In the last decade, Canada has enacted whistleblower legislation that protects the public employees who have disclosed the incompetence and misconducts of the government.
The focus has been particularly surprising due to the vast amount of legislation that has arisen from the topic of whistleblowing. Even international organizations are getting in on addition legislation about protection for whistleblowers. The European Commission and the World Bank are developing various internal guides and standards that protect employees who discuss the wrongdoings and corruption that are linked to the activities that government organization are participating in. This movement in Canada, and throughout the world is intended to improve human rights, and to ensure the public sector is performing its role responsibly, (Vaughn, n.d.).
Those who work in the public sector are needed to ensure that the people within the public sector are performing their duties in an ethical way. If it is not for whistleblowers, these people would not decide to come forward with issues that are going on at their organizations. In order to encourage them to reveal the corruption that is going on in their groups, they need to be protected. Without the appropriate legislation protecting their rights, people considering telling the public about any corruption that is going on behind closed doors, will not be interested in coming forward, (What’s, n.d.).
The media also plays a significant role in ensuring that public-sector corruption is exposed. While the press does have Freedom of Information Requests that they can use to gain valuable insight into the goings on at the government, this information is not always public. The people gathering the information that is requested by the press is typically collected by entry-level workers, and they are under strict guidance from their superiors. If corrupt, these superiors can tell the entry-level staff which information should be kept private, and what can be disclosed to the public. The documents from Freedom of Information Requests often contain black ink in areas that the government does not want the public to see. These government officials can pass the blacked out areas off as being private information about an individual. The only thing that can stop the whistleblowers from telling the media about the corruption is their own protection, (What’s, n.d.).
However, there are some issues with Canada’s Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (whistleblower law). One of the primary problems is the whistleblower law’s failure to state that there is an institutional integrity to maintain. The law presumes that there is a legitimate need to make sure that the public confidence is maintained. When the public begins to doubt the government that is leading them, they can become rebellious against that government. The whistleblower law, however, focuses more on the appearances of the government than on the reality of the situation that the government needs to establish an institutional integrity. With the government’s goal of “maintaining public confidence” it can often be used to justify government cover-ups. This is actually a counterproductive law in that respect, (What’s, n.d.). For example, if the Canadian were spying on its citizens. It could say that it should not disclose that information to the public because they are concerned for national security. By spying on the citizens of Canada, the government could say, they are helping to protect the citizens from themselves. However, integrity in the government cannot be accomplished without disclosing to the public honestly when there has been misconduct within the government. The attempt to cover these occurrences up, as is justified in the whistleblower law, is only acting to decrease the confidence in the government, (Vaughn, n.d.).
Furthermore, the law does not make public interest its priority. There is the need to recognize the employment law. But where there is a wrongdoing that is suspected, it threatens the interest of the public, and this causes other principles to be factored in. The public servants who are overriding the loyalty need to be interested primarily in the public interest, and this needs to be balanced with the needs of the organization. The government organizations are rarely corrupt as a whole, but the interests of the individuals within these organizations are sometimes corrupt. This is why it is important for the law to establish that the people come first, and that usually goes along with the interests of the people. However, when a boss wants something done in a certain way, they are able to get lower-level employees to do their bidding, because they have status over those individuals. Throughout history, there have been examples of people blindly following orders, and this often leads to severely unethical actions. Employees need to be empowered to fall back on the organization’s mandate, rather than on the decisions of individuals within that organization. This is where the law fails. It does not state as a guiding principle the fact that the public interest should be held as the top priority. If the law states that the public interest is above all else, then the whistleblower is protected. A court can decide if the employee blew the whistle in the best interest of the public, (Vaughn, n.d.).
Also, the Canadian Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act does not say whether tangible results are to be expected from the legislation. The preamble in the documents says that it intends to establish procedures around the protection of government employees who decide to blow the whistle. This act needs to state what its desired outcome is. For example, it does not say that it intends to increase the frequency that government officials are reprimanded for wrongdoings, (Vaughn, n.d.).
Canada only needs to look south of the Border to see the substantial amount of whistleblowing that is going on there, and the response of the American government. Bill Binney last year blew the whistle on a secret software code that he helped develop, which now collects a massive amount of information about American citizens. Binney is a former official from the National Security Agency. Because he has spoken out as a whistleblower, the FBI has raided his home. The NSA denies that the program even exists. Since going public with the information, Binney has appeared on various shows throughout the country. The information is being gathered, Binney says, as a government overreaction to 9/11, (Harris, 2012).
This article articulates the fight against terrorism and the possible overreaction the government takes on every threat against sensitive government information. The American government reaction to 9/11 is fascinating, and the nation has used the event to guide its policy on many fronts, including whistleblowing. This is a reasoning that the Canadian government does not have, but it does show the serious nature governments take on whistleblowing, (Harris, 2012).
There are increased measures at border security, and this also affects Canada, particularly because America is its border nation. America is so serious about whistleblowing, Binney says, that the American government is spying on its own citizens. More scrutiny in keeping track of people that may be terrorists or are in danger of becoming terrorists is understandable, but the American government faced a slew of criticism over spying on its own citizens, (Harris, 2012). This serious approach to whistleblowers is something that Canada has not followed in America’s footsteps, but progress is still needed on the home front.
Harris, P. (2012). US Data Whistleblower: ‘It’s a Violation of Everybody’s Constitutional
Rights.’ The Guardian. Retrieved from
Vaughn, R. (n.d.). Chapter 6. Whistleblower Protection and the Challenge to Public
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“What’s Wrong With Canada’s Federal Whistleblower Legislation.” (n.d.). FAIR. Retrieved from