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.    

The letter asked for each leader to inform us of their position on amendments to the act recommended in 2017 as follows:

Dear Sir or Madam:

Subject:  Party Position on Amendments to the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA)

I am writing on behalf of the Whistleblowing Canada Research Society, a non-profit corporation founded by Canadian citizens.  The goal of our organization is to advance knowledge and education on the whistleblowing phenomenon in Canada through research and policy development.  We believe this work is necessary to support accountability and democracy in Canada.

We are writing to ask for your position on two recent, well-researched reports containing numerous recommendations to amend and improve the PSDPA.   More specifically, we would like to know your views on the reports and your commitment to implementing these recommended changes.

  These reports are:

1.  Report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates (OGGO) submitted to the government in June 2017. The report contained the unanimous conclusions and recommendations of this all-party committee of the House of Commons.   It identified that the PSDPA was restrictive and unclear and did not adequately protect whistleblowers. 

2.  The Report of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, Mr. Joe Friday, submitted to OGGO - Feb. 14, 2017.

Mr. Friday recommended some 16 changes which were similar to those of the final report of OGGO.  The Commissioner has appeared before OGGO each year since he released his report and each time has expressed his ongoing belief in the need not only for legislative amendment but also for changes to workplace cultures so that whistleblowing is normalized in the public service. 

3.  Mr. Friday also commissioned and published a study in June 2016 titled “The Sound of Silence – Whistleblowing and the Fear of Reprisal”.   The study highlights the need for changes to both whistleblowing legislation and Federal Public Service workplace cultures.

We invite you to review these reports and inform us as to whether you are committed to implementing the important recommendations.

Yours sincerely,

Pamela Forward

Pamela Forward, President,


The letter was sent on Sept. 20, 2019.  To date we have had one reply.  

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