Blowing the Whistle on Canada’s Whistleblower Law
Last week I had the opportunity to appear as a witness at the Standing Committee on Government Operations for their review of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, commonly referred to as whistleblower legislation. I was joined by the Institute’s General Counsel Isabelle Roy.
I spoke to Members of Parliament on the Committee about the important contributions professionals working in the federal public service make every day to ensure the lives of Canadians are safer, healthier and more prosperous.
I reiterated that whistle blowing is a service to the public. It only happens in the rarest of circumstances, when a public servant has tried every other avenue for resolving a significant concern. Sadly, whistle blowing has also meant too often sacrificing your career for the sake of the public interest.
It should not be this way, and we can fix it. I made some specific recommendations to the committee which I have outlined below.
- Reverse the onus of reprisal in law
Fear of reprisal remains one of the main obstacles to whistle blowing and the current law fails to address this concern. The simple solution is to require a reverse onus, which would mean that an allegation of reprisal is assumed to be true unless the employer can rebut it.
- Fix the investigation process under the Public Service Integrity Commissioner.
Our experience in representing members demonstrates that the Commissioner's investigation processes are often unfair, lacking in thoroughness, and insensitive to whistleblowers.
- Eliminate the Public Service Integrity Commissioner's gatekeeper role and replace it with a "direct access" system.
The commissioner performs a gatekeeper role in respect of reprisal complaints. This role means that only the Commissioner can decide which complaints are referred to the Tribunal.
- Close the outsourcing loophole.
Federal over-reliance on outsourcing is creating a shadow public service, where the rules, regulations and guidelines for accountability do not apply. The shadow public service is a massive loophole when it comes to the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.
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You can take action on this issue by signing the following petition to protect whistleblowers here.
PIPSC will continue to advocate for legislative change to the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act and work to ensure the culture of punishing those who come forward is changed.