Code of Conduct and Ethics Policy

Type: Operational

Target audience: Employees, Volunteers

1.0 Rationale

The public is entitled to expect the highest standards of conduct from the appointees and staff of the Ontario Trillium Foundation. This policy outlines the standards that will ensure that OTF activities are conducted in an open, fair, and transparent manner. 

As public servants, OTF staff and appointees, which includes Board and GRT members, are expected to promote and abide by the mission, vision, values, and policies of the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

2.0 Purpose

This policy establishes behavioural and ethical standards for OTF appointees and staff (including contract personnel, interns, students and consultants) on behalf of the Foundation. 

 The private conduct of each staff member and appointee is a personal matter except when such conduct compromises the reputation, image, or integrity of OTF.

3.0 Policy

OTF appointees and staff are required to conduct themselves in all matters involving their association with OTF in a manner that is fully consistent with the public interest and that will bear the closest public scrutiny without risk of censure. 

Their actions and relations with grantees, other stakeholders, colleagues, and each other will be driven by the OTF’s vision, values, and  operating principles. 

To that end, OTF appointees and staff will:

  1. Acquaint themselves with and abide by the OTF’s mission, values, vision, operating principles, and policies
  2. Refrain from condoning, participating in, or engaging in dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation​
  3. Comply with all applicable legal regulations, legal statutes, and with standards of equity and justice, and strive to meet and exceed the requirements of the position
  4. Always act in good faith in their relationships with other people when they interact with at OTF, either internal or external
  5. Respect differences in people, including protected grounds as per the Ontario Human Rights Code as amended from time to time. These include: age; ancestry, colour, race; citizenship; ethnic origin; place of origin; creed; disability; family status; marital status (including single status); gender identity; gender expression; receipt of public assistance; record of offences; sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding); sexual orientation
  6. Refrain from the use of profanity, verbal abuse, micro-aggression, or violence
  7. Safeguard the arm’s-length nature of the OTF’s relationship with government related to independent, non-partisan grantmaking and ensure that it is not subject to inappropriate influence by government staff or elected officials
  8. Maintain complete confidentiality regarding OTF affairs and decisions, during and after their tenure with OTF; refrain from relaying information they may have had access to as a public servant that is not available to the public, including but not limited to information about colleagues, grantees, or other organizations
  9. Respect and abide by Board decisions
  10. Follow the appropriate process when at variance with OTF policies, procedures, practices or performance and refrain from discussing these issues outside the Foundation. Dissent with respect to Board or Grant Review Team recommendations should be tabled in an open manner at the appropriate forum; however, Board members, appointees, and staff are expected to respect and abide by Board and GRT decisions once made
  11. Follow approved communications protocols and policies in regard to public comments, including media contact and the use of social media
  12. Refrain from engaging in public criticism that would jeopardize the reputation of OTF and its employees or appointees, including in person or through traditional or social media, both during and after their tenure with OTF
  13. Not be in possession of, or under the influence of, illegal drugs in the workplace or while performing their job responsibilities
  14. Not attend work under the influence of alcohol, cannabis or other drugs that may affect their ability to perform their job responsibilities and not possess these substances in the workplace or while performing their job responsibilities
  15. Advise their manager or Human Resources if they must, for medical reasons, take drugs that impair their abilities. OTF accommodates in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code
  16. Comply with:
  • OTF’s policies regarding Respect and Safety in the Workplace--Harassment Policy and Respect and Safety in the Workplace--Violence Policy
  • OTF’s Anti-Discrimination Policy and the Ontario Human Rights Code
  • OTF prohibits actions that discriminate against people based on the prohibited grounds in the Ontario Human Rights Code. Discrimination will not be tolerated, condoned, or ignored at the Foundation. Such behaviour includes written or spoken comments as well as overt actions.
  • OTF does not condone workplace behaviours that are disrespectful to others, such as including forms of micro-aggression, which can adversely affect Black, Indigenous, and racialized employees. 
  • OTF's Conflict of Interest Policy
  • Current and former employees and appointees of OTF must notify their Ethics Executive if they have a conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest. Prohibited activities for staff and appointees include, but are not limited to, using their position to directly or indirectly benefit themselves, their spouse, or their children, accepting gifts, giving preferential treatment or creating the appearance of giving any preferential treatment, and making personal use of OTF resources including its premises, equipment or supplies. 
  • OTF's Privacy Policy
  • Staff and appointees will store, handle, and transfer all records, in all formats, in a way that complies with the Privacy Policy to attend to the needs of OTF and its stakeholders for privacy and security.
  • The Public Service of Ontario Act (PSOA)  Parts I, IV, V and VI and its regulations, including but not limited to the provisions in the PSOA related to:
  • Disclosure of Wrongdoing
  • Political Activities 
  • Conflict of Interest for former public servants of public bodies

(Summaries of these provisions are attached as Appendices.)

4.0 Responsibility for Compliance

  1. OTF’s Ethics Executives are the Chair, for Board and GRT members, and the CEO, for employees. 
  2. It is the responsibility of
  • The Chair of the Board to ensure that appointees understand and comply with this policy
  • The CEO to ensure that staff understand and comply with this policy

Any breach of this policy will be considered a serious matter and dealt with immediately. If it is believed that an individual has not been in compliance with this policy, an investigation will be conducted under the auspices of the Chair of the Board, the Governance Committee, or the CEO, based on the circumstances. If the investigation finds a breach has occurred, disciplinary measures, including suspension or dismissal, will be taken.​

4.1 Appendix A: Summary of Disclosure of Wrongdoing Requirements under the Public Services of Ontario Act (PSOA)

For the purposes of the PSOA, OTF is considered to be a “public body”, and OTF employees and appointees are considered to be public servants, and subject to all relevant sections of the Act regarding the disclosure of wrongdoing. These relevant sections are summarized below.

Public servants have the right to disclose wrongdoing and be protected from reprisal.

The PSOA defines “wrongdoing” by a public servant as:

  • Contravening an act or regulation
  • Creating a grave danger to life, health, safety, or the environment by an action or failure to act that is unreasonable in the circumstances
  • Gross mismanagement
  • Directing or counseling someone to commit one of the above

How is a Public Servant Protected from Reprisal? 

A public servant who makes a disclosure is protected from reprisals such as:

  • Being fired or threatened with termination
  • Discipline, threat of discipline or penalty
  • Coercion or intimidation

Following a disclosure of wrongdoing, if it is found that a reprisal has occurred, the person responsible may face disciplinary action. They may also be charged with an offence and, if found guilty, may be subject to a fine of up to $5,000.

What is the Process for Disclosing Wrongdoing?

A public servant who wishes to disclose a wrongdoing has two options:

  • Report the information internally to his or her Ethics Executive (preferred option); or
  • Report the information directly to the Integrity Commissioner[1] if he or she feels that internal disclosure would not be appropriate.

Internal disclosure is encouraged to allow the organization to correct any wrongdoing as soon as possible.

The Ethics Executive is responsible for conducting an investigation and reporting findings back to the public servant. If the public servant is not satisfied with the action taken by the ethics executive, he or she can take the matter to the Integrity Commissioner. If an allegation of wrongdoing is made to and accepted by the Integrity Commissioner, s/he will refer the matter to the Ethics Executive that s/he believes is in the best position to investigate it.

[1] The Integrity Commissioner is an officer of the Legislative Assembly
For more information please see: Disclosure of Wrongdoing for Public Servants Guide and Former Public Servants (Ministry and Public Body) Guide

4.2 Appendix B: Summary of Political Activity Guidelines under the Public Service of Ontario Act (PSOA)

For the purposes of the PSOA, OTF is considered to be a public body, and OTF employees and appointees are considered to be public servants, subject to all relevant sections of the Act concerning political activity (see definition below). These relevant sections are summarized below.

Political Activity

Public servants are considered to be participating in political activity when they:

  • Do anything in support of or in opposition to a federal or provincial political party, or a candidate in a federal, provincial, or municipal election
  • Are or seek to become a candidate in a federal, provincial, or municipal election
  • Make unauthorized public comments outside the scope of their duties about matters that are directly related to their duties and that are dealt with in the position or policy of a party or candidate

Rights and Requirements

Public servants are entitled to participate in political activity (with some restrictions) or can refuse to participate. No public servant may:

  • Engage in political activity in the workplace
  • Use government resources for political activity
  • Associate his/her position as a public servant with political activity (except as necessary to identify his/her position and work experience if s/he is or is seeking to be a candidate in a federal, provincial or municipal election)

Public servants wishing to engage in the following activities must have been granted an unpaid leave of absence:

  • Be or seek to be a candidate in a federal or provincial election during an election period
  • Raise funds on behalf of a party or a federal, provincial or municipal candidate (if they supervise staff or are seen to have power over the public)
  • Comment publicly on matters of political interest that are directly related to their duties
  • Engage in political activity which could interfere with the performance of their job or which conflicts with the interests of the public body

During an election period, any requests for a leave of absence must be granted; outside an election period, the Ethics Executive decides whether a leave of absence is necessary.

Public servants are responsible for notifying their Ethics Executive if they wish to engage in activities requiring a leave of absence or need clarification about their political activity rights.

For more information please see: Office of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner Rules at a Glance

4.3 Appendix C: Summary of Obligations of Former Public Servants under the Public Service of Ontario Act (PSOA)

Summary of Obligations of Former Public Servants under the Public Service of Ontario Act

Employees and appointees of the Ontario Trillium Foundation are public servants for the purposes of Parts I, IV, V and VI of the Public Service of Ontario Act.

The Act and its regulations impose legal obligations on public servants and former public servants to avoid conflict of interests.

The obligations on former public servants include the following:

You must not seek preferential treatment or privileged access to any public servant by virtue of your former position with Ontario Trillium Foundation. This means that you cannot call your former colleagues for favours or assistance. You can only use the same channels available to any other citizen. This obligation is not time limited.

You must not disclose or use any confidential information that you acquired through your employment with Ontario Trillium Foundation, unless authorized by law or the Crown. Confidential information means information that is not available to the public. If disclosed, confidential information could result in harm to Ontario Trillium Foundation or the Crown, or could give the person to whom it is disclosed an advantage. This restriction is not time limited.

You must not advise or otherwise assist anyone in connection with any particular transaction, negotiation or matter about which you advised Ontario Trillium Foundation. This is sometimes referred to as the rule against “switching sides”. You cannot represent potential applicants or grantees, nor advise or assist them with any matter about which you previously advised Ontario Trillium Foundation. This restriction lasts as long as the Crown’s interest in the matter.

For more information please see:  COI Commissioner's Information Sheet Post Service Conflict of Interest Rules