He or she helps promote a positive environment for disclosing wrongdoing, and deals with disclosures of wrongdoing made by employees of the organization. Further information on the duties and powers of the senior officer for disclosure can be found under Annex A.

Members of the public who have reason to believe that a public servant has not acted in accordance with the Code can bring the matter to the senior officer for disclosure or to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner to disclose a serious breach of this Code.

Reference Documents

The following is a list of laws, policies and guides that further elaborate on the expected behaviours described in this Code. This list includes the most pertinent resources and reference materials available, but does not necessarily include all available documents. Employees are encouraged to access other research material, and to seek the advice of their manager when questions or a need for clarification arise.


Policies, Publications of Central Agencies

Department of Justice Policies and Guidelines

N.B. Please note that public servants are also required to observe any specific conduct requirements contained in the statutes governing the Department and their profession, where applicable.