Whistleblower watchdog retires early, Auditor General conducting audit

The whistleblower watchdog charged with protecting Canadian government employees, the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, has retired, four years before the completion of her term. The announcement was made today on the agency's website.

This followed recent revelations by Radio-Canada of complaints by former staff about Mme Christiane Ouimet's leadership and the ineffectiveness of the office, which has suffered high staff turnover. It was also confirmed today that the Auditor General is conducting an audit of the Commissioner's office.

David Hutton, Executive Director of FAIR, commented:

"We welcome these developments. The current system to protect government whistleblowers has been a disaster -- during three years of operation with millions spent, the Commissioner's office has not uncovered a single case of wrongdoing in the entire federal public service, and has protected not a single whistleblower."

"We hope that today's announcements mark the start of a sea change. FAIR (along with other government accountability organizations) has been calling for sweeping changes, both to the law and to the leadership of this office. It's time for honest government employees to be given the protection that successive governments have promised. They must be able to speak up about wrongdoing without suffering career-ending reprisals."

"One of the big questions now is -- what will happen to the 170 disclosures of wrongdoing and 58 complaints of reprisal made over the past three years, which were either not investigated at all (such as veteran Sean Bruyea's) or, we suspect, not investigated properly? Behind these numbers lie countless human tragedies -- employees whose lives are in ruins because they refused to go along with misconduct and illegality. We hear from them all the time. The Commissioner's office did nothing to protect any of them."

"It's also important to note that although a change of leadership is essential, it is not sufficient. Fundamental changes to the law are also needed in order to give the next Commissioner the powers, the jurisdiction and the clear mandate that is needed for this office to be effective."

For more information:
David Hutton, Executive Director, FAIR