The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Its Regulated Parties, Stakeholders and Partners: An Ethical Relationship

A message from the Agency

The vision and mission of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) set out our contribution to safeguarding the food that Canadians consume. They also set out our role in the safety and sustainability of the plant and animal resource base that is the source of our food. All of this contributes to the health and well-being of Canada's people, environment and economy.

The CFIA is the Government of Canada's largest science-based regulatory agency. It has more than 6000 employees across the country, including scientists, veterinarians, administrative professionals, technical personnel, operational specialists, and many others.

It benefits the CFIA and its regulated parties, stakeholders and partners when we work together co-operatively. Understanding the CFIA's ethical framework, within which CFIA officials must operate, will help you and your employees when working with CFIA staff.

The following information will provide you with an explanation of the values under which all of our employees are expected and obligated to operate; the main tenets of our Code of Conduct and our Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code; and an explanation of what this means to you - our regulated parties, stakeholders and partners.

We think that by clearly communicating what behaviour is, and is not, acceptable for our employees and for those with whom the CFIA does business, our relationships will be enhanced.

This will contribute to increased productivity for our respective organizations. It will also contribute to increased transparency, thus helping us to earn and maintain the trust of Canadians.

CFIA Statement of Values

The CFIA has developed the following set of values to support decision making in our role as a science-based regulator.

"As employees of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency:

  • We value scientific rigour and professional and technical competence. These play a crucial role in our decision making. We do not manipulate science to achieve a desired outcome, but acknowledge that other factors must be taken into account in this decision making.
  • The reputation and credibility of the Agency are vital to our ability to deliver our mandate. As such, we behave, internally and externally, in a way that trust is preserved.
  • We are proud of the contributions we make to the quality of life of Canadians. We value dedication and responsiveness from all employees day to day and particularly during an emergency.
  • We value competent, qualified and motivated personnel, whose efforts drive the results of the Agency.
  • To develop effective policies and strategies, we value the perspectives of the stakeholders who are affected by our decisions.
  • We maintain our regulatory independence from all external stakeholders. We have the courage to make difficult and potentially unpopular decisions and recommendations, free from personal bias.
  • We are committed to our physical and psychological well-being."

This set of values helps scientific employees determine what should and should not be done as they fulfill their daily responsibilities. We expect that you and your employees will respect these values in business decisions or interactions that directly affect the CFIA.

Code of Conduct

Physical and psychological well-being

We are committed to the physical and psychological well-being of all our employees.

We pledge to conduct ourselves professionally and appropriately while on your premises, treating your staff with courtesy and respect. At the same time, when on your premises, CFIA employees are equally entitled to be treated with respect by your managers and staff.

CFIA employees are expected to follow your established safety procedures and comply with all instructions concerning health and safety for the workplace, in accordance with the Canada Labour Code, Part II. You are required to take all reasonable and necessary precautions to ensure the safety and health of CFIA employees and any people granted access to your workplace.

Conflict of interest

Maintaining the trust of Canadians is vital to our ability to fulfill our mandate. Therefore, it is critically important that CFIA employees avoid all conflicts of interest - even if the conflict is perceived rather than actual. The CFIA defines a conflict of interest as:

Any situation in which personal assets, interests or activities affect in any way, or have the potential to appear to affect, the honest, impartial performance of an employee's duties or their judgement to act in the public interest. It is important to note that an employee's duties do not have to be directly affected by personal interests to create a conflict of interest. It is sufficient that there is an appearance to others that they may be affected. Such a potential or apparent conflict of interest serves to undermine the credibility of the Agency's actions and reputation.

Disclosure of Access to and Safeguarding of Sensitive Information

Protecting the privacy rights of clients is central to the integrity of the CFIA and to the functioning of all operations that require the gathering of personal information. You must keep in strictest confidence all information you obtain about the CFIA's clients and their affairs. This type of information may only be disclosed to the client or designated representative, except in cases authorized by legislation.

Guideline on Gifts for CFIA Employees

The CFIA has adopted a clear policy on actions that are permitted outside the workplace, and on accepting gifts, hospitality and other benefits.

  • CFIA employees are not permitted to accept any offers of gifts, hospitality and other benefits from organizations regulated by the CFIA or from contractors and others from whom the CFIA procures goods and services.
  • From all others the acceptance of gifts, hospitality and other benefits is permissible if all the following criteria are met, that is: if the gift, hospitality or other benefit:
    • does not have a real, potential or apparent influence on the employee's objectivity in carrying out his or her official duties;
    • is unlikely to create an obligation to the donor;
    • is infrequent;
    • is of nominal value to a maximum of $25.00 (low-cost promotional objects, simple meals, souvenirs with no cash value);
    • is within the normal standards of courtesy, hospitality or protocol; and
    • does not compromise or appear to compromise in any way the integrity of the CFIA employee or the CFIA.
  • In all other cases, gifts, hospitality and other benefits must be disclosed by CFIA employees to the CFIA within 15 days of receipt. Employees will not be permitted to keep the gift if it is deemed inappropriate by the Conflict of Interest Secretariat.

Therefore, regulated parties should not:

  • offer CFIA employees any holiday gifts, souvenirs, clothing, or other things of value, or
  • invite them for paid meals, parties, sporting events, and similar social functions.

Ethical decision making and relationships: a joint commitment

It is important to the CFIA that its officials make decisions that are ethically sound, because this assists the CFIA to maintain and enhance the trust that the public has in us. Regulated parties, stakeholders and partners should be aware of the context within which CFIA officials operate and the ethical obligations that govern their actions.

Such awareness on your part will help you to understand the positions taken by officials that reflect their ethical obligations, such as the requirement that CFIA officials refuse offers of hospitality, gifts or other benefits from our regulated parties.

Additional information and queries

We believe that knowledge of the values and ethics of the CFIA is helpful in building effective working relationships between the CFIA and regulated parties, stakeholders and partners.

If you have any questions, please discuss them with the CFIA supervisor responsible for your premise.

You may also contact the Values, Integrity and Conflict Resolution Directorate of the CFIA by email at


We would specifically like to acknowledge the work of the Australian Department of Defence and the Canadian Department of National Defence (Canadian Forces) for their materials on ethical relationships; our work has benefited considerably from theirs.

We would also like to acknowledge the support of the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada in creating this document.

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