All posts in category Advice for Whistleblowers and Dissenters

The Operations Committee leaps into action to protect whistleblowers – or does it?

This piece was first published in the Hill Times on February 13, 2017.

Whistleblower protection advocates across Canada were celebrating last week when the news broke that Hon. Scott Brison, President of Treasury Board, had suddenly asked the Government Operations Committee (OGGO) to conduct a review of the federal whistleblower protection law (the PSDPA). This review, which by law should have taken place 5 years ago, has been steadfastly blocked by Treasury Board since 2012. Why the sudden change of heart? No-one knows.

The big question now is whether members of OGGO can find the time, determination and resources to do justice to this very important task, handed to them at very short notice.

Hearings began on Tuesday, and on Thursday morning three civil society witnesses were called – Allan Cutler, David Yazbeck and myself. We presented damning testimony regarding the dysfunctional nature of both the law and the Integrity Commissioner’s office. We pleaded with the committee to call a wide range of follow-up witnesses – outside experts rather than those running the system – in order to obtain a proper understanding of how badly broken the current system is. And we offered detailed suggestions on how to fix it.… Read the rest

Advice for whistleblowers

Below is a draft one-pager of advice for whistleblowers, which I’m posting here to solicit comments. Feel free to submit them in the comments section. Once I have received and processed feedback, I will post it on our Help and About Whistleblowing pages.

There’s much more that can be (and has been) written about whistleblowing, of course, but keep in mind that we’re trying to keep it succinct – a quick checklist.

There are also some excellent books out there, some available for free on the web. Visit our Links & Books page to find a listing.

Also, the usual legal disclaimer applies. Scroll to the bottom of the post to read it.


To begin with, if you witness wrongdoing or misconduct, do not assume that senior management is not aware of it and would act if they were. This is a classic whistleblowing pitfall. In many cases, management is either aware of the issue or (perversely) would rather not be. In either case, it is usually the messenger (read: whistleblower) who suffers. Even if it turns out that management does have good intentions, the imbalance in power is so great that caution is the best policy.

Beyond that, there are two types of advice we can give.… Read the rest

Dealing with workplace bullying

The Harvard Business Review is a great resource for a wide range of management topics. It frequently deals with issues that include our main interest – whistleblowing, accountability, that sort of thing.

The blog post below has excellent advice for managers about workplace bullying and the damage to productivity and morale they can do. My interest was sparked because bullies are generally unaccountable for their actions, and because nearly all whistleblowers are exposed to either bullying or (even worse) mobbing.

Rather than repeat the content of the post, I highly recommend you read it. Consider passing it on to people who may be in situation like this.

The one thing the author doesn’t discuss, though, is what happens when management itself endorses either the bully or the culture that perpetuates bullying. Canada’s federal government is a prime example. Studies show more and more bullying in the workplace, accompanied by rising rates of long term disability for mental illness. Nothing is being done about this because for most of the senior executives in government, this is how they rose to the top.

In case like that, there are few options: duck and hide, leave the organization, or join in. Sadly, too many people choose to join in.… Read the rest