Federal Accountability Action Plan, April 2006
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Providing real protection for whistleblowers
- A Public Sector Integrity Commissioner with the power to enforce the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act
- A new, independent tribunal with the power to order remedies and discipline
- Expanded whistleblower protection for all Canadians who report government wrongdoing
- More public information on wrongdoing
"The public sector must foster an environment in which employees may honestly and openly raise concerns without fear or threat of reprisal."
Why we are doing this
The Public Service of Canada is a multifaceted institution staffed by professional, dedicated, and highly skilled people. Its employees play a crucial role in supporting the Government’s agenda and helping it deliver programs and services to citizens. Canadians have every right to expect that public-office holders and public-sector employees behave ethically and in accordance with their legal obligations. The public sector must, therefore, foster an environment in which employees may honestly and openly raise concerns without fear or threat of reprisal.
The Federal Accountability Act will introduce the following changes:
- The Act will make the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner an Agent of Parliament with an expanded mandate.
- It will give public-sector employees direct access to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner to report wrongdoing in the workplace.
- It will give the Commissioner the authority to deal with complaints from public-sector employees who feel that they have suffered reprisal for alleging wrongdoing. The Commissioner will screen complaints, investigate the matter as necessary, and attempt to conciliate a settlement between the parties to the complaint. If there is no settlement, the Commissioner may decide to refer the matter to a new, independent Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal.
- It will give the independent Tribunal, composed of judges or former judges, the power to decide whether reprisal occurred. The Tribunal will have the authority to order action to ensure that the reprisal is remedied and that those who took reprisal are disciplined.
- It will include specific penalties for offences under the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, including tougher penalties for those who willfully impede investigations of wrongdoing. These offences will be punishable by fines of up to $10,000, imprisonment for up to two years, or both.
- It will ensure that public-sector employees are provided with legal counsel. The Act will give the Commissioner the power to authorize free access to legal counsel for advice for public-sector employees who are considering making a disclosure of wrongdoing, serving as a witness, or alleging a reprisal. The Commissioner will also have the power to authorize free access to legal counsel for advice for non-public-sector employees who are considering providing information to the Commissioner about government wrongdoing.
- It will remove the ability of the Government to exclude Crown corporations from coverage under the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.
- It will expand protection to all those who disclose government wrongdoing by prohibiting:
- employers from undertaking reprisal against employees who will be providing or have provided information concerning an alleged federal public-sector wrongdoing to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner;
- the Government from terminating a contract or withholding payments to a contractor because the contractor or any of the contractor’s employees provided information concerning an alleged wrongdoing;
- the Government from refusing to enter into a contract because the contractor or any of the contractor’s employees provided information concerning an alleged wrongdoing; and
- the Government from withholding a grant or contribution because the recipient or any of the recipient’s employees provided information concerning an alleged wrongdoing.
- It will provide more open access to information related to disclosures of wrongdoing by requiring that:
- the Commissioner, within 60 days, report to Parliament the finding of wrongdoing, the recommendations if any, and any response to date by the chief executive;
- chief executives make public reports of corrective action they have taken where they have found wrongdoing following investigations by senior officers within their organization; and
- the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada, through its minister, make an annual report to Parliament to provide an overview of all departmental disclosure activity.
- The Act will protect from release, under the Access to Information Act, information created for the purpose of making a disclosure or information created during the course of an investigation. Doing so will ensure that sensitive information is protected in a manner consistent with that held by other Agents of Parliament who conduct investigations.
- It will recognize and reward public-sector employees who expose wrongdoing. The Act will institute a special recognition award. The Commissioner will grant this award, which could include a monetary component of up to $1,000, to public-sector employees who make a disclosure that leads to a finding of wrongdoing and who demonstrate courage in defending the public interest.
In addition to the new rules to encourage whistleblowing and protect those who identify wrongdoing in government, the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board, Pierre Poilievre, has been asked to work on proposals for establishing a “made in Canada” regime that would allow members of the public to initiate legal action against private companies who may be defrauding the government of taxpayers’ money. Should legal action be successful, those who identified the wrongdoing may be eligible to receive damages that are imposed upon the defendants.
These changes will help create an environment in which employees and all Canadians can honestly and openly report wrongdoing in the federal government without fear of reprisal.
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