A selected list of articles added to the FAIR website last month. These are about whistleblowing, whistleblowers, and the types of misconduct that they typically expose.
David Hutton – April 30, 2012
We are pleased to announce that the FAIR website and Monthly Headlines newsletter are now available en Français.
This is a first step in our efforts to provide service to the francophone community. We also hope in future to be able to respond in French to inquiries from whistleblowers and from the media. If you are bilingual and would like to help in some way, please contact us.
This is the story of how Canadian authorities suck up to a powerful industry that has a track record of bad behaviour, how public servants who get in the way are punished, and how the watchdog that’s supposed to investigate suspected wrongdoing is turning a blind eye.
Canada’s Integrity Commissioner Mario Dion, who is responsible for protecting government whistleblowers and investigating their allegations of wrongdoing, recently referred his third case to the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal created to examine alleged reprisals against whistleblowers.
As the federal integrity commissioner did in a recent report, and as many good government watchdogs have done in the past, the auditor-general kept secret the names of wrongdoers in his report on the fighter jet purchase multibillion-dollar boondoggle.
The public has a right to know the identity of its employees - politicians, political staff, appointees or public servants - who break the rules, and so all the good government watchdog agencies must be required by law to identify exactly which person broke which rule in each situation.
The former head of construction for Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin has been arrested in Switzerland, where he is being held on accusations of corrupting a public official, fraud and money laundering tied to his dealings in North Africa.
Justice officials in the Swiss city of Bern confirm that since mid-April they have been holding former SNC-Lavalin executive vice-president Riadh Ben Aissa.
Allegations of corruption that have rocked the Montreal offices of the Canada Revenue Agency are just a fraction of the total instances of “high-risk misconduct” reported at the federal tax agency every year, records show.
The CRA has dismissed seven officials from its Montreal offices in connection with an RCMP investigation into allegations of fraud and corruption involving senior team leaders and auditors at the tax-collection agency.
The National Press Club auditorium in Washington D.C. was packed to the rafters – with the crowd overflowing into the upstairs galleries – by a who’s who of people who have fought in various ways to defend the truth and the public interest.
I saw whistleblowers, civil society activists and lawyers, journalists, authors and film-makers, even government officials such as Carolyn Lerner, head of the OSC, who is charged with protecting US government whistleblowers.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz insists that cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in the federal government’s 2012 budget won’t compromise food safety, but the Public Service Alliance of Canada says that job cuts at the agency will roll back improvements to food inspection that were made in response to the 2008 listeriosis outbreak.
“We’re looking at administrative money for the most part, programming is not being affected,” Mr. Ritz (Battlefords-Lloydminster, Sask.) told The Hill Times following the federal budget’s March 29 tabling. “There will be no changes in frontline inspectors.”
Toronto-Dominion Bank, after losing a $67 million verdict over claims it aided a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, should be sanctioned for “altering” a document used at trial, an investor said in court papers.
Coquina Investments, which won the verdict on Jan. 18 in federal court in Miami, seeks sanctions after a trial over whether TD Bank should have detected money laundering that supported a Ponzi scheme that disbarred attorney Scott Rothstein ran out of his law firm.
Royal Bank of Canada is being sued by U.S. regulators over allegations that a small group of executives from the Cayman Islands to Toronto ran an international futures trading operation worth hundreds of millions of dollars in order to reap tax benefits.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is suing RBC, Canada’s largest bank, saying that it also concealed the true nature of the trades and made false statements to a futures trading exchange.
Government media minders are being dispatched to an international polar conference in Montreal to monitor and record what Environment Canada scientists say to reporters.
Media instructions, which are being described as a heavy-handed attempt to muzzle and intimidate the scientists, have been sent to the Environment Canada researchers attending the International Polar Year conference that started on Sunday and runs all week.
The embattled head of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has stepped aside in the aftermath of a scathing Federal Court decision that criticized her management of a landmark case involving the welfare of native children.
The Citizen has learned that tribunal chairwoman Shirish Chotalia wrote a brief email to staff on Friday saying she was departing on stress leave. “I am taking stress leave until June 17, 2012. Thank you for your continued support,” she wrote.
Federal lawyers say a high-profile Quebec corruption inquiry can't compel the RCMP to sift though, and share, a treasure trove of information on the Mafia. Lawyers representing the Mounties were in a Montreal courtroom Wednesday fighting off demands for information from Quebec's Charbonneau inquiry.
Lawyers for the inquiry want access to the massive amount of evidence gathered during Operation Colisee, a police probe that concluded in 2006 and is considered the largest such investigation into the Mob in Canadian history.
A construction company vice-president and a former business development officer for a major Quebec engineering firm are alleging political fundraising, kickbacks and fake cheques to cover payoffs are common practice in Quebec’s construction industry.
Speaking on Radio-Canada’s investigative program Enquête that aired Thursday night, construction firm vice-president Lino Zambito said he helped organize several fundraising events for Nathalie Normandeau, Quebec’s former municipal affairs minister. Hundreds of thousands were raised for the provincial Liberal Party, he said.
A terrifying incident on an Air Canada flight from Toronto to Zurich last year took place because a pilot abruptly pushed the Boeing 767 into a dive shortly after waking up from an approved nap, says a report released today by Canada's Transportation Safety Board.
The report details what happened on Air Canada Flight 878 several hours after it left Toronto for Zurich on Jan 13, 2011. The report also finds several factors, including pilot fatigue, contributed to the incident that sent seven passengers to hospital in Switzerland.
Tuesday's announcement of the fourth case of mad cow disease discovered in the U.S. has sparked much debate about current testing and other preventive food safety measures.
According to the USDA, the California dairy cow had been "euthanized after it developed lameness and became recumbent," which is the required step with any downer cow over 30 months old that is too sick or tired to stand – due to a federal law implemented in 2009.
New federal legislation intended to cement Canada’s role in a major international treaty to ban lethal cluster bombs is weak and will make Canada deliberately complicit in the use of the weapons, say experts.
“It falls way below even the minimum threshold of legality under international humanitarian law and is an insult to colleagues in other countries who, seemingly unlike Canada, have negotiated in good faith,” said former Foreign Affairs arms negotiator Earl Turcotte, who led Canada’s negotiating team at the treaty negotiations.
Former federal public servant Zabia Chamberlain, who alleges she was harassed by her boss at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada in 2007-2008 and has been unsuccessfully fighting for years to get restitution from the government, is now taking her fight for financial security and closure to the Supreme Court.
Ms. Chamberlain currently suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and has for years been unable to function as a result of the nine months she alleges her boss harassed her when she worked as an executive in HRSDC from September 2007 to June 2008.
The government did away with an office mandated to oversee the activities of Canada’s spies Thursday, a move critics say opens the door to abuses of power by the secretive Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
The Office of the Inspector General of CSIS played a key role in ensuring Canada’s spies don’t break the law, according to Jez Littlewood, director of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies.
Benjamin Perrin has returned to the Hill and is now working as a special adviser in legal affairs and policy in the PMO.
Mr. Perrin’s name is likely familiar. In 2010, he published his first book titled Invisible Chains: Canada’s Underground World of Human Trafficking, an exposé on the issue of human trafficking in Canada, which was named one of the best books of 2010 by The Hill Times and one of the top books of the year by The Globe and Mail.
Hats off to the Citizen for its role in getting Commissionaire Dan Brown his job back at the National Research Council within days after The Public Citizen recounted his story. Brown summed up his reinstatement as follows: "It was NRC's call, and finally, they came to their senses, I guess."
Contrast this with the racial discrimination case of Dr. Chander Grover. A human rights tribunal found that the NRC pursued a plan to "humiliate Dr. Grover and to bring to end his career at NRC." The NRC flouted the tribunal's edict and spent untold millions of dollars of taxpayers' money to eventually chase him out of his job.
More than 120 police officers and civilian investigators swept into the sleepy bedroom community of Mascouche just before sunrise Tuesday and charged 15 people, including construction magnate Antonio Accurso, with fraud, corruption, bribery and conspiracy.
Robert Lafrenière, head of the anti-corruption squad UPAC, said the arrests represent a “major achievement” in Quebec’s battle against corruption and collusion in the awarding of government contracts.
Former National Research Council physicist Chander Grover will be returning to court later this year after the federal government rejected his bid to end 25 years of human rights litigation.
Grover, 69, who recently underwent cancer treatments, has made repeated overtures to federal lawyers in an attempt to close one outstanding lawsuit. But the two sides have been unable to come to an agreement about how to end the epic legal battle, which is scheduled to resume in July.
How come there aren't more whistleblowers? It's a vexing question for anyone who'd like to see corporate crime reduced. Just this week, CNN noted that half of all misconduct at financial companies never gets reported, according to a study conducted by the Corporate Executive Board, a Virginia consulting firm.
But another recent story, this one in The New York Times, provides a painful illustration of why potential whistleblowers may not be that interested in speaking up. Not every whistleblower has an experience like Lynn Szymoniak, the mortgage-fraud tipster who got an $18 million settlement for her troubles. Often things can go a lot worse -- like they have for Jack Palmer.
The federal government is closing B.C.'s command centre for emergency oil spills at a time when the province is facing two possible pipeline projects and a potential spike in tanker traffic in West Coast waterways.
Ottawa has said it will shut down B.C.'s regional office for emergency oil-spill responders, located in Vancouver, and centralize operations in Quebec in the wake of the cost-cutting March 29 federal budget.
It isn't just ourselves or our pets that have been getting bigger over the past couple of decades. Turns out, our beef cows have become gigantic too. How big? According to an excellent article by Melody Petersen in the Chronicle of Higher Education, "the average weight of a fattened steer sold to a packing plant is now roughly 1,300 pounds—up from 1,000 pounds in 1975."
That's a hefty 30 percent gain. What gives? According to Peterson, the main reason is pharmaceutical: heavy use of antibiotics, hormones, and other growth-enhancing drugs. Peterson untangles the web that connects pharmaceutical giants like Merck to professors at big public land-grant universities, who not only act as paid researchers to develop new products but also as shills who appeal directly to cattle feedlot operators.
Tom Spears – April 18, 2012
The Citizen asked the National Research Council a simple question back in March: What's this joint study that you and NASA are doing on falling snow?
The federal department never agreed to an interview. It sent an email instead, with technical details on equipment but without much information on the nature of the project. It never even explained the study's topic.
Half of all observed misconduct goes unreported, and a majority of managers said they'd only divulge information to a senior executive if the impact of the case exceeded $1 million, according to a recent study.
Turning a blind eye to the wrongdoing of colleagues has become the norm at many financial services firms. Despite the MF Global debacle, the rogue traders at UBS and Societe Generale, the subprime mortgage mess, and Goldman Sachs' tarnished reputation, most corporate employees continue to withhold information about misconduct by colleagues on issues they know are wrong, until it turns into a major financial imbroglio, according to a recent study.
Quebec’s chief electoral officer has opened an investigation into fresh allegations of corruption and collusion between politicians and the construction industry.
One day after a hard-hitting Radio-Canada investigative report in which a contractor alleged a kickback system has been the norm for years, election officials acted.
An RCMP search at the head office of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. is another blow against a company that is already coping with investigations into allegations of corruption and impropriety by the Montreal-based engineering giant that now encompasses five countries.
Friday’s raid was the second time in six months that RCMP officials have descended with search warrants on the company, which gained an international reputation as one of the world’s leading engineering firms but is now grappling with scandals, executive departures, questions about its business ethics and allegations of involvement in a plot to help a son of Moammar Gadhafi escape from Libya.
There is time, and then there is Ottawa time. It can be tabulated by phases of the moon. I know a branch of government, Archives Canada, that takes six weeks to make a photocopy. Delivery in three weeks is called “rush service.” I’m not making this up.
Yet even in The Land Where Time Stood Still, a new standard of inertia has been achieved by Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson. She recently cited Industry Minister Christian Paradis for violating the Conflict of Interest Act, but this was not startling; Paradis is quite a character. His misconduct had already been documented by enterprising reporters and the Commons’ Committee on Government Operations. More interesting was the fact it took Dawson almost two years to crack the case.
The Civic Action League (LDAC) holds its first Gala as part of its annual fundraising dinner, on Saturday, April 14. Three prizes will be awarded to individuals who, each in their own way, have promoted the good governance of our cities. The League salutes their courage and contribution to the fight against corruption.
Public figure of the year: Alain Gravel Whistleblower of the year: Paul Sauvé Elected official of the year: Sylvie Tardif
One thing we can thank the recent credit crisis and global financial meltdown for is the way it lifted the lid on a sector of the economy we hadn’t been giving enough attention.
That sector is the financial industry. In Thieves of Bay Street, investigative journalist Bruce Livesey looks at how Canada’s banks, brokerages, funds, and financial advisers have been ripping off Canadians for years. And while headline makers like Conrad Black and Earl Jones dominate Livesey’s chronicles of white collar crime, the not-so-few bad apples aren’t as important as the rotten barrel he describes.
Topics: Electoral fraud
Liberal ridings targeted by Toronto-area Conservatives in the last election saw unexplained increases in their number of polling stations, records show. Five ridings saw dramatic gains in poll sites, including one neighbourhood in Ajax, Ont., where five different ballot stations were placed within metres of each other on the same street.
Documents obtained through Access to Information show hundreds of polls scattered through closely-contested ridings were far in excess of actual population growth, and often placed in private locations despite a federal law that requires balloting “wherever possible” occur in a public place.
The BC Lottery Corporation REALLY doesn’t like to release information to Freedom of information requesters. Of all the 2,500+ public bodies covered by BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy act,it is proving to be the most reluctant and most litigious.
BCLC’s denial of six FOI requests went to hearings before the Information and Privacy Commissioner in the past year, with BCLC claiming a variety of exceptions to the rule that records must be released.
Topics: Electoral fraud
My name is Jennifer Smith, and I'm a robocaller. No, not that robocaller. Compared to Mr. Poutine I'm small potatoes, really. I just called a few hundred of my supporters in Ward 2 in Milton on the eve of the 2010 municipal election to remind them to get out and vote for me as town councillor the next day. Most of them did, I'm happy to say, although in the end it wasn't quite enough for a win. Next time.
I know that robo-calling and supporter databases are a bit of a mystery to most people, so allow me to shed some light on the process as both a candidate and a campaign worker.
Surrey resident Karla Berenice García Ramírez – an award-winning Mexican journalist facing deportation after Canada rejected her family's refugee appeal – has won her years-long battle for asylum here, the Vancouver Observer has learned.
The whistleblower on government corruption, who fled Mexico after she and her family received numerous death threats because of her reporting, was granted permanent residence last week on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
When public safety minister Vic Toews introduced his new anti-terrorism strategy last month, many were stunned to discover the feds were targeting groups – enviro, native and others – as sources of extremism.
The announcement was tellingly made just as the Tories revved up their attempts to discredit foes of the Northern Gateway pipeline. But for those who’ve been making their way through the thousands of pages of RCMP and OPP documents pertaining to the G20 released under freedom of information, this shadowing of dissenting orgs didn’t come as a major surprise.
On Tuesday, Auditor General Michael Ferguson released his spring report, which included a severe criticism of the government's proposed purchase of F-35 fighter jets. But the AG could have gone even further in his findings and recommendations.
The first question asked of the AG in his press conference was "who is accountable" for this mess? He provided no clear response.
There are so many layers of misconduct in the F-35 affair that it is difficult to know where to start. Do we especially deplore the rigging of operational requirements by defence officials to justify a decision that had already been made? Or should we focus on the government's decision to buy the planes without even seeing the department's handiwork?
Is the scandal that the department deliberatedly understated the cost of the jets, in presentations to Parliament and the public? Or is it that its own internal figures, though they exceeded the published amounts by some $10-billon, were themselves, according to the Auditor General, gross underestimates?
A city engineer whose dogged defiance of his supervisors helped expose a botched flooding model for the Carp River has kept fighting in defiance of logic and decency, argues a lawyer for a major Kanata developer.
That means Ted Cooper should start having to pay the legal costs he's created with his "frivolous and vexatious" appeals of development plans, says Richcraft's lawyer Alan Cohen.
The most dramatic revelation from Canada’s auditor general is the story of the F-35 cock-up. No question. But the most worrying — and telling — portion of Tuesday’s report by Michael Ferguson is his description of the Conservative government’s chillingly casual approach to air safety.
Casual because this government has no use for regulation and is going out of its way to cut what it calls red tape. Chilling because when governments don’t bother to regulate air safety, planes crash.
A federal watchdog is raising a red flag about Transport Canada’s oversight of aviation safety, warning that inspections aren’t being done and that bureaucrats drag their feet to correct safety issues.
While Transport Canada requires yearly inspections, 70 per cent of aviation companies in Canada were not inspected in 2010-2011, Auditor General Michael Ferguson warns in a report released Tuesday.
Former CIA official John Kiriakou heads to a Virginia courthouse Friday, where he's expected to plead not guilty. He's the sixth person accused of violating the Espionage Act during the Obama presidency.
Prosecutors say Kiriakou, 47, broke a solemn pledge he took when he joined the CIA in 1990 by sharing information about his former colleagues with reporters at The New York Times and ABC News.
Some spirit billions out of the country, buying up luxury villas abroad; one reportedly lavished wealth on 18 mistresses; another blew a quarter of a million dollars in a two-day gambling spree.
Chinese bureaucrats may have a grey image but their ability to amass – and spend – ill-gotten gains is eye-opening. The extraordinary political scandal unfolding at the top of the party – the suspected murder of the Briton Neil Heywood by the wife of the top leader Bo Xilai – is unprecedented.
Michael Woodford, who blew the whistle on an accounting scandal at Olympus Corp., took a stand at its shareholders’ meeting Friday, demanding to know why he was fired as chief executive.
The Japanese camera and medical-equipment maker was seeking shareholder approval for new management after executives behind a cover-up of massive investment losses were forced out.
In September 2005, a senior Wal-Mart lawyer received an alarming e-mail from a former executive at the company’s largest foreign subsidiary, Wal-Mart de Mexico.
In the e-mail and follow-up conversations, the former executive described how Wal-Mart de Mexico had orchestrated a campaign of bribery to win market dominance. In its rush to build stores, he said, the company had paid bribes to obtain permits in virtually every corner of the country.
President Barack Obama will honor a deceased former Polish underground officer Jan Karski, one of the first people to expose Nazi atrocities.
Karski, a Catholic, reported to the Polish government in exile and the Western Allies on the situation in German-occupied Poland in 1942 and 1943, especially the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto and the existence of secretive Nazi extermination camps.
Later this month six Americans will be honoured with a Ridenhour prize which celebrates truth-telling in the public interest.
They are a varied bunch. Eileen Foster helped expose systemic fraud at America's largest mortgage provider Countywide Financial. Lt Col Daniel Davis spoke out against the top brass's portrayal of US military actions in Afghanistan while he was still a serving soldier.
As president of Dartmouth University, President Obama’s nominee to head the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, presides over extreme, traumatizing, pervasive, revolting and potentially illegal hazing at fraternities. Andrew Lohse, the whistleblower who exposed it, is now, alone, among those charged with misconduct, on the brink of expulsion.
Janet Reitman of Rolling Stone investigated Dartmouth’s infamous fraternity system and described the violence, class privilege and ritual abuse that fraternity pledges must survive in order to join the clubs. On this site, we don’t quite have the stomach to detail the particulars of hazing at Dartmouth, but suffice it to say that the customs mainly involve forcing the younger boys to wallow repeatedly in the bodily emissions of the older ones. Extreme binge drinking is, of course, part of the fun, as well as, inevitably, gang vomiting.
Two years before the Deepwater Horizon blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP off-shore rig suffered a nearly identical blow-out, but BP concealed the first one from the U.S. regulators and Congress.
This week, EcoWatch.org located an eyewitness with devastating new information about the Caspian Sea oil-rig blow-out which BP had concealed from government and the industry.
Sarah Damian – April 19, 2012
Last night, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer interviewed a USDA inspector – whose voice was distorted and image revealed only in shadow – to discuss the agency's plan to deregulate poultry inspection by expanding a pilot program known as HIMP.
The inspector, a whistleblower who brought concerns regarding HIMP to FIC, told ABC why the proposal – which speeds up the rate birds move through processing plants and shifts oversight duties to industry – is a terrible idea.
This situation has a number of parallels with the ouster of Christiane Ouimet, the former Integrity Commissioner who retired in disgrace, her misconduct set out in a damning report by Auditor General Sheila Fraser. In my observation, governments seem to have three main strategies...
'Pink slime' in ground beef, mad cow disease, deadly antibiotic-resistant pathogens, melamine contamination: these are just some of the food safety hazards making headlines in the USA (and around the world). It is surprising that we hear so little of them in Canada, since we face the...
Even in the USA where they have effective laws to fight misconduct by all who hurt the government including the private sector (the False Claim Act being the best) whistleblowers have a lot to be worried about. It all stems from the fact that no one likes them. Imagine...