Where Can Whistleblowers Blow the Whistle?

Are whistleblower protections really all they are cracked up to be? Depending on who you talk to (and the country your company is located in), some say that these protections do more harm than good.

Posted by Joe Gerard in on February 28th, 2011

Are whistleblower protections really all they are cracked up to be? Depending on who you talk to (and the country your company is located in), some say that these protections do more harm than good. Some might even go as far as saying that established protections have no impact on the treatment of whistleblowers or the correction of workplace misconduct. In Canada, the government developed a system of protections for whistleblowers in the federal public sector. The system, however, was doomed from the get go, according to a recent article in the Ottawa Citizen.

The Breaking Point

A few months ago I blogged about Christiane Ouimet’s departure from her position as the public sector’s integrity commissioner. Her departure followed news that she wasn’t doing her job properly after only 5 of 228 complaints were followed up with an investigation. Combine this with the fact that the whistleblower laws in Canada weren’t that strong to begin with and now we’ve got a big problem on our hands.

According to David Hutton, executive director with Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform in the Ottawa Citizen article “Whistleblower protection laws are broken: critics”

“This law does not provide the ironclad protection for whistleblowers it promised. Whoever becomes the new permanent commissioner ought to look at the law. I don’t believe that any competent person would accept the role without strong assurances that the law they’re charged with using is going to be greatly strengthened.”

Righting the Wrongs

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Whistleblower advocacy groups are speaking out about the lack of support for whistleblowers. Hutton dissected the whistleblower laws in Canada and found that there’s too much room for the commissioner to reject majority of the incoming claims based on their own discretion. In the Citizen article, they reported that Hutton also discovered that there’s no reliable way to make sure wrongdoers are properly punished for their actions. Advocates are teaming up and demanding that these laws be revised sooner than the proposed 2012 start date – I’d have to say I agree with them.

The issues with whistleblower laws experienced in Canada are common in other countries as well. The laws promise to protect whistleblowers and punish those who are guilty of misconduct, but they usually fall flat when they are needed the most. In Canada, this particular situation must be addressed as soon as possible because there’s a major lack in accountability for a group that maintains an annual budget of $11 million and conducts hardly any investigations. As it currently stands, the program is as good as non-existent, as they group has made next to no progress and hasn’t even scratched the surface of righting workplace wrongs.

Laws need to be tougher in order to ensure that the integrity commissioner and its’ team act on incoming tips/complaints. Whoever is selected as the next commissioner needs to put the interests of the employees in the federal public service first. When an employee has a hard time getting their employer to listen to their concerns about an incident in the workplace, they need somewhere to turn to, not just another person who will turn a blind eye on them.

Joe Gerard
Joe Gerard

CEO, i-Sight

Spend my days showing off the i-Sight investigative case management software and finding ways to help clients improve their investigations. Usually working with corporate security, HR & employee relations, compliance and legal teams.

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