OTTAWA — An advocacy group for those who reveal wrongdoing says it cannot support a new task force looking at the federal whistleblowing regime because it lacks someone with “lived experience” as an actual whistleblower.
In a letter to Treasury Board President Mona Fortier, Whistleblowing Canada Research Society president Pamela Forward calls the absence a “shocking omission.”
The group, which works to advance education and understanding of the whistleblowing phenomenon, also raises concerns about the independence of the task force, given that four of the nine members are current or former employees of various levels of government.
Co-chair Suzanne Craig is the integrity commissioner for the City of Vaughan in Ontario, while fellow co-chair Mary McFadyen served as ombudsman and public interest disclosure commissioner for Saskatchewan.
Fortier appointed the task force in late November to look at opportunities to improve the federal disclosure process and strengthen protections and supports for public servants who come forward to disclose wrongdoing.
The Treasury Board Secretariat says many of the task force members, who also include academics and union representatives, were chosen through consultations with experts in the field and bring diverse expertise to the role.
“The review is expected to consult a range of stakeholders, and we look forward to hearing their views as this important work proceeds,” said Rola Salem, a spokesperson for the secretariat.
The review will also consider the recommendations of the 2017 report issued by the House of Commons committee on government operations and estimates, which considered testimony from 52 witnesses, Salem said.
The task force will produce a public report with recommendations on possible amendments to the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act. The panel is expected to take 12 to 18 months to complete its work.
Although it opposes the government’s approach to the task force, the Ottawa-based whistleblowing research society agrees that an independent review is necessary, as the 2017 Commons committee report “is now out of date.”
“There is much new knowledge about properly drafting and implementing laws and disclosure mechanisms since then,” Forward writes in the letter to Fortier.
She tells the minister the task force should also include a member with expertise regarding neuroscience research on the basis that harassment and bullying suffered by whistleblowers causes physical damage to the brain.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 24, 2022.