The following people have all demonstrated the courage of their convictions by speaking up when they saw wrongdoing. Many helped exposed corruption that needed to be put right for the public good. A few have been recognized and publicly praised for their efforts -- but most have suffered from harsh retribution from their employers as a result of their actions. Their stories demonstrate the value of whistleblowers, and the absolute need for strong legal protection for these people.
The individuals listed here represent only a tiny fraction of the Canadian whistleblowers that we know of. To avoid legal liability FAIR is only able to report what is already in the public domain, and most whistleblowers never manage to get their allegations entered into the public record.
Joanna Gualtieri exposed lavish extravagance in the purchase of accommodation abroad for staff in Foreign Affairs. The Inspector General and Auditor General of Canada later supported her allegations. Gualtieri claimed the Bureau seemed not to care, that her bosses harassed her for raising the concerns and that she was a given dead-end job after coming forward.
Ms. Gualtieri continued to battle for other whistleblowers by founding FAIR (Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform) and by serving as a director for almost 10 years.
In 2012 Edgar Schmidt, a senior Department of Justice lawyer, launched a lawsuit against his own department, alleging that it had issued instructions to him and his colleagues that were illegal. Schmidt's allegations, if proven, indicate that for the past 20 years the Department has effectively ignored its legal responsibility to vet new bills for compliance with the charter, thus potentially allowing successive governments to enact unconstitutional laws.
Immediately after he submitted his claim to the federal court Schmidt was suspended without pay. Justice Noel noted this action and sharply criticized it, saying that the government seemed to be doing everything possible to kill the case.
In 2005, former Air Force intelligence officer Sean Bruyea discovered serious flaws in a new program for injured soldiers, which was being rushed through Parliament in a secretive and nderhanded manner. The legislation, known as the 'New Veterans Charter' scrapped the comprehensive life-long benefits hitherto provided to injured veterans and replaced these with a one-time lump sum payment of much lower value. Although he was not personally affected by the new program, Bruyea became an outspoken critic of the Charter and campaigned vigorously against it. He also advocated successfully for the creation of a veterans ombudsman: his writings provided the foundation of the Conservative Party 2006 election platform that promised to create a watchdog for veterans rights.
Finding Bruyea's advocacy unwelcome, Veterans Affairs bureaucrats plotted to punish him by destroying his credibility, and did so by broadcasting highly sensitive personal information from his medical files – Bruyea suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other psychological and physical injuries as a result of his service in the 1991 Gulf war. Veterans Affairs bureaucrats included large amounts of such personal information in briefing notes to various federal Cabinet Ministers, the Prime Minister’s Office and others, falsely suggesting that Bruyea was mentally unstable. Ultimately more than 800 people in the bureaucracy had access to his personal medical records – perhaps one of the worst violations ever of Canadian privacy laws.
The Public Sector Integrity Commissioner refused to investigate Bruyea's case, saying that the misconduct he was reporting did not amount to 'wrongdoing' as defined in the legislation that provides her mandate.
The 'RCMP Five'
The RCMP Pension Fund scandal finally came to light through the efforts of five people, who all struggled on courageously in the face of apparent attempts by RCMP top brass to block investigations. Denise Revine was the human resource director who first uncovered the suspicious transactions and compiled a massive file of evidence. Her boss Chief Superintendent Fraser Macaulay tried to ensure that this evidence was properly investigated – and was removed from his position and given what he believed was a punitive secondment. Retired Staff-Sgt. Ron Lewis led persistent efforts to make someone in authority pay attention – first within the RCMP, then in outside agencies such as the Treasury Board and Auditor General, and finally to MPs and the media. Staff-Sgt. Steve Walker took part in the Ottawa Police Service's criminal investigation into the affair, and Staff-Sgt. Mike Frizzell was abruptly removed from the investigation as his inquiries got close to senior RCMP management.
In an unprecedented turn of events all five were given the RCMP’s most coveted award, the Commissioner’s Commendation, for outstanding service, and a Commons committee unanimously passed a motion that the five be publicly commended and that commendation be tabled in Parliament. Prior to this, no Canadian whistleblower had ever received formal thanks or recognition from the authorities.
Allan Cutler was a procurement officer with Public Works Department who refused to go along with improper procurement practices, and as a result suffered retaliation from management over the course of many years. Cutler lodged a complaint, which prompted a departmental audit of the advertising and public opinion division. But by the time the audit was underway, Cutler was transferred to the technical and special services division of Public Works. During the Sponsorship Scandal investigation Cutler tabled an inch thick document which contained meticulous notes, memos and his own diary detailing how the rules were being broken. The evidence that he painstakingly gathered during this ordeal was vital to the Gomery Inquiry.
Daniel Land was in charge of testing meat for pathogens at the Pitt Meadows Meats plant in BC. When he received a positive test result for the deadly E. coli O157 he immediately told his bosses, but the plant manager told him to keep quiet about it and threw the test result into the garbage can, said Land.
The company also did not notify the authorities – a serious breach of regulations. The company fired Land and made various accusations against him: telling the media that it was because of his inability to get along with co-workers, that he was a disgrunted employee, and that they suspected him of tampering with the meat samples.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) ordered a recall and launched an investigation that resulted in a report being sent to federal Crown. No charges have been laid. The company changed its name to Meadow Valley Meats and gave up its federal licence: it is not longer inspected by CFIA and does not have to test for E. coli since BC provincial regulations do not require this.
Ian Bron is a former naval officer who held the position of Chief of Marine Transportation Security Regulatory Affairs at Transport Canada. Concerned that systemic mismanagement, unethical practices by management and rampant workplace harassment were undermining the security of the marine transportation system, and placing Canadians at risk, he reported the problems he saw to the Office of the Auditor General and the Public Service Integrity Office in 2006.
Bron alleges that Transport Canada executives immediately initiated a campaign of reprisal and cover-up. While he remains employed in another department, Transport Canada officials have labelled him as disgruntled, disloyal and unethical, and have made it clear that they intend to seek his dismissal from the public service. In 2007 Bron initiated legal action against his former bosses but admitted that, faced with the example of Joanna Gualtieri's 12-year old legal struggle, he was deeply concerned about his future.
As expected, the courts ruled that Bron could not sue his bosses -- thus confirming that Section 236 of the Public Service Modernization Act blocks whistleblowers from this avenue of redress.
Bob Gale is a former Commissioner of the Niagara Parks Commission who in 2008 exposed that the commission had secretly signed a sweetheart 25-year lease extension with the current operator of the Maid of the Mist boat tours. This deal, worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the operator, shut out other potential bidders offering more favourable terms. After an eight-month investigation, two government reviews and further damaging revelations in the media, the commission was overruled by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and ordered to conduct an open competitive tender process for the lease. In 2012 the contract was awarded to a different company at an estimated saving to the taxpayer of 300 million dollars.
Brian McAdam's 30 year career in the foreign service ended suddenly in 1993 after he exposed corruption at the Canadian Consulate in Hong Kong and the infiltration of Chinese organized crime members and spies into Canada. His work saved the Canadian government an estimated $50 million, prevented the entry of over 1,000 organized crime figures such as Triad, Yakuza, and Mafia members into Canada, and revealed China's extensive espionage activities in Canada, which have now been confirmed by Canada's intelligence service, Chinese defectors and others.
Cpl. Robert Read
Cpl. Robert Read a 26 year veteran of the RCMP was fired after investigating government corruption involving the Canadian High Commission in Hong Kong. In the course of his investigation he uncovered evidence of the corruption and what appeared to him to be a massive cover-up of that evidence. Read‘s investigation involved very rich and powerful members of the business community in Hong Kong, political connections in the People‘s Republic of China and the Liberal government of Jean Chretien.
An RCMP external review committee later vindicated Read saying the Mounties had seriously mishandled investigations into complaints that Asian triads had infiltrated the embassy. The committee also found that the national police force was reluctant to investigate foreign affairs employees who were suspected of taking bribes from China‘s rich and powerful, many of whom are widely known to be part of the communist spy network. In its ruling, the committee said that Read was justified in taking his concerns to the media and ordered him reinstated. The RCMP refused.
Read took his case to the Federal Court of Canada. In June 2005 Judge Sean Harrington condemned Read for “a lack of loyalty to the government” and reaffirmed his firing. Read has since appealed all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which in May 2007 declined to hear his case.
The 'Health Canada Three'
In 1998 three Health Canada scientists, Dr. Shiv Chopra, a senior veterinary drug evaluator in Health Canada's Therapeutic Products and Food Branch, along with Dr. Margaret Hayden in the Animal Health Division, and Dr. Gerard Lambert blew the whistle on the drug approval process for bovine growth hormone and animal feed. They said human health concerns were being ignored due to pressure from lobbyists of drug companies. In June 2004 all three were fired by Health Canada. They have since spent more than 100 days in hearings before the Public Service Labour Relations Board (PSLRB) as their union battles to have them reinstated.
The Public Sector Integrity Commissioner refused to investigate although her predecessor, the Public Sector Integrity Officer, had been ordered to do so by a judge, following a judicial review of the case.
Dr. Nancy Olivieri
Dr. Nancy Olivieri a scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children and clinical professor at the University of Toronto discovered in 1998 evidence suggesting that a drug she was testing might be life threatening. Apotex Inc. which partly funded her research, insisted that she should not publish her results and threatened legal action if she were to inform the patients in the trials. The U of T refused to intervene, in spite of its responsibilities for public health and for scientific integrity. Critics observe that the U of T was at that time negotiating with Apotex Inc. for a multimillion dollar donation for a new building.
After independent investigations vindicated Dr. Olivieri, she took a leave of absence to pursue her research. In 2004, after six years of legal proceedings, Olivieri reached a settlement with Apotex which included a substantial payment to her. However, the company then refused to pay, claiming that Olivieri had violated the terms of the settlement by 'disparaging' the company or its drug.
In 2008, after another four years of litigation, Apotex was ordered by the Ontario Superior Court to perform all the terms of the settlement. The company immediately announced its intention to challenge this ruling, and launched a new lawsuit against Dr. Olivieri.
Richard Colvin was a senior diplomat posted in Kandahar and Kabul from April 2006 to October 2007. Starting in May 2006 he repeatedly raised concerns about the potential for torture of prisoners handed over byy the Canadian military to Afghan police. He raised these concerns to senior officials at Foreign Affairs and National Defence, copying 79 different people across government.
During a subsequent investigation conducted by the Military Police Complaints Commission, all but one of 22 potential witnesses subpoenaed by the Commission declined to testify, allegedly after receiving threatening letters from the Department of Justice. Only Colvin agreed to testify and his allegations became public in October 2009.
Bob Stenhouse, a much-decorated, 18-year veteran of the force with extensive undercover experience, landed in hot water in 1999 when he disclosed RCMP media strategies for outlaw biker gangs to Yves Lavigne which appear in the book Hells Angels at War. Frustrated with a lack of enforcement initiatives, Stenhouse believed the national strategy was merely a public relations exercise. Stenhouse was found guilty of discreditable conduct and ordered to resign. A court ruled his disciplinary hearing was unfair and ordered a new one which ruled he should be reinstated. In June of 2004 he was reinstated and then immediately suspended with pay while the RCMP awaits a new court-ordered disciplinary hearing.
Constable Perry Dunlop, a police officer in Cornwall, Ontario, uncovered evidence of an alleged pedophile ring. When he discovered that Cornwall police were not taking action to prosecute the suspects he alerted the Childrens' Aid Society. As a result he was charged with contravening his duties under the Police Act. He was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing, as judges ruled that his duties to Children’s Aid superceded his responsibilities as a police officer. Dunlop subsequently left Cornwall and moved to the west coast to escape taunts and threats against himself and his family.
A massive petition from Cornwall residents eventually spurred an OPP probe "Project Truth' which laid 114 charges against 15 men. These mostly foundered for various reasons, but in other prosecutions five paedophiles with connections to the members of the alleged ring were eventually convicted. Once the court cases were complete, a long-promised public inquiry was launched, which has been the subject of much controversy. In 2008 Dunlop was jailed for 7½ months for refusing to testify at the inquiry, saying that he had lost confidence in the justice system.
Dr. John O'Connor
Dr. John O'Connor, an Alberta doctor, was startled to encounter several cases of a very rare cancer in Fort Chipewyan, in the Athabasca oil patch. His further investigations revealed unusually high rates of cancers among the residents, and he called for a thorough health review of the community. His findings contributed to concerns that oil extraction operations may be contaminating the environment with carcinogenic chemicals.
In what was perceived as an attempt to muzzle him, Health Canada doctors lodged four complaints against O'Connor with his professional body – charges which could have resulted in the loss of his licence. Doctors were alarmed by this incident, since such reports from doctors in the field have been vital to the detection of new diseases such as AIDS. Consequently, in 2007 the Canadian Medical Association passed a resolution (#103) calling for whistleblower protection for doctors – apparently to protect them from Health Canada.
Bernard Payeur, a computer specialist with Foreign Affairs, wrote a financial analysis program which, to his astonishment, revealed that missions were under-reporting exchange rate gains, thus illegally keeping public money for themselves to the tune of about $7 million worldwide per year (1983 dollars). When his reports were shared with DFAIT senior management, they refused to acknowledge or deal with the issue and Payeur was told by a colleague that it was 'standard practice' for missions to keep 50% of these gains, thus apparently enabling some people to enjoy a more lavish lifestyle at the taxpayers' expense.
Payeur was subsequently moved to a tiny office and ordered to reproduce his massive computer-generated reports using only a pencil and desk calculator, without access to the source data. When he failed this impossible task he was given a punitive performance appraisal rating him the lowest grade possible on all 11 attributes, thus rendering him unemployable. He appealed this harsh treatment up to the Supreme Court of Canada without success. During the kafka-esque hearings his bosses admitted under oath that they were facilitating the theft of public funds, but no action was ever taken against any of them.
Linda Merk discovered that the president and business manager of Ironworkers Union Local 771 were double dipping on their travel expenses, so she raised the matter "in house” to union senior management and was fired. The union argued that double-dipping was not explicitly prohibited by its bylaws. Merk fought against her dismissal all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which in a precedent-setting decision, ruled in her favour.
Selwyn Pieters was fired after going public about wrongdoing at the Immigration and Refugee Board, while the board said it axed him for tarnishing its image by lying to the media. He argued in Federal Court documents that his dismissal was in retaliation for blowing the whistle.
Lesley Anthony and Jean Bowen were hailed as heroes after they secretly videotaped the plight of an elderly woman in a Versa-Care Long-Term-Care Home. Lesley Anthony is being accused of professional misconduct for her actions.
Jane Shorten and Mike Frost were both employees of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) which conducts electronic surveillance: CSE is the Canadian counterpart of the NSA in the USA. Shorten and Frost revealed that CSE was spying on Canadians (such as Margaret Trudeau and Quebec separatists) and on citizens of friendly countries (for example acting on behalf of britain's secret service to monitor dissenting ministers in Margaret Thatcher's cabinet).
Dr. Barry Armstrong, Canadian Armed Forces. The Canadian Forces doctor was considered one of the initial whistle blowers in Somalia Inquiry. There was a campaign within the military to smear him until he retired.
Dr. Michelle Brill-Edwards, of the Health Protection Branch, took a Health Canada director to court in the 1990s for overruling scientific decisions on drug safety. She resigned in 1996, claiming wholesale abuses inside the Branch, and continues to speak out on drug issues.
Pierre Blais, a government research chemist in the 1980's, became concerned with the potential harmful effects of breast implants on women. When he was invited to testify as an expert witness in lawsuits involving the implants, the department ordered him not to communicate his findings, and blocked his appearance. He wrote memos asking for further investigation and a voluntary halt to sales of the implants. After increasingly stifling his research, the government fired him in 1989. He was reinstated by court order, but left to work independently in his field.
Bruce Brine who had 22 years of policing and a 1994 governor-general's award for exemplary service, was fired from his job as chief of the Halifax ports police in 1995 after he made allegations that senior officials with the Canada ports police were getting kickbacks from the Hells Angels. The ports police were disbanded in 1998 and the ongoing investigations were abandoned -- just as they were in Vancouver in 1997. Much of the material from the files of those investigations was listed as missing when Mounties began to pursue his obstruction complaint. Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission awarded him a cash settlement, an apology and a letter of reference from the port authority.
Gary Lovett got fired for telling the media that Canada's base in Afghanistan didn't have adequate fire-fighting gear. Though his pay came from the Canadian government, it flowed through a contractor, SNC-Lavalin.
Detective Ron Robertson came forward in 1999 with concerns that the Edmonton force had been infiltrated by organized crime. In January 2000, it was revealed that the Alberta RCMP had been investigating allegations of biker infiltration into Edmonton city police for seven years. While various police investigations have found nothing amiss, CBC Radio investigators have continued to uncover more evidence to support Robertson's claims.
Michael Sanders, financial analyst, Office of the Superintendent for Financial Institutions, blew the whistle on the absence of sufficient safeguards to protect taxpayers against the collapse of major financial institutions. He was fired.