David Hutton is an advocate for whistleblower protection as a means of safeguarding the public interest and the integrity of our institutions. He worked with Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform (FAIR), a charity devoted to whistleblower protection, for almost a decade and served as Chair of the Board and Executive Director for six years. He has written and spoken widely about whistleblowing, published analyses of Canadian whistleblowing laws and their implementation, and created guidance material for whistleblowers. His advocacy is personal. CACOR neither supports or refutes his independent motivations.
On June 16th, 2017, a House of Commons committee released its hard-hitting report that calls for a major overhaul of Canada’s inadequate federal whistleblower protection legislation.
The Government Operations Committee report recommends a number of changes to provide genuine protection to federal civil servants that blow the whistle on government wrongdoing.
“The report’s recommendations go a long way to fixing a law that has failed to protect federal whistleblowers since it was introduced ten years ago by the Harper Government,” said David Hutton, Senior Fellow at the Ryerson University Centre for Free Expression and one of Canada’s leading experts on whistleblowing.
“Now it is up to the Prime Minister to decide if his government is prepared to implement the report’s recommendations in the next session of Parliament or force whistleblowers to continue to put their careers at risk if they act in the public interest,” Hutton added.
Among the key changes called for by the report are:
- Making it much easier for whistleblowers to prove that they have suffered reprisals, and providing much more comprehensive compensation, to make them ‘whole’ again
- Placing on all departments and agencies a duty to actively protect whistleblowers – rather than just refraining from reprisals – with sanctions for failure to do so
- Requiring much better reporting, performance measurements and oversight, to allow close monitoring of enforcement and to reveal where further improvements are needed.
The Committee report follows the long-delayed five-year review of Canada’s federal whistleblowing law, the Public Servants Protection Disclosure Act. This legally-required review was mandated for 2012 but was blocked by the former government.
“Protecting whistleblowers will protect Canadians by enabling serious problems to be exposed and fixed before serious harm is done,” said Hutton. “This can help prevent calamities as diverse as the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster, the Phoenix payroll system meltdown, the approval of drugs with lethal side effects such as Vioxx (withdrawn in 2004), and the spread of deadly diseases by food processors such as Maple Leaf (in 2008) and XL Foods (in 2012).”
About the Centre for Free Expression
The Centre for Free Expression is Canada’s only university-based centre focusing on freedom of expression and the public’s right to know. A major part of the Centre’s work is public education and research on whistleblowing. www.cfe.ryerson.ca/whistleblowing
David has published an excellent 4-part series in The Hill Times that critically examines federal whistleblower protection in Canada.
For further information, contact:
Senior Fellow, Centre for Free Expression, Ryerson University (613) 567-1511