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article imageOp-Ed: How safe are whistleblowers? A look at Canada and the U.S.

By Karen Graham     Nov 17, 2019 in Politics
Canadian whistleblower laws are woefully inadequate to protect informants - exposing them to retribution and it's time to bolster protections before a crisis hits, says an expert who has helped defend more than 7,000 whistleblowers worldwide.
"The current law is a fraud. It's consistently the object of ridicule globally among all the international whistleblower organizations," Tom Devine, a U.S. expert and legal director of the Government Accountability Project, said in an interview with CBC Radio's The House.
Devine has not only helped to defend whistleblowers in numerous countries worldwide, but he has also appeared before Canadian parliamentary committees. He says in the current political climate that "blowback on sources is more dangerous than ever and Canadian laws are woefully inadequate to protect them."
The whole debate over the protection of whistleblowers in Canada has resurfaced as the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump proceeds through Congress. Trump, his son, Donald Jr., and others want to expose the whistleblower - even though it is illegal to do so.
The U.S. has 20 federal statutes that fall under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Whistleblower Protection Program of the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration that are supposed to provide protection for whistleblowers.
Canada, on the other hand, has been mulling over changes to its inadequate whistleblower laws for a number of years, yet nothing has been done to improve the protections for someone who was faced with the same situation as the White House whistleblower.
The harsh reality is that a whistleblower sometimes put their very life on the line to protect democratic ideals. There are a number of examples of retaliation against whistleblowers in Canada.
People have had their personal information disclosed, been forced into early retirement or fired, threatened and even bankrupted after going public with allegations of wrongdoing.
According to The Conversation, in 1998, three Health Canada scientists revealed they were being pressured to approve veterinary drugs that would get into the food supply without the legally required evidence of human safety.
A 2017 report released by the House of Commons government operations and estimates committee recommended substantial alterations to Canada's Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA). to better protect federal public servants that speak up about government wrongdoing.
Three noteworthy changes included: "giving departments a duty to protect whistleblowers, reversing the burden of proof onto the employer and changing legislation to protect people coming forward from retaliation." Bottom line? The changes were largely ignored.
The Treasury Department responded thusly: "The Government of Canada is making continuous and meaningful improvements to the federal disclosure process. These include enhancing reporting, providing guidance on the disclosure process, and hosting training sessions — all of which support organizations and protect public servants who disclose wrongdoing."
And here's another interesting fact that CBC Canada has found - In the past decade, 306 people have submitted a complaint to the integrity commissioner, claiming they had suffered reprisals for coming forward with a legal complaint. Sadly, only one person actually went through the whole process, and she lost her case.
That does not bode well for the democratic process or, for that matter, keeping government honest. You can see what is happening in the United States with a corrupt Executive Branch of government.I would suggest that Canada take this whole whistleblower and impeachment process very seriously and fix the flawed system they have.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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