What Happens When You Blow A Whistle In Canada?

Headlines have dominated Canadian media with SNC-Lavalin and Jody Wilson-Raybould. The issues are oozing out of this one! Where do we start? Do we rant about where our tax dollars are going? If Export Development Canada, a federal agency, is loaning SNC-Lavalin Billions of dollars for financing to operate abroad which may, in turn, have actually been for bribes or do we rant about what happens in our democracy when someone blows a whistle? He said, she said and taped phone conversation aside, these two issues are what is wrong, not only with this issue or one particular party and their leader, but with democracy itself! Government was created for the voice of the people and to protect the people, but like so many democratic countries all over the world, by the influence and control of the mega powerful, we are slowly looking more like a dictatorship.Now Julien Assange emerges from the Ecuadorian embassy as an enemy of the United States for releasing email documents hacked by the Russian intelligence. The criticism shouldn’t be how he did it, it should by why he HAD to do it. This will be discussed in the next blog article. 

So, in Canada, what happens when someone is declared a whisteblower? Let’s look at some big names in whistleblowing in Canada. Alayne Fleischmann, Dr. Michele Brill-Edwards, Evan Vokes, Ian Bron, Sean Bruyea, Joanna Gualtieri, Dr. Shiv Chopra, Edgar Schmidt, Sylvie Therrien, some of these people have been praised for speaking out, many have suffered and lost their jobs, and some are of the 306 people who submitted complaints to the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commission since the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act came into effect in 2007. Of the 306 people who did file complaints, 14 people settled through conciliation and only one person has completed the tribunal process and that person lost their case.

It is like saying there are many more fouls on the one team in Basketball and none on the other! There is a good chance that this probability is not that the other team is extremely dirty and loves to foul! It is reasonable to assume that there is bias, lack of judgement or lack of a sharp eye by the referee 

A report funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and University of Ottawa, Whistleblowing in Canada, A Knowledge synthesis Report by Florian Martin-Bariteau and Veronique Newmanexplains how critical whistleblowers are to a modern democratic society and how the protection of these people has fallen gravely short by the Integrity Commission. There are many others areas of Whistleblower protection within the Treasury, Labour Board, Criminal Code, Competition Act, Provincial Legislation, Access of Information Act, and in some provincial School Boards like in Manitoba.

As you could imagine it would all be a maze on paper! They may be unaware of when they are authorized and when they are not. It is further made difficult to engage or activate by the potential whistleblower as they not only have to navigate the maze, there is also the fear of being fired, not being promoted, rehired or deemed not to be a team player. 

“Whistleblower is a person who speaks out in order to expose public or private sector improprieties or negligence. The sanctioning of whistleblowing by governmental agencies raise some interesting questions for individuals charged with upholding civil rights in Canada.”Canadian Parliamentary review – Freedom of Expression, Whitleblowing and the Canadian Charters

“We all know that it takes a very strong person to risk his or her career as a public servant by going on the public record as an accuser of his superiors or her political masters. The decision to whistleblow is not taken lightly by thoughtful people.” Freedom of expression, whistleblowing and the Canadian Charter, Canadian Parliamentary review by Inger Hansen, Information Commissioner of Canada

Because someone’s job is at risk and in some cases a criminal investigation is involved, most whistleblowers are hesitant to step forward and get involved. Those who do are the brave who will stand up for what is right and civil. Yet, most of the above noted Canadian whistleblowers paid a large price for speaking out. An independent organization, like provincial ombudsman, could be created federally and include a department to represent the whistleblower. They could not only look into their complaint but protect them and investigate any wrong doing to this person. A federal ombudsman could be a liaison between Public Sector Integrity Commission or the Access of Information Act, just to name a few. Some businesses set up a hotline for employees to disclose concerns in the business. Could a national hotline be feasible? What about going to the press? There are current affair and investigative news shows like W5, Fifth Estate, Marketplace and CBC Go Public. 

The struggle to keep our government and large corporations transparent is a battle. We need to broaden and reshape our legislation for whistleblowers and continue to use the press to keep government under control and not steering off the democratic path!

Citizen World News Staff Writer

April 20, 2019