Ignoring Whistleblowers and Not Enforcing Laws Cause Avoidable Deaths.

The recent CTV -W5 documentary “The Problem with Pills” illustrates in horrific detail, what happens when whistleblowers – often experts in their fields - are ignored and not protected, laws to protect the public are not upheld and policies are diverted from the public interest towards a specific interest.  These actions have led us to a place where 22,000 or more innocent Canadians die a year from adverse reactions to legally prescribed drugs.

One W5 participant noted Health Canada had “backed down” from enforcing the many extra powers the Protecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act (Vanessa's Law) gave it. The Food and Drugs Act and Vanessa’s Law are part of criminal law in Canada.  And Health Canada does not uphold it?  The main message from the participants was – do not trust Health Canada to protect you from unsafe drugs.  How have we arrived at such a dark place? 

Here’s how.  In 1996 the top medical regulator from Health Canada, Dr. Michele Brill-Edwards, tried to warn us that not enforcing the law, deregulation and shifts in priorities taking place at the Department were leading to more deaths from unsafe drugs.  She sacrificed her career to speak out in the interest of public safety but her message went unheeded.   Many knowledgeable others have also tried to warn us:

  • The Auditor General - warned us and Parliament a number of times about the deficiencies in the regulatory body – Health Canada- which included funding and staff cuts among many others.
  • Researchers - starting in 2000 with Wiktorowicz’s work , Shifting priorities at the Health Protection Branch: challenges to the regulatory process. Also, there is the work of 16 researchers in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics on the topic of Institutional Corruption and the Pharmaceutical Policy.  They clarify how certain practices have corrupted medical research, the production of medical knowledge, the practice of medicine, drug safety and Regulatory oversight of pharmaceutical marketing.
  • The Media – alerted us over the years with stories of unsafe drugs.

Almost 25 years later, the media and W5 are warning us again, about needless Canadian deaths from unsafe drugs.

The reasons for this are:

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International Conference Discloses Canadian Whistleblowers At Risk

It has been a busy summer.  In June, two of Whistleblowing Canada's Directors, Ian Bron and I, attended a two day Conference organized by the International Whistleblowing Research Network(IWRN) in Utrecht, Netherlands.  The gathering included prominent whistleblowing academics, researchers, whistleblowers and non-profit organizations supporting whistleblowers from around the world.  The sharing of the knowledge and experience of those attending was empowering and confidence-building as it reinforced many of our own findings and future plans.   One of the most memorable (and disconcerting) moments came when one researcher gave a preliminary glimpse of results of research being done by his organization aimed at examining whistleblower protection legislation from some 60 countries to determine how many contained "best practices".  Experts have identified 20 elements considered "best practice".  It was announced at the Conference, for all to hear, that Canada's Federal whistleblower protection law, the Public Servant Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA) does not contain even one best practice.  In effect it does not protect whistleblowers.  Canadian academics have pointed out that provincial legislation has been largely modeled after the federal legislation.  This does not auger well for whistleblowers or Canadians.  Donald Savoie, a well known expert on Canadian Public Administration, tells us that Canada's democratic institutions are "disintegrating".  In the age of disinformation, the attack on truth, and failure of our Access to Information laws,  whistleblowing is the only way we can know what is really going on in government.  And it is only by knowing what is really going on that we can make informed decisions and take reasonable action to participate in our democracy.   With this in mind Whistleblowing Canada has written to all party leaders regarding recommended (and ignored) amendments to the PSPDA.    

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Welcome to Whistleblowing Canada's Blog.  The following is the first post.  I hope it is the first of many that will stimulate discussion and debate on the issues that concern us.


Is it Time to Reboot Canadian Democracy?

Recently the media has had a large focus on a number of issues that speak to how Canadian citizens are governed federally.  I refer here to questions raised by the SNC – Lavalin affair around:

  1. the rule of law – which means not only that the law must be obeyed but also that it applies to everyone equally including the Prime Minister and large powerful corporations.
  2. the role of the Clerk of the Privy Council – does s/he represent to his/her political masters the considered, best, impartial opinions/advice of the federal bureaucracy in the public interest or does s/he represent to the bureaucracy the views/preferences of his political masters which they are to support unquestioningly?
  3. the role of a public servant – is it solely to assist the Prime Minister and Ministers implement their policy preferences or does a public servant have a role as guardian of the rule of law and the public trust?
  4. are we governed by democratically elected representatives and an Executive headed by the leader of the party in power and his/her Cabinet who are responsible/answerable to the members of the House of Commons from all parties? Or,
  5. are we governed by leaders (and bureaucrats at their political leaders behest) who are too close to the very large, powerful companies who supposedly “creat jobs” (a wrong assumption) rather than keeping an “arm’s length” relationship with those the government regulates?  


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