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News Release

Alliance of more than 30 citizen groups calls for urgent reforms to federal whistleblower law

Thursday, February 24, 2011

OTTAWA - Today, an alliance of more than 30 accountability organizations called for urgent reforms to the whistleblower legislation that provided the mandate of now-disgraced former Integrity Commissioner Christiane Ouimet’s office (To see the list of needed reforms, click here).

"The federal government's good government laws are not enforced effectively because the watchdog agencies lack key powers or have not been doing their job properly, and that is why a strong system to protect anyone who blows the whistle on wrongdoing is needed, along with a strong Public Sector Integrity Commissioner," said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch and Chairperson of the Government Ethics Coalition which is made up of 31 groups with a total membership of more than three million Canadians (To see details about the Ethics Commissioner's weak enforcement record, click here and to see details about the Commissioner of Lobbying's weak record, click here, and to see details about the Information Commissioner's lack of powers and loopholes in the Access to Information Act, click here). 

The collapse of the government’s whistleblower protection system was not only due to the former commissioner’s egregious misconduct: she was aided and abetted by deeply flawed legislation that gave her far too much discretion to turn people away and ensured that most whistleblower cases would be rejected,” said David Hutton, Executive Director of FAIR (Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform), a whistleblower charity that has studied the legislation and monitored its implementation since 2007.

FAIR published today 24-page analysis of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, setting out 25 serious shortcomings under eight broad categories.

Our analysis shows that this law does not provide the ‘ironclad protection’ for whistleblowers that was promised. It is more like a bureaucratic ‘Temple of Doom’ – a labyrinth of traps and pitfalls that will ensure that few if any whistleblowers can ever prevail. It’s also a charter of rights for wrongdoers, ensuring that few if any allegations of misconduct will be properly investigated,” said Hutton.

The accountability organizations are calling for the scheduled five-year review of the legislation to be brought forward, and for the reformed legislation to be applied to the backlog of more than 200 whistleblower cases closed by Ouimet that the Auditor General recommended should be re-examined – otherwise many cases that have merit will remain closed due to loopholes in the law.

FAIR is working with Canadian NGOs to build a consensus regarding the specific reforms required, and also drawing upon the expertise of countries such as the USA, UK and Australia that have had far more experience (and success) than Canada in protecting honest employees who speak out about wrongdoing.

We cannot leave the development of such important legislation to government lawyers alone, since they clearly dropped the ball last time” said Hutton.

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For more information, contact:
Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch and Chairperson of the Government Ethics Coalition
Tel: (613) 241-5179

David Hutton, Executive Director of FAIR (Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform):
Tel: (613) 567-1511
Cell: (613) 866-3275

Ian Bron, Secretary, Canadians for Accountability,
Tel: (613) 740-0192
Cell: (613) 296-5080

Democracy Watch's Open Government Campaign and Government Ethics Campaign webpages


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