Hail Ethics, Forgot Wikipedia

Federal court managers in an ethics audit credit themselves with upholding “high standards” but omitted all reference to staff editing plaintiffs’ Wikipedia pages. André Bolduc, chief auditor at the Courts Administration Service, yesterday did not comment.

“The audit identified strong values and ethics practices,” wrote Bolduc. His Audit Of Values And Ethics concluded “employees must uphold high standards of values and ethics in their interactions with members of the public.”

The audit covered the period from 2014 to 2018. Blacklock’s in 2016 discovered an unidentified person at the Federal Court in Ottawa used a courthouse computer to edit its Wikipedia page. Blacklock’s then and now is a plaintiff in copyright actions against the Government of Canada.

The Courts Administration Service is exempt from the Access To Information Act and would not release details of the Wikipedia editing. “Disciplinary measures were taken against the employee,” Daniel Gosselin, then $267,700-a year chief courts administrator, said at the time.

Gosselin refused to name the employee who freelanced as a Wikipedia editor. “The measure taken took into consideration the employee’s wrongdoing,” wrote Gosselin.

Then-Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould in a letter to Blacklock’s said Court staff must operate “at arm’s length from the government,” and declined comment on the incident. Access To Information memos indicated Department of Justice staff were puzzled by the Wikipedia edits. “Who could have made the change?” wrote one staffer.

Court managers said their IP address was accessible by any of more than 620 employees and members of federal courts. Blacklock’s has never been able to confirm whether the Wikipedia editor was an employee or appointee directly involved in its litigation, now in its eighth year of case management.

Auditor Bolduc yesterday would not discuss the incident. “The audit found evidence the chief administrator, senior management and human resources places a high degree of emphasis on values and ethics and set a positive tone at the top,” wrote the auditor.

“An ethical framework ensures an organization’s corporate culture fosters ethical behaviour in its employees based on respect for democracy, respect for people, integrity, stewardship and excellence,” said the Audit Of Values. “It also contributes to maintaining public confidence and trust in the institutions of government.”

A Public Sector Values And Ethics Code mandates that all federal employees, including court clerks, “shall act at all times in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny, an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.” A 2017 Department of Justice memo Judicial Independence And The Courts stressed “courts must be independent.”

By Staff

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