It has been five years now since an Act was passed requiring all government institutions to legally-provide whistleblower protection. How well is it working?
Just last week, the Globe and Mail reported that, for three national security institutions, “five years after Parliament ordered federal departments to protect whistle-blowers . . . soldiers and spies still lack crucial protections that would allow them to highlight wrongdoing without risk to their careers.”
Unfortunately, the problem likely extends much farther than CSIS, the Canadian Security Establishment and the Canadian Forces.
An analysis by the Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform of statistics, provided in Treasury Board which is responsible for the Act, indicates that:
Of the 183 organizations subject to the Act, only 12 have found any wrongdoing during the past three years;
Six of the largest federal employers have not found a single case of wrongdoing between them in three years;
Canada Post has reported no activity – not even one inquiry from any of its 60,000 employees – for three consecutive years, and;
About 80 per cent of public servants work for departments that have not reported any activity (inquiries, disclosures, investigations or findings of wrongdoing) in three years.
These statistics call into question the diligence of many departments’ efforts to designate a senior official and provide effective channels for internal reporting of suspected wrongdoing – as required by the federal Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act. The lack of results from many large employers is a red flag reminiscent of disgraced former Integrity Commissioner Christiane Ouimet’s “perfect score”. She also found zero cases of wrongdoing during her three years of tenure, despite receiving hundreds of disclosure complaints.
The question is, five years after the requirements became law, how many of the 183 federal government institutions subject to the Act have in place a whistleblower protection system that Treasury Board has verified, for example through an audit or evaluation?
There is some clear evidence that the federal Conservatives have delayed effective whistleblower protection for five years after the law was passed, but the government must come clean about just how many institutions and agencies have failed to comply with the law, and how many are covering up wrongdoing.
Duff Conacher is a Board member of Democracy Watch and Chair of the nation-wide Government Ethics Coalition.