All posts tagged 2008 listeriosis outbreak

A Tale of Two Committees

This piece was first published, in edited form, in the Hill Times on July 3, 2014.

When Dickens wrote the opening to A Tale of Two Cities, set over two hundred years ago, he described an age of contrasts – wisdom and foolishness, belief and skepticism, hope and despair. He also wryly observed that this could be said of any era. It certainly seemed true to whistleblowing advocates attending two sets of recent Parliamentary committee hearings.

The committees in question were the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates (or OGGO, as it’s commonly known) and the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (or TRAN). In both cases, the committees had serious, deeply embedded problems to tackle: whistleblower protection on one hand, and aviation safety on the other.

For its part, OGGO set its sights on reviewing the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act in early February. This is the law which is supposed to protect federal government whistleblowers, but which has been spectacularly ineffective at doing so for 10 years. Without going into details – David Hutton and Allan Cutler have dealt with the issues thoroughly in previous editions of the Hill Times – it would be no exaggeration to say that the law intended to protect whistleblowers is little known and even less trusted by the rank-and-file public service.… Read the rest

Has the federal government’s ethics program failed?

As 2013 comes to a close, it is  time to take stock of the state of the federal government. It  has been a year of years, with the Senate Scandal dominating. It wasn’t the only story involving dodgy ethics, either. Former Justice Canada lawyer Edgar Schmidt was pushed out of the Department for challenging a policy which lets the Conservative government propose any law unless a legal analysis shows a 95% chance that it will be ruled unconstitutional. Sylvie Therrien was fired for speaking out against an unethical government policy in which EI auditors were given quotas (see our earlier post on this).  There are more, simmering below the surface, either pushed aside by bigger stories.   or they have  become so routine that the media barely notices them anymore.

For those of us at Canadians for Accountability, this is a serious issue that goes beyond mere occasional scandal. Is the government ethics program a failure?

When unethical behaviour is unchecked – and even rewarded, for example with promotions – administrative evil is the result. Canada has seen its share in residential schools and eugenics programs (which Alberta had until 1972).

Fighting this tendency is a challenge as old as government.… Read the rest

Ex-governor of Fukushima saw his concerns about nuclear plants tragically vindicated

There’s nothing like a major disaster to see how important whistleblowers are, and to expose the other half of the wrongdoers’ playbook.

The tsunami that caused the meltdown at the Fukushima I Nuclear Plant is just such a disaster. In the piece below, we can see how a former governor of the Fukushima Prefecture, Sato Eisaku, received many warnings from whistleblowers about the nuclear plant, and tried to have them addressed. As a result, he argues, he was wrongfully prosecuted for corruption and kicked from office. There is evidence to support his claims. He wrote a book in 2008 about his concerns; it is now a bestseller.

Whistleblowing in the nuclear industry has been met with reprisals in many countries, including the U.S. One former inspector, in fact, reported that the problem of backup generators not working is a fairly typical one which the industry has a history of ignoring. (In the Fukushima plant, the generators were in the basement so were vulnerable to flooding.)

Whistleblowers before an accident generally face a standard set of responses: denials that there is a problem, attacks on their credibility and a variety of other personal attacks.

After a crisis, it’s common for officials to argue that it was impossible to predict.… Read the rest