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Whats Wrong With the Psdpa

Whats Wrong With the Psdpa

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Published by: emilysenger on Feb 24, 2011
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02/24/2011

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What’s Wrong with Canada’s FederalWhistleblower Legislation
 An analysis of the
Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act 
(PSDPA)   Published by FAIR:The Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform   
About FAIR
FAIR ( Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform) promotes integrity andaccountability within government by empowering employees to speak outwithout fear of reprisal when they encounter wrongdoing. Our aim is tosupport legislation and management practices that will provide effectiveprotection for whistleblowers and hence occupational free speech in theworkplace. FAIR is a registered Canadian charity, run by volunteers and supported byindividual contributions. FAIR does not solicit or accept funding fromgovernments or corporations. 82 Strathcona Ave, OttawaOntario, K1S 1X6Phone: (613) 567-1511Web site:fairwhistleblower.ca 
 
 
 
Contents
Introduction.............................................................................................................................. 1Executive Summary................................................................................................................. 2A Word To Truthtellers – Your Predicament.......................................................................... 4Part 1: Key Problems............................................................................................................... 51) The scope of the law is very narrow................................................................................ 5For members of the Armed Forces, CSIS or the RCMP, the protection from reprisals iseither limited or non-existent........................................................................................... 5Government misconduct involving the private sector cannot be investigated properly.. 6The law does not address private sector misconduct at all.............................................. 62) The range of avenues (for seeking investigation and redress) has been restricted ratherthan expanded ...................................................................................................................... 7All means of access to our normal courts are blocked..................................................... 7There is little protection against bullying and harassment – for any employee............... 7Going public or disclosing to the media is strictly prohibited in most circumstances .... 83) The coverage of wrongdoing excludes most real-life situations..................................... 9Restrictive definition of wrongdoing............................................................................... 9Jurisdictional reasons for refusal to deal with disclosures............................................. 10Other vague and subjective reasons for refusal to deal with disclosures....................... 104) The provisions for investigations and corrective action are weak................................. 10The Commissioner is restricted to a reactive, fragmented approach............................. 11There is no reliable mechanism to correct wrongdoing or discipline wrongdoers........ 115) Most complaints of reprisal are likely to be rejected..................................................... 12Jurisdictional reasons to reject a complaint of reprisal.................................................. 12Short time limit to file a complaint................................................................................ 12Definitional reasons for rejection of a complaint .......................................................... 13The Commissioner need not refer any case to the tribunal............................................ 13Non-government whistleblowers effectively have no protection.................................. 136) The tribunal is unlikely to protect anyone..................................................................... 14Near-impossible burden of proof................................................................................... 14Lack of legal assistance ................................................................................................. 14No access to courts......................................................................................................... 15Inadequate penalties and remedies................................................................................. 157) The entire process is shrouded in impenetrable secrecy................................................ 16Access to Information.................................................................................................... 16Misclassification of documents...................................................................................... 16Secret hearings............................................................................................................... 16Decisions need not be filed with federal Court.............................................................. 16Gag orders...................................................................................................................... 178) The legal strategy is perverse and ill-conceived............................................................ 17The law is unwieldy, complex and costly...................................................................... 17OPSIC’s Track Record .......................................................................................................... 19Disclosures of wrongdoing................................................................................................ 19Complaints of reprisal........................................................................................................ 20Part 2: Next Steps – Developing Solutions............................................................................ 23Other Sources of Information ............................................................................................ 24 
 
February 24, 2011  Page 1
Introduction 
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
i
. 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.

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