The majority of governments and organizations value social justice as a way of upholding quality service delivery. The objective of this paper is to evaluate ethical and social justice values in the Canadian government to show that despite the progress made towards achieving equality and fairness, there are persisting loopholes in the implementation process.
This analysis will bring forth a critical review of the emerging and enduring ethical issues facing the Canadian government and responses to these challenges in ensuring sustainable human service delivery within all sectors. Since the societal context of human service delivery is constantly changing, all-time reforms in ethical issues are inevitable.
Canada’s journey to a desirable dispensation by the public service can be traced back in 2003 when the government committed to adopt the Values and Ethics Code to govern public service delivery. However, it is necessary to define some of the major terms used in this context. Ethics refers to standards of desirable conduct in professional human service delivery.
On the other side, values are defined as beliefs by an organization, which are set to control the choices that workers make to influence service delivery. Rules are a set of certain statements agreed upon to define what is either acceptable or prohibited by an organization (Carniol, 2010).
Organizations and the public have huge expectations about the personal conduct of every worker, and thus it is the mandate of every firm to set these regulations in a bid to provide a sustainable and acceptable workplace environment. Despite the endless efforts to reform the ethics and social justice issues in the Canadian government, issues of social injustices, inequality, abuse of human rights, and oppressive working conditions persist in the contemporary times.
The role of human service delivery
The Canadian public service constitutes one of the most fundamental national entities. The crucial organization of the Canadian legislatures, public officials, and the entire society has a special role in contributing to the continuity and democracy for all Canadians (Knowles & Kaebnick, 2007). The public administration of Canada is mandated with the role of ensuring peace, order, justice, and equity to ensure favorable governance.
The Constitution of Canada is a key document since it contains set of rules and regulations that ensure responsible delivery of services. The democratic agenda of the Canadian public service ensures efficient service to the public whilst preserving the welfare of the public servants.
The leaders are obligated to preserve public confidence and trust in the service delivery by ensuring that public workers’ concerns are given priority within every department. Values should be articulated in a proper way that guides the professional conduct of the workers from a magnified and democratic perspective (Cooper, 2006).
In the Canadian service delivery, emphasis is geared towards ensuring that the means are as significant as the accomplishments. Due to the diverse interests and conflicting perspectives in the Canadian government, both the enduring and arising challenges to service delivery are critical.
Ethical problems in the Canadian government involve circumstances of confusions or collisions between certain values and uncertainties of amicable solutions to solve conflicts whilst upholding the public trust. Ethical challenges arise when individuals face challenges in identifying what is the right action to take at personal, organizational, or societal level.
Individuals might fear to pursue the right course if the ends are manipulated to favor certain dimensions. This aspect leads to ethical dilemmas due to equal compelling forces towards one’s course of action. When values and social justices are compromised in this criterion, committed public workers’ integrity as moral officers is altered, thus leading to ethical distress.
In cases where professional public workers exhibit moral courage by standing firm on statements of moral principle despite the threats from conservative quarters, ethical challenges ought to emerge within that organization or government (Cooper, 2006). Apparently, the Canadian government can be credited for the pragmatic evolution and great reforms of its ethical values and beliefs, but the need to address some of the enduring and emerging issues is critical.
These challenges include political patronage, maintaining privacy and confidentiality, enhancing justice, preserving dignity and integrity, taking responsibility, gender violence, unequal working terms and conditions, and abuse of basic human rights (Carniol, 2010).
Although political neutrality is a critical and ever-emphasized value of the Canadian Constitution, political neutrality is an underlying factor in influencing public service formation. Political patronage entails the appointment of favored individuals to service delivery positions based on their loyalty and participation in certain political parties rather than their skills and qualifications (Patti, 2009).
In addition, it underscores the need by political leaders to award loyalty or pursue their personal interests to the public through desired public officers. Successive Canadian governments have simply experienced an improvement in service delivery as opposed to a complete overhaul to alleviate the problem.
Political favors and partisanship continue to permeate the majority of public departments in the Canadian government through tendering down to service delivery positions. Moreover, the devoted officials usually find their efforts unappreciated or even their working conditions end up being intentionally complicated by opposing political sycophants, thus hindering the optimistic vision of the Canadian government.
Endeavors that public servants should focus to address the issues of social inequalities and liberation of government workers is however manipulated to the interests of specific political leaders. The vision and mission of most government departments to promote ethical relationships amongst workers, clients, responsibilities, and decision-making becomes an agenda of a few influential politicians (Lusk & Birks, 2014).
The Canadian government has undoubtedly made basic steps towards promoting justice to public servants and the public. However, some social injustices continue to anchor in the system and despite their perceived magnitude, they cannot be overlooked at the peril of upholding human rights, fairness, and equity.
When providing job opportunities, the Canadian government has shown discrimination on the grounds of individuals’ political affiliation gender, culture, sexuality, religious beliefs, race, or physical disability amongst other aspects (Ervin & Bell, 2004). As much as the government has tried to incorporate all these differences in providing an integrated service delivery system, it has shown a relaxed stand to tolerate these diverse attributes.
However, the feeling of superiority versus inferiority complex remains inevitable, thus compromising the standards of service delivery in the country. The seemingly might individuals control the platform with the best working conditions and decision-making power.
Women in the public departments are compelled to occupy the lower cadre and they are inclined to take responsibilities of the faults of their leaders who in most cases are men. The leaders and their influential personalities fail to account for their deeds, and thus they transfer the claims to the marginalized workers who take responsibility at peril of losing their jobs.
In addition, reproductive oppression continues to be used to enhance male dominance in government positions by passing regulations against abortion. Reproductive oppression involves the control and manipulation of women/girls through their bodies particularly pregnancy in order to deter them from employment. Reproductive oppression activists need to speed their campaigns in a bid to alleviate barriers to social justice for all genders.
This aspect puts the dignity and integrity of the Canadian public administration in question. The superiors do not support a climate of trust that underlines openness; on the contrary, it discourages the altering of the status quo coupled with victimizing whistleblowers that seek to address public grievances in good faith.
Most public workers in the Canadian government work within the provided ethical attributes, and thus they learn to correlate with other workers and clients well, but bad influence is most likely to emanate from the political arena. During the political campaigns, provincial candidates and other electorate leaders seek the attention of workers through trade unions and social movements (Lusk & Birks, 2014).
In many cases, elected leaders pay back loyalty through the allocation of public jobs and tenders coupled with pursuing their public interests through such workers. The government’s agenda for change in societal structures to ensure justice and greater equity for all continues to falter.
Ethical philosophical theories
In the Canadian government case, “social justice can be viewed to entail the equitable distribution of opportunities or public privileges within the Canadian society” (Johnson, 2006, p. 82). The major philosophical theories in ethics include the normative ethical theory and the Meta ethics. Normative ethics describes what is acceptable or prohibited by a certain society (Patti, 2009).
This description builds capacity within public servants to know what is expected of them and avoid what is bad. Normative ethics also defines what influences individuals’ characters to act as expected by the public. For instance, utilitarianism is one of the normative ethical theories that highlight the concepts of a person’s right or bad act on the consequences of one’s course of action.
Utilitarianism involves going beyond an individual’s interest and prioritizing the needs of the public in service delivery. However, the Canadian government insists on public service delivery, but it does not consider the ethical challenges and injustices that encounter public servants every day. The working conditions and payments are highly skewed with the gap between low earners and high earners widening (O’Leary, 2006).
The lowly paid workers are expected to be exceptionally productive, thus forcing them to work for long hours. On the other hand, Meta ethics is a theoretical philosophy that creates the understanding of the nature of ethical issues, attitudes, and judgments (Patti, 2009). While normative ethics defines what is acceptable and what is prohibited, meta-ethics is concerned with issues such as determining what is good from what is undesirable.
In the Canadian government, the process of determining what is desirable for the public service is in most cases inclusive and fair to all workers. The Values and Code of Conduct for public service seeks to level all indifferences in gender, race, age, or spiritual beliefs. However, the system remains vulnerable to political manipulation. Influential leaders determine public appointments of preferred workers regardless of their qualifications. This act questions the nature and stability of ethical properties of the Canadian government.
The government’s strategy to ensure responsible conducts
In an attempt to curb social justice inequalities and violation of ethical values among other irresponsible acts by the public servants, the government of Canada adopted the Values and Ethics Code for the public service, which was effected on September 1, 2003 among other arising reforms (Carniol, 2010). The code captured all public servants with other organizations not covered being encouraged to cultivate their spirit and enforce the necessary measures for their organizations.
Public servants under these provisions are required to adhere to all stipulations touching their specific departments and profession in all cases. Upon confirmation of employment in any government agency, department, or organization, the incoming public servant should acknowledge that codes of conduct are applicable in the terms of engagement whatsoever the situation.
By doing this, the Canadian government ensures that the public servants are well acquainted with what is expected of them by the employer as well as the society. In particular, in case of any conflicting situation within the individuals’ interest and the public, the workers should ensure that the way forward prioritizes the good will of the public (Ervin & Bell, 2004). If the service delivery workers feels that they are being compelled to act against the ethics and values transcribed in the code, they should only bring forth such claims through the official reporting system.
In addition, the Canadian government has a provision to assist public servants to raise burning issues, discuss, and find solutions to issues of importance associated with this code of conduct. The heads of departments have the authority to rationalize the inclusion of compliance standards beyond those stated in the code particularly to capture any complicated issues that may arise.
In the case of permanent changes, the department has to exchange views with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat before passing any new terms. The work of the Treasury Board is to ensure that all sectors of service delivery within the Canadian government have adequate and updated information and capacity building materials associated with the ethics code for the public servants (Lusk & Birks, 2014). The Values and Ethics Code is set to be reviewed five years upon its effect.
The Canadian government is always aware of the occasional conflicts, which are due to occur during public service delivery. Deviating and preventing such scenarios is a key factor that instills public trust and confidence in public delivery, and thus the government is always keen to ensure compliance. In a bid to avoid such conflicts, the government has instituted a bureaucratic system to ensure that public workers can seek directives from their heads in cases of uncertainty.
Recommendations to counter the challenges
Without demeaning the role of the Canadian government in dealing with the issue of social injustice and ethical violation of public servants, it is important to acknowledge that a major role has been achieved. However, the few neglected areas have the potential to propel the most detrimental consequences to service delivery in Canada.
Such areas include lack of political will to take responsibility and upholding professional standards when dispensing public services (Johnson, 2006). Overall, responsibility to appointments, tendering, and all other public related endeavors should be free of political manipulation or loyalty payment.
The Canadian political organization can only work to people’s expectations if the citizens are granted the right to participate in democratic issues such as policymaking. If the Canadian citizens feel cheated or betrayed by their leaders through corruption among other unethical matters, they cultivate the sense of apathy, and thus some citizens refrain from voting and giving public opinions.
Strict government ethics becomes necessary in preventing public withdrawal from public participation. By ensuring that no one is above the law and holding all people accountable for their deeds, Canadians can cultivate trust in their leaders and the public service. Even though this aspect cannot end the scandals of unethical conducts, it gives the public the assurance that corrupt actions are punished appropriately coupled with motivating them to exercise democratic processes.
The government should avoid making employment decisions based on loyalty or whistleblowing as such decisions may involve appointments, terminations, or suspensions. The Canadian government should enhance the systems to ensure openness and fairness in cases where employees feel that there is inconsistency in retaliation for their goodwill and through actions that reveal the unethical endeavors by their superiors or other workers.
The Canadian government should ensure that it enforces similar ethical values and code of conducts for all employees regardless of their executive or subordinate roles. By approaching every issue with equality regardless of the enduring disparities, the Canadian government can win the confidence from the public thus encouraging democratic participation.
According to O’Leary (2006), guerrilla public servants exist in the Canadian government and they include the acts by public servants to carry out their duties against the wish of their superiors. In most cases, workers who are not contend with actions of the public organization or other individuals may choose not to blow the whistle or go public with their grievances.
Guerrilla acts happen silently and cautiously behind the scenes and against the status quo (O’Leary, 2006). Despite their silent moves, such workers contribute greatly to desired changes and sometimes they turn out as destroyers especially when they form boycotts to air their concerns. Guerrilla workers are concerned with the authority crisis between career bureaucrats and partisan appointees coupled with what it takes a public servant to manifest normative ethical behavior.
However, guerrilla workers have played a major role in ensuring credibility in the Canadian government, as they are willing to go into the perceived restricted zones and seek to move all system with them to claim liberation. In addition, through strikes and demonstrations, workers have a good platform under the law to air their grievances. Protests give the workers the opportunity to reveal unethical actions and the social injustices that face them.
This way, the government is compelled to act by calling for negotiations to reach amicable solutions to the matter (Knowles & Kaebnick, 2007). In a bid to alleviate these enduring and emerging problems, the Canadian government has to ensure transparency and public awareness to foster accountability when rules are broken without favor.
The government should let the public to know where, how, and when public offices are being misappropriated and the mechanisms used to punish such offenses. In a bid to promote transparency, the Canadian government should ensure that the oversight bodies that often analyze deeds of the public servants are independent of political or any form of manipulation.
The need to disclose financial assets is necessary for public servants and other information that may result in any predictable conflict of interest in the course of duty (Cooper, 2006). Since the Canadian decision makers might not be willing to be absolute in ensuring justice and equity to maintain control over the public, it becomes inevitable for the public workers to first win confidence and support of the public. They can now engage necessary measures through lobbying or strikes and their concerns can be addressed either partly or in full.
Barriers to implementing the recommendations
In many cases, governments want to control the public through intentional restrictions. The Canadian government in its fight for public freedom has achieved recommendable milestones in policymaking. However, the implementation has been slow and in parts.
This aspect is a tactic to ensure political survival by incumbent leaders. Legislators have been making reforms pertaining to the workers’ freedom and liberation, but they are always keen to make political appointments to assist them to permeate and alter public dispensations to favor their interests. The superiors in most government organizations are supposed to consult with their heads first before they can make any amendments to the Values and Ethics Code of Conduct by the public service.
This aspect gives the leaders the power to choose what is best for them regardless of how it might infiltrate the freedom of the public servants at lower cadres (Lusk & Birks, 2014). When public workers engage in strikes and demonstrations, the government focuses on the key personalities or whistleblowers to silent them with awards or bribes in a bid to call off the strikes.
This move has led to several immature strikes, which see most guerrilla workers expelled from work. In order to ensure that public workers do not join efforts against the common enemy successfully, viz. the decision makers, the government engages in divisive tactics that ensure that the work environment does not provide an arena to criticize the government jointly. Those who pledge loyalty to status quo are awarded promotions and huge salaries and immunity to suspension or expulsion from work.
On the state of apathy among the workers and the public, the decision makers intentionally make it hard for the workers to exercise freedom of expression. If workers engage in cold wars, they end up being the losers. When all efforts seem futile and in case the workers’ needs are met, they usually come with consequences. This scenario compels many public servants to develop a feeling of inferiority complex.
The result is disengagement in public democratic process, hence the state of apathy. Although workers still perform their duties to full capacity, they switch from the mood of caring and listening to giving nothing extra of what is required of them (Knowles & Kaebnick, 2007).
Expected outcomes upon the implementation of the recommendations
Publishing a code of ethics can only achieve less without substantial backing from the management, a genuine political will, and regular training. In Canada, the right to information about the decisions made by public officials is guaranteed for public scrutiny. However, this freedom is compromised to come in parts and the head of the department can claim the importance of confidentiality of certain information and the possibility of creating tension in the national security (Cooper, 2006).
If the aforementioned implementations are made, there is a great possibility that government officials will become more accountable and avoid cases of embezzling funds. When making official decisions, decision makers are bound to exercise fairness since citizens or workers are cushioned by procedural fairness. Citizens are granted the opportunity to hear the issue under contention before their fate is determined.
Social justice themes and their relationship with this topic
Justice entails granting workers or organizations the freedom from control or strenuous restrictions to pursue preferred goals without any form of discrimination. However, the freedom should encourage growth of both the organization and the individual. The Federal Accountability Act of 2006 intended to make the Canadian government and its structures highly accountable by ensuring transparency and equity in all operations (Carniol, 2010).
The Canadian government continues to engage efforts to alleviate social injustices amongst women, religions, and races. The Canadian values and ethics code describes equality as a fundamental aspect for the workers’ rights, from the high profile politicians to the low profile workers for the goodwill of service delivery to the public.
Ethical values and principles play a significant role in achieving the Canadian government’s objectives. The Values and Ethics Code of conduct protects social justice coupled with giving guidance to every public servant in the process of service delivery to the public.
In many instances, the Canadian government has shown significant progress in furthering accountability and transparency. However, political impartiality has been altered due to some political leaders who seek to advance personal interests at the peril of public good.
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