Whistleblowing has been described as a process which unfolds as a witness to what s/he believes is wrongdoing considers and makes decisions about what to do, if anything. The observer and the organization ask questions and make decisions that affect them all in important ways. The observer considers:
- Is the activity illegal, immoral or illegitimate? S/he must decide if the activity is wrongful. The observer is more likely to make such a decision if the activity conflicts with the individual’s own values or the stated values of the organization and if there is clear evidence.
- If the answer is “yes”, should the activity be reported? The observer is likely to act if the wrongdoing is considered to be serious and s/he knows where to report it, believes that reporting will be effective and there is no other alternative that will work to get it stopped. Once reported, the organization must decide:
- Should the questioned activity be stopped? The organization must respond in some way even if to do nothing and continue the allegedly wrongful action as the illegitimacy may be in dispute (dominant group sees it as perfectly legitimate). Should the decision be to stop it, the process may end there.
- If in dispute, the organization considers – should the whistleblower be punished? It may decide to ignore the whistleblower and take steps to silence her/him or discredit the charge.
(Source: Near, Janet P. and Marcia P. Miceli. “Organizational Dissidence: The Case of Whistleblowing”. The Journal of Business Ethics. Vol. 4. 1985).
The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is a leading American Advocacy Group which helps whistleblowers. It has been in existence since the late 1970’s and the days of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. Its web site is a good resource for anyone considering whistleblowing in Canada. However, keep in mind the legislation governing whistleblowing in the US is stronger than in Canada and has been around for some forty years - since the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 and a number of subsequent acts enhancing the legislation. In Canada, the Federal whistleblowing protection act has been around since 2007 only. The provinces followed, with Prince Edward Island and British Columbia being the last two provinces to pass legislation. BC’s legislation is still not in effect.
The information on GAP's website for employees who are thinking about blowing the whistle is applicable to Canadian situations. You will find questions that help you consider the potential risks and improve your chances of success while minimizing the chance of reprisals such as:
- Are you ready to blow the whistle?
- Will you remain anonymous?
- Will you go public?
Further tips on how to blow the whistle safely which includes information on consulting and planning, building allies, proceeding with caution, and keeping records are available from GAP’s web site at:
Other helpful resources:
- Whistleblowing: A Practical Guide
- The Whistleblowing Initiative. Centre for Free Expression. Ryerson University. Ontario
- Transparency International Canada
- Anti-corruption and Accountability Canada
- CBC's Secure Drop is a resource for whistleblowers who decide to remain anonymous.