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Fraser v Canada (Public Service Staff Relations Board), [1985] 2 SCR 455

Facts:

Fraser was a civil servant that criticized government policies (the Charter and metric conversion program). His job and the policies of his department didn’t bear on these criticized polices. He was fired.

Issue(s):

What is the scope of a civil servants right to criticize the government?

Did the adjudicator err in law in finding that Fraser’s criticisms were related to his job?

Ratio:

Public servants must not engage in sustained and highly visible attacks on major government policies.

Public servants have a duty of loyalty to their employer, except if the government is engaged in illegal acts or if its policies jeopardize the life, health or safety of the public servant or others.

Analysis:

The public service employment has two dimensions:
** 1. Employee’s tasks and how he performs them
** 2. Perception of the job held by the public

Public servants have a duty of loyalty to their employer:
** This loyalty is to the government as a whole, not the political party at any given time.
** Exception: publicly expressing opposition to the government policies would be acceptable if the government was engaged in illegal acts or if its policies jeopardized the life, health or safety of the public servant or others. Fraser is not one of these cases

Justification for public service neutrality/loyalty:
** 1. The Public might cease to believe in the impartiality of the civil service
** 2. Ministers might not trust the permanent civil service; this would lead to nepotism and patronage.

Public servants must not engage in sustained and highly visible attacks on major government policies. Steps of analysis:
** 1. Is there a breach of the duty of loyalty?
** 2. Is it in a highly visible and sustained way?
** 3. Is it about a major government policy?
** 4. Does the exception apply?

Holding:

Decision in favour of PSSRB.


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