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Volunteer Code of Conduct


The Volunteer Code of Conduct was approved by the Royal College’s Council in June 2016 with input from Fellows, leadership volunteers and Royal College senior management. This code defines standards of conduct that are meant to supplement good judgement in common areas of the Royal College volunteer experience. The spirit of the code is supportive, not punitive. Questions or concerns regarding a potential breach can be directed to your committee coordinator or working-group staff lead as a first point of contact. Otherwise, questions around code clarification or interpretation can be directed to Lorna Squires, Program Manager, Volunteer Engagement Program.



  1. OBJECTIVE

    Volunteers are an integral component of the Royal College’s success. The Royal College benefits greatly from the time, expertise, wisdom and enthusiasm its volunteers bring to the fulfilment of the organization’s mandate. Through this Code, the Royal College aims to assist volunteers by setting clear expectations for behaviour and performance.

    The fundamental principle of this Code is personal responsibility for professional conduct, consistent with the standards of professionalism long espoused by the Royal College.

  2. APPLICABILITY

    Volunteers of the Royal College are asked to acknowledge that they have read, understand and agree to abide by this Code, including the process for resolving concerns and complaints.

    For greater certainty, this Code applies to:

    • members of Council, including all committees and working groups thereof;
    • members of all specialty committees;
    • members of all examination committees;
    • members of Canadian medical residency education survey teams;
    • members of management initiated task forces, working groups, advisory committees and the like, and
    • directors and committee members of a subsidiary.

    In abiding by this Code, Royal College volunteers demonstrate to the general Fellowship, the public and other stakeholders the ethical culture of the Royal College and its commitment to principled business behaviour.

    This Code is meant to complement and not replace existing and relevant Royal College policies. However, in the event of a conflict between the terms of this Code and any policy, please refer to this Code.

  3. STANDARDS OF CONDUCT

    The following standards of conduct are meant to supplement good judgement. The list of situations described is not exhaustive but representative of common circumstances that may arise where additional information may help clarify expectations or guide behaviour. If a volunteer has any questions about these standards, he or she is encouraged to contact the President, CEO or a staff director of the College for guidance.

    Confidentiality:Many Royal College volunteers fulfill multiple roles; thus, avoiding conflicts may not always be possible. This fact makes real or perceived conflicts of interest a reality of the Royal College’s working environment. As a result, the appropriate management of conflicts is a primary concern of the Royal College.

    To ensure the appropriate management of real or perceived conflicts, volunteers are asked to disclose any relationships, contracts, transactions or activities, whether existing or proposed, that would create, or appear to create, a conflict between their personal, professional or other private interests and their responsibilities to the Royal College. This request to disclose is reinforced with the invitation to accept a volunteer role and prior to each volunteer activity, such as at the beginning of every committee meeting.

    Conflict of interest: Many Royal College volunteers fulfill multiple roles; thus, avoiding conflicts may not always be possible. This fact makes real or perceived conflicts of interest a reality of the Royal College’s working environment. As a result, the appropriate management of conflicts is a primary concern of the Royal College.

    To ensure the appropriate management of real or perceived conflicts, volunteers are asked to disclose any relationships, contracts, transactions or activities, whether existing or proposed, that would create, or appear to create, a conflict between their personal, professional or other private interests and their responsibilities to the Royal College. This request to disclose is reinforced with the invitation to accept a volunteer role and prior to each volunteer activity, such as at the beginning of every committee meeting.

    Entertainment, gifts and benefits: Business conducted by the Royal College must be free from any interference or perception that favourable treatment was sought, received or given, whether in the form of gifts, favours, entertainment, services or other gratuities. The acceptance of gifts, hospitality and other benefits is permissible if they are infrequent and of minimal value, within the normal standards of courtesy or protocol, arise out of activities or events related to the official duties of the volunteer, and do not compromise or appear to compromise the integrity of the work concerned or the Royal College.

    Privacy: Volunteers must respect that files containing personal information can only be accessed on a need to know basis, can only be disclosed with consent of the individual, and can only be shared as authorized.

    Official and unofficial communications: Only authorized spokespeople may respond to media inquiries on behalf of the Royal College. Volunteers approached by the media about Royal College business are asked to redirect those requests to the CEO or the Director and/or Manager responsible for communications.

    Volunteers are encouraged to promote the Royal College. When communicating officially and unofficially on matters of direct interest to the Royal College or about the nature of their Royal College work (including through social media such as blogs, Twitter, and Facebook), volunteers must make every effort to protect the integrity and reputation of the Royal College. For additional guidance, volunteers should

    • Share information that is in the public domain and other information not designated as confidential to promote dialogue about Royal College initiatives.
    • Separate personal and other professional opinions from their Royal College volunteer role..
    • Be careful to not commit the Royal College to any action or initiative unless approved by the Royal College.
    • Respect colleagues and staff by avoiding derogatory comments.
  4. Respectful workplace: Volunteers have a role to play in helping to ensure the Royal College provides a healthy, safe, respectful and inclusive environment. Any threats or acts of violence, discrimination or harassment by or against volunteers are not tolerated at the Royal College.

    System access and acceptable useVolunteers may have access to various Royal College systems, such as internet services during committee meetings. Access to internet services while working for the Royal College should generally be limited to sites that are relevant to and support the volunteer’s functions and professional responsibilities. When accessing systems or resources, Volunteers should be mindful of copyright materials and if in doubt confer with a volunteer lead.

    Business records and fraud: The Royal College’s records are fundamental to its operations and help ensure legal and regulatory obligations are met. It is each volunteers responsibility to ensure the accuracy of all Royal College records under their care. While honest mistakes can occur, only intentional efforts to misrepresent or otherwise falsify Royal College records would be considered a breach of this Code.

    Fraudulent actions are against the law and threaten the Royal College’s resources and reputation (e.g., submitting false expense reports and invoices). The Royal College Volunteer Travel Policy and Reimbursement Guidelines identify eligible expenses and documentation requirements to receive reimbursement for travel expenses. Volunteers are asked to comply with the provisions of the policy and guidelines.

  5. REPORTING OF CONCERNS AND COMPLAINTS

    Volunteers who know of, or suspect, a breach of this Code are asked to report this information to a volunteer lead. All complaints or suspicions of misconduct will be reviewed in accordance with the process for addressing Volunteer Code of Conduct Concerns and Complaints provided under Appendix A.

  6. ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

    The Governance Committee will review the overall impact of the Code periodically and recommend approval of revisions to Council. The Council will approve the Code and any amendments to the Code.

    The Executive Committee of Council (ECC) will monitor the implementation of the Code; be informed of decisions made by the Volunteer Practices Panel; and perform, when needed, their appeals process responsibilities, as detailed in Appendix A.

    The Volunteer Practices Panel will perform, when needed, its investigation responsibilities, as detailed in Appendix A, and determine the appropriate action(s) to be taken when a volunteer breaches the principles and standards of this Code, as set out in Appendix A.

    The Ethics Officer will:

    • ensure that the Code is implemented throughout the Royal College,
    • bring to the attention of the CEO information pertaining to violations of the Code and the need to engage the Volunteer Practices Panel, and
    • ensure that the complaints process, as set out in Appendix A, is implemented, and manage all documentation concerning an investigation.
  7. DEFINITIONS

    Ethics Officer is the Royal College legal counsel, appointed to ensure the implementation of this Code, including the impartial and objective implementation of the process for addressing complaints.

    Volunteer refers to a Fellow or other person who, at the request of the Royal College, voluntarily contributes to the Royal College any combination of time, expertise, opinions and perspectives and content. With few exceptionsii, the Royal College does not offer remuneration, including stipends, to volunteers.

    Volunteer lead refers to a volunteer or an employee in a leadership position (e.g., President, CEO, Council members, committee/subcommittee chairs and vice-chairs, or a staff Director of the College).

    Volunteer practices panel is a three member panel that will be convened by the Ethics Officer to investigate a complaint if a situation cannot be resolved through a flexible, confidential, and interest based dispute resolution process, or is deemed severe enough to bypass dispute resolution.

  8. CONTACT

    For further information or clarification about this Code of Conduct, or related policies, please contact:

    Ethics Officer: Royal College Legal Counsel

  9. APPENDICES

    Appendix A: Process for Addressing Code of Conduct Concerns and Complaints

APPENDIX A

Addressing Volunteer Code of Conduct Concerns and Complaints

The following process was designed to provide a fair and conscientious process to address concerns and complaints about the professional conduct and behaviour of Royal College volunteers. Names of individuals will be held confidential throughout the complaints process. Complainants and the person to whom the complaint is directed have the right to be, within reasonable limits, informed of a complaint, the findings of any enquiry and generally updated throughout the process.

The CEO will be informed, within the reasonable limits of confidentiality, of all complaints proceedings. Any and all documentation concerning an enquiry related to a complaint will be managed by the Ethics Officer.

Complaints process

  1. Any complaint regarding the conduct of one or more volunteers, such as a breach of this Code, should be brought to the attention of a volunteer lead, or, in the case of an employee making the complaint, a staff director . Once informed of a complaint regarding the conduct of one or more volunteers, the volunteer lead or a staff director, as applicable, will inform the Ethics Officer of the situation.
  2. If the Ethics Officer determines, within their professional judgement, that the complaint raises a potential breach of the Code, he/she will advise the person to whom the complaint is directed and where appropriate, attempt to resolve the situation through an appropriate dispute resolution process. (Timeframe: Up to 2 weeks)
  3. If the situation cannot be resolved through dispute resolution, or if the complaint is deemed severe enough to bypass dispute resolution, the Ethics Officer will convene the Volunteer Practices Panel. (Timeframe: Up to 2 weeks)
  4. A three member Volunteer Practices Panel, composed of a member from each of the Governance Committee, Ethics Committee, and Executive Directors Committee, will consider the complaint. If the person to whom the complaint is directed feels that one of the members of the Volunteer Practices Panel is an inappropriate choice for addressing the complaint, they may request a modification to the panel. The Volunteer Practices Panel may, among other things
    • review relevant documentation, including submissions from the complainant and the person to whom the complaint is directed,
    • consult legal counsel or other external advice, where appropriate,
    • hear directly from the complainant and/or the respondent,
    • request the individual(s) to whom the complaint is directed to meet with the Volunteer Practices Panel,
    • interview witnesses, and/ or
    • delegate the investigation in whole or in part to an external investigator.
  5. (Timeframe: Up to 8 weeks)

  6. Once the panel has completed its enquiries, the Volunteer Practices Panel shall take one or more of the following steps:
    • dismiss the complaint in whole or in part,
    • issue an oral or written reprimand,
    • remove the volunteer from the volunteer work that they were involved with, or
    • take any other action, which in the view of the Volunteer Practices Panel, will help resolve the matter in a fair and reasonable manner.

    Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Volunteer Practices Panel is not authorized to suspend or dismiss any member of Council or member of the Board of Directors of a subsidiary from their position as such.

  7. The Volunteer Practices Panel will inform the ECC, within the reasonable limits of confidentiality, of its findings and of its decision. The Volunteer Practices Panel will prepare written reasons for its decision and provide them to the complainant and the person to whom the complaint is directed. All decisions of the Volunteer Practices Panel will be final except for an appeal either to the ECC or Council, as set out herein. (Timeframe: Up to 2 weeks)

Appeals process

  1. Those against whom the Volunteer Practices Panel has levied a sanction or complainants may, through the Ethics Officer, appeal the decision of the Volunteer Practices Panel. The volunteer launching the appeal may chose ECC or Council as the appellant body.
  2. Upon receiving a notice of appeal, the Chair of the ECC or Council shall appoint three members of the ECC or Council to an appeal panel. The three members of the appeal panel shall select a chair of that panel from amongst themselves. (Timeframe: Up to 8 to 12 weeks)
  3. After considering the notice of appeal and any further written submissions given by the appellant, the appeals panel may decide to
    • reject the appeal and uphold the decision of the Volunteer Practices Panel,
    • allow the appeal, in whole or in part, and set aside or vary any actions/sanctions imposed by the Volunteer Practices Panel, or
    • refer the matter back to the Volunteer Practices Panel with or without directions.

The appeal panel shall prepare written reasons for its decision and the decision shall be final

Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. Appendix B: Requirements for public servants to prevent and deal with conflict of interest and post-employment situations. Last retrieved June 6, 2016, from Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s website https://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=25178§ion=HTML

Members of Canadian medical residency education survey teams may receive a survey report per diem. RCI “volunteers” are considered to be contractors and may be paid for their services