Review of whistleblower legislation long overdue

PSAC acknowledges Treasury Board president Mona Fortier recently announced  that another review of whistleblower protection legislation will be undertaken. A robust and effective whistleblower protection strategy is critical to protecting the public in areas such as public health, the environment, and contracts for key projects and services.

Canada is often criticized internationally for our weak whistleblower protections and a recent survey by the Integrity Commissioner underlined the lack of reporting and lack of trust in the system as it currently exists.

However, the announcement of a 12-to-18-month review is far too long a wait to address problems with the law, and it will duplicate the work carried out five years ago by a Parliamentary committee.

“In 2017, this government issued a report on necessary changes to the existing process to support public service workers who come forward with reports of wrongdoing,” said PSAC National President Chris Aylward. “The report clearly stated that the Act did not do enough to protect whistleblowers and made recommendations for improvements back then. It’s time for this government to act.”

PSAC participated in the 2017 process and made several recommendations that, if implemented, would provide better protections for whistleblowers, and increase the likelihood that public service workers would feel safe from reprisals in reporting wrongdoing.

These recommendations included (but are not limited to):

  • Ensure that there are meaningful protections from all forms of retaliation by placing the burden of proof on employers to establish that there were no negative impacts as a result of disclosing wrongdoing.
  • Expand the application of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (the Act) to include all areas of government operations including contracts with the private sector.
  • Improve the provisions for sanctions and corrective action against those guilty of wrongdoing.
  • Expand the Act to include former public service workers to allow the Integrity Commissioner to investigate allegations of their misconduct.
  • Ensure the Office of the Integrity Commissioner is well resourced in order to assist victims of retaliation and to fulfill a mandate to educate public service workers about their rights and managers about their responsibilities under the Act.

“While we are pleased to see movement on this, our strong recommendation to the task force is that they focus their efforts on implementing the recommendations of the existing report, and not start from scratch. Neither public sector workers, nor the Canadian public, should have to wait any longer,” said Aylward.

December 5, 2022