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House Committee recommends key changes to strengthen federal government whistleblower protection – will the Liberals finally make the changes?

21,000+ and many citizen groups unanimously call for changes – Committee unfortunately fails to recommend changes to protect whistleblowers who work in federal businesses

Governments across Canada need to make all the changes needed to ensure government and business whistleblowers are fully protected, as banking and airline scandals show

Friday, June 16, 2017

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch applauded the report released by the House of Commons Government Operations Committee that calls for many key changes to strengthen protection for whistleblowers who report wrongdoing by people in the federal government. Democracy Watch Watch appeared before the Committee twice, and its submission included the petition that more than 21,000 voters signed calling for 17 key changes by the federal government to protect people who blow the whistle on government and big business abuse, waste and law-breaking. As the current banking service scandal and airline service scandals show, such protection is much needed.

“The committee has recommended many key changes to strengthen protection for people who blow the whistle on wrongdoing in the federal government, and the question now is whether the Liberals will make those changes or continue to let people in federal politics who do wrong threaten and attack people who try to disclose their wrongdoing,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “The committee, public sector unions and citizen watchdog groups are unanimously calling for key changes to strengthen whistleblower protection, as are tens of thousands of voters who have signed a national petition, so there is no reason for the Liberals to delay making these changes.”

“The federal Liberals claimed in their 2015 election platform that greater openness and transparency are fundamental to restoring trust in Canada’s democracy but if they don’t strengthen whistleblower protection they will break their open government promise,” said Conacher.

“Unfortunately, the committee did not recommend any changes to strengthen protection for whistleblowers who work with businesses that are regulated by the federal government, and the Liberals also need to make those changes to help stop the widespread, serious wrongdoing and abuse caused by people in Canada’s big banks and other financial institutions, and in airlines, phone, cable TV, food, mining and forestry companies,” said Conacher.

The key changes the Committee recommended include: ensuring everyone involved in federal government operations is covered by the protection law and system (including anyone who helps a whistleblower or is a witness); allowing everyone to file their complaint about retaliation directly with the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal (instead of having to go to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner first) up to 12 months after the retaliation (the current deadline is 60 days); requiring the employer to prove that they didn’t retaliate against a whistleblower (currently the whistleblower has to prove retaliation has occurred); ensuring the Integrity Commissioner is fully independently appointed and empowered to impose penalties; requiring the Integrity Commissioner rule on all complaints publicly in a timely manner, and to report more details about complaint handling; requiring the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer to conduct regular audits of the whole protection system and; empowering the Integrity Commissioner and Tribunal to compensate whistleblowers for legal advice, and rewarding them adequately if their claims are proven.

“The committee should have also recommended requiring disclosure of the identity of all wrongdoers because the public has a right to know when one of their government’s employees does wrong,” said Conacher.

People have tried to protect Canadians by blowing the whistle on governments wasting billions of dollars, approving dangerous drugs, and covering up scandals, and on big businesses gouging them, selling them hazardous products, and covering up pollution and oil spills.

These whistleblowers have been harassed, fired from their jobs, sued, silenced and hurt by governments and big businesses – all because Canadian whistleblower protection laws are weak and enforcement is negligently bad.

The federal Liberals failed to include any promises to strengthen whistleblower protection in their 2015 election platform. The federal Conservatives did little to strengthen whistleblower protection from 2006 to 2015, and actually covered up scandals involving the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner (who enforces the federal law). Other federal parties have done little to push for key changes.

Provincial governments across Canada have also failed to protect government and business whistleblowers fully and effectively, although the Ontario Securities Commission took a big step forward in protecting securities law whistleblowers with a new program launched in July 2016 which offers up to $5 million as a reward for whistleblowers whose claims are proven (which has led to calls to reward securities law whistleblowers in other provinces and to reward Competition Act whistleblowers).

Democracy Watch will continue its letter-writing campaign and petition until these changes are made across Canada.

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
[email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Protect Whistleblowers Who Protect You Campaign