Canadian employees disciplined in email abuse case

Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is taking disciplinary action against 189 of its employees for improper use of email on the Provincial Government's computer systems.

          Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is taking disciplinary action against 189 of its employees for improper use of email on the Provincial Government's computer systems.

          Ian Dovey, communications assistant to the chair of Management Board of Cabinet David Tsubouchi, told IT World Canada that six employees were dismissed and 183 employees were suspended for exchanging pornographic and racist email in June 2001, following a six-month long investigation. The Management Board of Cabinet - a committee of the Provincial Cabinet that manages the government's human resources, IT, finances and real estate - reviewed the case.

          Dovey says employees are being disciplined for contravening the government's Workplace Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy put in place in 1998 and the Operating Procedures on Usage of IT Resources adopted by the government last summer.

          It is surprising in today's workplace with such policies and procedures in place, the constant monitoring of employee computer activity and warnings about this kind of undesirable activity that email abuse still occurs, Dovey admits.

          "Honestly you would think that this wouldn't occur," he says. "[But] one thing for sure though this sends a message across the bow that this kind of activity will not be tolerated," he adds.

          MNR employees receive a warning when they access a government computer displaying a message that the system is 'for government use only' and employees have to perform a mouse-click to remove the warning. Any attempts to access a website that is deemed inappropriate under the abovementioned provincial policies and procedures also comes with a similar warning, Dovey says.

          When asked how so many offenders in different locations within the Ministry were able to pass around offensive material Dovey responds that email was the culprit, and asks: "can you really police it?"

          An official with the MNR confirmed earlier reports published in The Toronto Sun that some of the offensive material being viewed included crime scene photographs from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) with racial statements attached to them.

          However, officials with the OPP were unable to be reached for comment on whether they are proceeding with any kind of criminal investigation at this time.

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