OTTAWA — In what is being hailed as a victory, a 17-year battle between a federal whistleblower and the federal government has ended with an undisclosed financial settlement.
Joanna Gualtieri, a former foreign affairs realty portfolio manager, began to file reports alleging the department was spending extravagant amounts on accommodations for Canadian diplomats abroad in 1992.
She claims her bosses ignored her warnings and tried to censor reports that described how the government’s multi-million-dollar properties were being misused while extra funds were disbursed to rent luxurious accommodations that diplomats demanded. When she went public, Gualtieri said she was harassed, given a dead-end job and later ended up on unpaid medical leave.
In 1998, she launched a $30-million harassment lawsuit.
“It’s very hard to see this as anything but an admission of guilt by government lawyers,” said David Hutton, executive director of FAIR, the whistleblower group founded by Gualtieri.
“If she did have a case and they had to settle with her, what was the point of dragging out the legal proceedings for almost 12 years?”
Hutton said Gualtieri was punished, silenced and made an example of to discourage other public servants from coming forward.
Former Liberal MP and justice department lawyer, David Kilgour called Gualtieri a "Canadian hero" and said she was treated "atrociously."
"Anyone who was involved with this case, should be ashamed of themselves," he said.
Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Laura Merkle said the case regarding a “workplace issue” had been settled and the “terms of the settlement are confidential.”
Gualtieri could not be reached.