B.C. expands whistleblower protection program

More public service employees, organizations to be brought under scope of PIDA

B.C. expands whistleblower protection program

British Columbia is bringing more public service employees and organizations under the scope of the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA).

The PIDA – which protects current and past government employees who bring forward concerns about serious wrongdoing or who come under investigation ─ came into force in 2019.

“Over the past 18 months, we’ve had a chance to see these whistleblower protections for public servants in action and have fine-tuned the act to prepare for the rollout to the broader public sector,” says David Eby, attorney general. “This expansion will support transparency and accountability across government, giving staff throughout the public sector the confidence to come forward with concerns or information about wrongdoing without fear of being punished for speaking out.”

The province is taking a phased approach to the expansion. Beginning April 2022, the BC Games Society, BC Oil and Gas Commission, British Columbia Safety Authority, Public Guardian and Trustee and Real Estate Foundation of BC will be covered by the act, along with 25 tribunals.

Iterations of the expansion will also be held in December 2022, June 2023, December 2023, June 2024 and December 2024.

Forty per cent of workers have witnessed wrongdoing in the workplace, and 94 per cent feel it is their responsibility to speak up when they see this. However, the number drops to 77 per cent when it comes to people being likely to report it, according to a previous report.

And many Canadians fear being “outed” as a whistleblower, while 39 per cent fear retaliation and 38 per cent fear losing their job, according to a 2019 survey.

Weak protections in Canada

Canada, Lebanon and Norway’s laws are tied for the world’s weakest whistleblower protection laws, only matching one out of 20 criteria, according to a 2021 global study of whistleblower protection litigation, a collaboration between Government Accountability Project, founded by Institute for Policy Studies, and the International Bar Association.

And a 2017 report from Ryerson University, What’s Wrong With Canada’s Federal Whistleblower Legislation, found that Canada’s system has been “completely ineffective in protecting whistleblowers… largely ineffective in exposing government misconduct… and is not trusted by public servants.”

Canada suffers from a sparse body of established research and knowledge about why many whistleblowers continue to get punished in Canada which means there is little to inform the development of effective public policy, according to the Whistleblowing Canada Research Society.

“Emerging Canadian research indicates the reasons are complex and include weak laws, dysfunctional political and organizational cultures and attitudes in the courts. This lack is compounded by very strong resistance from successive Canadian governments who refuse to do anything at all to improve the situation even when they have been handed vital, credible, evidence-based information on what needs to be done. The resistance has risen to the extreme of apparent law-breaking by government itself in service of the status quo.”

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