February 24, 2011 Page 1
This document represents the first step in a public process designed to build consensusaround how to fix Canada’s broken whistleblower protection legislation, the PublicServants Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA). Successive governments have done such apoor job on this file – ignoring expert advice and blundering as a result – that we cannotleave this task entirely in their hands. It’s essential that this time the best availableexpertise be brought to bear. Fortunately the world’s leading experts in this field mostlywork for NGOs that are willing to provide their advice for free: a valuable resource thatwe intend to draw upon. Our focus in this first document is on what’s wrong with the current system, to ensurethat the many serious problems are properly understood. The next step is to agree on andarticulate practical solutions. Our view is that this system is so badly broken that somemajor changes are required to fix it: it cannot be put right by tinkering at the edges. Some of the solutions are relatively simple and obvious, and have already been suggestedby FAIR and by organizations such as the Government Ethics Coalition
. A set of fifteenwell-designed amendments already exists, which were drafted by the Senate in 2006,after examining the legislation and correctly identifying many of the problems.(Unfortunately the government rejected all of these amendments.) However, some of the solutions are not obvious and require some kind of strategicdecision or radical departure from the current framework. Here is one example:
Coverage of the private sector
A system that protects government but not private sector employees is like abicycle with one square wheel. For example, how can our food supply ever besafe if the government inspectors (who only visit occasionally) are protected fromreprisals for reporting problems – but plant inspectors and line employees whowork there all the time are not? The UK enacted whistleblower protection for all employees more than a decadeago. This has been highly successful – but it was built upon a strong existingsystem for protecting the rights of all employees, regardless of where they work.However no such system exists in Canada to provide a starting point. In addition, corporations have vigorously opposed efforts to extend whistleblowerprotection to their employees. Given the considerable political clout of corporations in Canada, this lobby could block attempted reforms, possiblyresulting in no reforms at all. This is what happened in the 1980’s to an earlylegislative initiative by the Government Accountability Project in the USA. This is why we believe that it’s important to engage in a thoughtful and well-informeddiscussion about how to fix the current system, taking into account what’s permissible inour legal system, what’s practical to implement, and what can be successfully navigatedthrough our political system. Future versions of this document will expand upon these issues and possible solutions.