The end of a 12 year battle

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Settlement agreed between whistleblower Joanna Gualtieri and the federal government

Paul Gaboury, Le Droit – April 6, 2010

After a lengthy battle, former public servant and whistleblower Joanna Gualtieri of Ottawa has recently settled the lawsuit she filed against her former employer, the federal government and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

David Hutton, president of FAIR (Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform), confirmed last night that an agreement was concluded between Mrs. Gualtieri and her former employer, the federal government.

"This is a major development in a very important case. We are still assessing the implications”, said Mr. Hutton. But he was unable to offer further details and added that Mrs. Gualtieri would not be offering more information or comments about her case.

Confidentiality

"In this type of agreement, the parties normally sign a confidentiality clause preventing them from releasing details about the agreement or from making any comments about it”, explained Mr. Hutton.

Mrs. Gualtieri accused her employer of harassment because in 1992 she wrote reports flagging various wasteful expenditures related to the cost of housing Canadian diplomats abroad, raising similar concerns to those expressed in a report by the Auditor General. After leaving her job, she decided to launch a lawsuit in 1998, asking for millions of dollars in damages for having been harassed and intimidated by her former employer.

More than 10,000 questions

The saga of her case dragged on and in 2008 a judge ruled that the federal government lawyers had abused the disclosure process by forcing Mrs. Gualtieri to answer more than 10,569 questions even before the beginning of any formal court process. This, according to the judge, was comparable to the level of questioning in a public inquiry.

Only two years ago, it was estimated that the amount of paperwork related to the Gualtieri case, 160,000 pages, would stack up as high as a five story building.

In the United States, whistleblowers often make headlines, as in cases involving Enron, Exxon or even the FBI; the American government is often cited as an example of strong protection of whistleblowers’ rights.

Here in Canada the Gualtieri case was widely publicized because it gave a rare glimpse of the fate reserved for Canadian whistleblowers disclosing wrongdoings or abuses in an organisation.

Original article on Le Droit website

(This article is a translation of the original)


Background

A case that brought about new legislation to protect whistleblowers