All posts tagged Privy Council Office

Trudeau can fix our broken whistleblowing system: here’s why and how

This piece was first published in the Hill Times on March 20, 2017.

The House Government Operations Committee deserves kudos for taking the bull by the horns in its review of Canada’s failed system for protecting government whistleblowers. This week the committee will hear from no less than four experts representing countries that have much better laws: the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Ireland.

The comparisons these experts can offer will be eye-opening, since the Canadian system simply does not protect whistleblowers from reprisals. In more than 10 years not a single truth-teller has been awarded a remedy by the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal (the only body that can do so), and not a single aggressor has suffered consequences for taking reprisals.

In Canada, it’s more dangerous to kick a dog than to destroy a whistleblower’s life. If you attack a helpless animal, someone might see you. A video of the incident might go viral online, and you might face public outrage and damage to your reputation, even your career. But if you destroy a whistleblower’s life in plain sight—through bullying and harassment, unfair dismissal and blacklisting—it’s unlikely that you will face any consequences.

Even if you are reported to our Public Sector Integrity Commissioner and he decides that reprisals took place (which he rarely does) he has the power (which he almost always uses) to block the tribunal from taking any action against you.… Read the rest

Whistleblower protection: who really pulls the strings?

This piece first appeared in the Hill Times on February 27, 2017.

When examining the sorry track record of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner’s Office, it’s easy to overlook those primarily responsible: it was Privy Council Office (PCO) and the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS), working mostly behind the scenes, who—intentionally or not—set up PSIC to fail. Here’s how it was done.

The Role of Treasury Board:
Treasury Board drafted faulty legislation

Given the wide range of serious shortcomings in the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA), it’s difficult to believe that the drafters intended it to work—unless they were completely oblivious of best practices and other jurisdictions’ experience.

The most glaring example of this is the absence of a ‘reverse onus’ provision. The PSDPA puts the onus on whistleblowers to prove that the actions taken against them were reprisals—an almost impossible task. Effective whistleblowing laws shift the burden of proof to the employer to show that adverse actions were not intended as reprisals. This has been well understood for literally decades—since the disastrous experience of the Merit System Protection Board (in the U.S.) in the early 1980s. Without a reverse onus, of the first 2,000 whistleblowers who submitted claims of reprisal, only four prevailed.… Read the rest

Federal Integrity Commissioner claims to be making headway

Feds rooting out wrongdoing in the public sector

That’s what the headline reads in several newspapers. The basis of this claim is a report by the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, where Mario Dion is the Commissioner. In it, he claims that the office is receiving more complaints of wrongdoing.

How journalists leap from “more complaints” to “rooting out wrongdoing” is beyond us, particularly as most complaints received still aren’t being investigated and only one instance of wrongdoing has been found. To make matters worse, that solitary case included no sanctions for the wrongdoer (who had left the public service) or the people who were supposed to be supervising her. She wasn’t even named. Parading this sole case as a triumph is, frankly, laughable. Furthermore, expecting public servants to be impressed insults their intelligence. They won’t be fooled, nor surprised: such propaganda-like overstatements are commonplace in the bureaucracy.

While Dion is a huge improvement over his predecessor, the disgraced Christiane Ouimet, it is our opinion that he is still the wrong man for the job. He showed a lack of integrity in accepting the post – which he had promised not to seek, and then denied making the promise.… Read the rest