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International whistleblower protection report ranks Canada tied for last out of 62 countries with protections

Trudeau Cabinet rejected unanimous July 2017 House Committee report – all parties must work together to implement its recommendations now

Public Sector Integrity Commissioner Joe Friday should be fired as he has been found guilty three times by Federal Court of violating whistleblowers rights

Governments across Canada need to make all the changes needed to ensure government and business whistleblowers are fully protected

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

OTTAWA – Today, in response to an international report that ranked Canada tied for last out of 62 countries with whistleblower protections (See pp. 10 and 75 of PDF of report), Democracy Watch called on the federal Liberals to strengthen whistleblower protection for everyone in federal politics, including political staff, and in all federally-regulated businesses.

The unanimous June 2017 report by the House of Commons Government Operations Committee called for many key changes to change the law and enforcement system to strengthen protection for whistleblowers who report wrongdoing by people in the federal government.

However, then-Treasury Board Minister Scott Brison rejected the Committee’s recommendations in an October 2017 letter – committing the government only to reinforcing the internal disclosure process. The Liberals’ Bill C-65 in 2018 did nothing to change the Canada Labour Code’s requirement that federal workplace victims file complaints with their boss, who is often the harasser, and so it left political staff and other whistleblowers essentially unprotected.

On February 25th, the House Committee voted to send its June 2017 report back to the House of Commons to force the Trudeau Cabinet to respond to it again. Click here to see Backgrounder on Key Developments in Federal Whistleblower Protection since 2017.

Democracy Watch appeared before the House Committee twice, and its submission included the petition that more than 22,000 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 several recent scandals have shown, such protection is much needed.

Democracy Watch’s submission also repeated the call it has made since 2015 for members of Canada’s armed forces, and the RCMP, be covered by the federal whistleblower protection law. The Committee unfortunately did not include this recommendation in its report. Recent scandals in the military have shown how much this protection is needed.

“The international report shows yet again how much the Trudeau Liberals have failed to protect whistleblowers, and 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 and Ph.D. student at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law. “The House Committee, public sector unions and citizen watchdog groups have been unanimously calling for key changes to strengthen whistleblower protection for years, as have tens of thousands of voters who have signed a national petition, so there is no reason for the Liberals to fail to work together with the other parties in this minority government and finally make these much-needed changes.”

Democracy Watch also called on Parliament to fire Public Sector Integrity Commissioner Joe Friday, finally, as he was for the third time found guilty in December 2017 by the Federal Court of violating a whistleblower’s rights.

“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 and use an independent process to appoint a new, effective Integrity Commissioner, they will continue breaking their open government promise in this key way,” said Conacher.

“Unfortunately, the House Committee did not recommend in its June 2017 report any changes to strengthen protection for whistleblowers who work for federal politicians or for 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 politicians and people in Canada’s big banks and other financial institutions, and in airlines, phone, cable TV, food, mining and forestry companies,” said Conacher.

Section 334 of the Liberals’ Bill C-86 in 2018 was supposed to add sections 979.1 to 979.4 to the Bank Act to create a right for bank employees to blow the whistle on wrongdoing, but the measures have still not been implemented (not that having the right to blow the whistle is enough protection to actually encourage and support whistleblowers).

Measures to strengthen whistleblower protection are needed across Canada. Democracy Watch will continue its letter-writing campaign and petition until these changes are made.

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

Democracy Watch’s Protect Whistleblowers Who Protect You Campaign