Customs StopOn August 16, 2016, the Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) posted its revised Code of Conduct, to which all CBSA officers must adhere. The three “values” pillars of the CBSA Code of Conduct are (1) Respect, (2) Integrity and (3) Professionalism.


The CBSA makes the following statements in the Code of Conduct regarding “Respect”:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • We serve the public interest through non-partisan support of our Minister.
  • We show the utmost appreciation for the dignity, diversity and worth of all people and uphold the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • We develop and sustain mutual trust with our colleagues.
  • We uphold the Canadian parliamentary democracy and its institutions by:
    • aligning our efforts, energy and expertise with the Government of Canada and CBSA‘s priorities;
    • enacting the lawful decisions of leaders and carrying out duties in accordance with the Agency’s policies and directives; and
    • providing impartial, objective and factual information, advice and support in a timely manner to further Agency objectives.
  • We respect human dignity and the value of every person by:
    • providing conscientious and equitable service to all colleagues, clients, partners and stakeholders regardless of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, political belief, religion, family status, physical or mental ability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age or economic and social status;
    • recognizing the talents and contributions of members of our diverse workforce;
    • delivering on our commitments;
    • listening to others, seeking to understand their position and behaving in a just, courteous and reasonable manner; and
    • maintaining collaborative working relationships through honest and positive communications free from harassment and discrimination.


The CBSA makes the following statements in the Code of Conduct regarding “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.
  • We exercise our authority in an honest, open and fair manner.
  • We accept responsibility for our actions in order to build and maintain a reputation of trustworthiness and accountability.
  • We serve the public interest by:
    • making decisions and behaving in ways that maintain public confidence and preserve CBSA‘s reputation in light of its high visibility;
    • refraining from using our official roles, the Agency’s property or assets, and non-publicly accessible information to gain personal advantage or to advantage or disadvantage others;
    • ensuring that our off-duty and private activities and our private financial affairs do not conflict with our official duties; and
    • refraining from making derogatory comments regarding the Agency, its employees (including its managers) or the Government of Canada, especially in public spaces.


The CBSA makes the following statements in the Code of Conduct regarding “Professionalism”:

  • Stewardship: Federal public servants are entrusted to use and care for public resources responsibly, for both the short term and long term.
  • 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.
  • We employ public resources wisely and properly.
  • We provide efficient, competent and excellent service.
  • We set high standards of achievement and accountability both individually and collectively.
  • We use resources responsibly by:
    • ensuring the use of CBSA’s resources is efficient, effective, approved and accounted for;
    • avoiding waste and misuse of the Agency’s money, property and resources; and
    • safeguarding confidential information, sharing knowledge only as appropriate, and making every effort to prevent security risks.
  • We demonstrate professional excellence by:
    • providing quality service that respects Canada’s official languages in accordance with Our Service Commitment;
    • adapting to changing needs and being innovative to improve our programs and services;
    • being reliable and committed to working collaboratively with our colleagues; and
    • addressing inappropriate behaviour with our colleagues where possible, and reporting serious misconduct to management, in order to build and maintain trust and accountability.

The Code of Conduct also contains sections on “Accountability and Professional Conduct”, “Leadership”, “Expected Standards of Conduct”, “Public Comments and Criticisms”, “Electronic Network Access and Uses”, “Care and Use of Government Property and Assets, “Confidentiality and Disclosure of Information”, “Harassment and Discrimination”, “Contact with the Public”, “Contact With the People We Work With”, “Neglect of Duty”, “Safety and Security”, “Use of Personal Electronic Devices at Work” and other areas.

I am reminded of a famous quote by Louis Brandeis – “If the government becomes the law-breaker, it breeds contempt for the law.  It invites every man to become a law unto himself”.  The CBSA Code of Conduct is important because Canada’s front line cannot be law-breakers and cannot be perceived to be law-breakers.  It is important to hold the CBSA officers to account – which means they must follow the Code of Conduct.  If they do not, it brings their enforcement actions and discretionary decision-making into question.

For more information about what to do if a CBSA officer breaches the Code of Conduct, please contact Cyndee Todgham Cherniak at 416-307-4168 or email  For more information, please go to the LexSage web-site.