Manitoba looking to enhance protections for whistleblowers

Designated officers would have greater powers to investigate wrongdoing

The Manitoba government is hoping to enhance the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act by introducing proposed legislation that would strengthen identity protection for whistleblowers and procedures related to investigations.

"We want to make sure anyone who becomes aware of significant and serious wrongdoing in, or relating to the public service, feels they can disclose it to the appropriate officials without fear of reprisal," said Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross, minister responsible for the Civil Service Commission. "The amendments we're introducing today would also clarify the process for disclosing wrongdoing and would give greater powers to the designated officers to conduct investigations."

In addition to requiring all people involved in the investigation or management of a disclosure to protect the identity of whistleblowers, protection for whistleblowers would be further strengthened by prohibiting the disclosure of the whistleblower's identity in a civil court proceeding or a proceeding of an administrative tribunal.

The changes would also enhance procedures related to investigations. The ombudsman would be empowered to receive and investigate reprisal complaints, and take immediate action to address acts or threats of reprisal by employers.

Employees would be able to file a further complaint to the Manitoba Labour Board about the alleged reprisal if they are not satisfied with the outcome of the ombudsman's process.

"Our experience with investigations under this act since 2007 led us to identify areas in the legislation that we believed could be improved," said Manitoba Ombudsman Charlene Paquin. "Many of these proposed amendments, particularly with respect to enhanced powers for designated officers and our ability to investigate reprisal complaints, will strengthen the legislation and increase the confidence of whistleblowers in the complaint process."

There are more than 600 public service organizations covered by the act including government departments, the independent offices of the legislature and government bodies. The new provisions of the act would come into effect Jan. 1, 2016.

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