Employment Law

Federal government’s new chief technology officer to work remotely

A photo of a person working at a desk covered in multiple items. (Photo: charlesdeluvio / Unsplash)

The federal government of Canada is set to welcome a new chief technology officer (CTO), Luc Gagnon, effective July 8. Gagnon, currently an assistant deputy minister and chief digital transformation officer at Health Canada, will be working remotely from Montreal while maintaining an in-office presence in Ottawa as needed.

New appointment

Luc Gagnon brings over 30 years of experience in large technology corporations and startups, both in Canada and abroad. Gagnon has held previous CTO positions in both government and the private sector, including serving as Shared Services Canada’s first chief technology officer in 2019.

Predecessor’s situation

Gagnon succeeds Minh Doan, the former vice-president of the Canada Border Services Agency, who has been on extended leave. Doan was linked to the ArriveCan app scandal, with an internal complaint alleging that he altered data files, resulting in the destruction of emails and documents potentially related to GC Strategies, the contractor behind the app.

Federal government’s policy on remote work

The timing of Gagnon’s remote work arrangement is notable, given the federal government’s updated remote work policy. In May, the government mandated that public servants must spend three days a week in the office by mid-September, with executives expected to be on-site at least four days per week. This policy aims to ensure greater consistency and fairness across the public service, eliminating group exceptions, including for call-centre and information-technology employees.

However, the transition to this policy will take time, with full implementation expected by 2025. The government allows for certain exemptions and remote hiring if necessary, recognizing the critical roles of some positions.

Reaction from union

Nathan Prier, president of the Canadian Association of Professional Employees, criticized the government’s apparent double standard. He highlighted the frustration among union members who have struggled to obtain remote work accommodations for caregiving or disabilities, only to see exceptions made for executives. Prier emphasized that remote work rights represent the future, arguing that these rights should not be reserved for management alone.

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Can the federal government force staff to return to the office?

If you were allowed to work remotely as a temporary measure during the COVID-19 pandemic, but your employment contract requires you to work in the office, the government can instruct you to resume in-office work.

This applies to non-unionized employees working full-time, part-time, or hourly in Ontario, Alberta, and B.C.

Employers in Canada generally have a right to determine where staff work — as long as it meets the standards required for a safe workplace.

However, the situation is different if the employment contract you signed doesn’t require you to work in the office – Read our blog on the federal return-to-office mandate to learn more.

Lost your job? Speak with an employment lawyer

If you were fired or let go for refusing to return to the office, or for any reason, contact the experienced employment law team at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP.

Our lawyers in Ontario, Alberta, and B.C. have helped tens of thousands of non-unionized individuals resolve their workplace issues.

We can review your situation, enforce your workplace rights, and ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.

Advice You Need. Compensation You Deserve.

Consult with Samfiru Tumarkin LLP. We are one of Canada's most experienced and trusted employment, labour and disability law firms. Take advantage of our years of experience and success in the courtroom and at the negotiating table.

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