All posts tagged Employment Insurance

Time to turn a new leaf with whistleblowers

We are now about six months into the new Liberal government mandate. It’s a good time to stop and take stock. From a whistleblowing viewpoint, has anything changed under the new regime?

There are some indicators of a positive change. In November 2015, scientists were reported to have been “unmuzzled.” We’ve also heard from public servants speaking off the record about a positive change in culture inside government; impartial advice is again valued. The new government has also dropped several legal cases—for example, one in which the previous government tried to silence Cindy Blackstock and her efforts to get fair funding for aboriginal education.

On the other hand, there are also negative indicators. While the Liberals promised to be open by default with information—and continue to reinforce this message—they have recently announced that reforms to the Access to Information Act will have to wait until 2018. This is a major disappointment for advocates. They believe that good recommendations for change already exist and simply have to be enacted. So why the wait? After 10 years of Conservative government, none of the skeletons in the closet will belong to the Liberals. There are still significant delays in obtaining information from departments under the ATI.… Read the rest

Government doesn’t care about whistleblowers

From left to right: Mario Dion, Pierre Poilievre, Tony Clement and Wayne Wouters

Sean Bruyea

Canada’s Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, Clerk of the Privy Council, President of Treasury Board and Pierre Poilievre need some serious schooling from University of Saskatchewan’s recent uproar over the unjust firing of a whistleblowing professor. Maybe then public servant whistleblowers who truly care about the public will be protected and not persecuted by an insular and out-of-touch senior bureaucracy.

Robert Buckingham, a tenured professor, was fired May 14, 2014 from the University of Saskatchewan. His crime: speaking out against a money-saving plan to restructure and reduce faculties and staff.  Dr. Buckingham reported the usual litany of whistleblower reprisals including attacks to his credibility, management isolating him, intimidation and even an escort off campus after his dismissal.

What was unusual for Canada was the reaction. Students held mass demonstrations, politicians waded in, and academics worldwide pressured both the university and the provincial government to defend a whistleblower. Dr. Buckingham had his tenure restored the next day. The following week, the university provost, author of the letter firing Robert Buckingham, resigned. The university president was fired from her post but offered another position and a hefty severance.… Read the rest

Sylvie Therrien, 2014 Golden Whistle Award Winner

Last Monday, POGG Canada and Canadians for Accountability awarded the seventh annual Golden Whistle Award. This Award is presented annually to honour a whistleblower for integrity, courage, and resolve in the service of “Peace, Order and Good Government”. As usual, there were a number of worthy candidates, but unfortunately only one can be chosen. This year, the award went to Sylvie Therrien, a former employee who blew the whistle on a grossly unethical policy targeting employment insurance claimants.

When she started her job as a federal Employment Insurance fraud investigator, Ms. Therrien was surprised to find out that the main – perhaps only – measure of her performance was whether she had met her target for cutting off EI claimants on the basis of fraud: $35,000-$40,000 per month. If she had been able to meet those targets using  only those who had actually committed fraud, it’s likely we would never have heard of her. By her estimate, only a very small minority were actual fraud cases – as low as one in twenty.

Rather than assessing each case on the basis of its merits and assuming innocence until proven guilty, she and other fraud inspectors were told to comb through people lives to find any excuse to cut benefits.… Read the rest