Canada has ‘abysmal’ whistleblower protections, advocates call out Trudeau directly for inaction\

This article features Government Accountability Project’s Legal Director, Tom Devine, and was originally published here.

Canada ranks among the worst in the world when it comes to protecting whistleblowers, according to a recent report.

The Washington-based Government Accountability Project ranked 61 countries on their whistleblowing protection laws. Canada is tied for last with Lebanon and Norway.

The ranking examined 20 factors, including the ability to report problems safely within a company, protecting identities when it comes to confidential disclosures and the guarantee of not being worse off than before blowing the whistle.

Canada was given just one point out of 20 for having a system in place to review the current law after five years. That five-year review didn’t happen for a decade.

Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, says Canada’s whistleblower law is “weaker than a cardboard shield,” adding that current protections are “more like a tissue paper shield.”

The federal law that does exist only covers public servants, not private citizens.

“Canada is one of the few countries in the world that [has a] national whistleblower law limited to the public sector.” said Devine.

In 2017, Devine appeared before a House of Commons committee that studied Canada’s existing law. Robust new recommendations to enhance protections for whistleblowers were unanimously approved. But, key recommendations have not been implemented.

Devine blames Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“We were rolling towards an upgrade of Canada’s whistleblower, a real, comprehensive makeover. But he was elected. Everyone was optimistic. He killed it. And then a few years later, I could understand why, because he was facing scandals of his own,” says Devine.

Trudeau has faced questions about political interference in the SNC-Lavalin Affair and a half-million dollar agreement given to the WE Charity group. Then-ethics commissioner Mary Dawson also found him to be in violation of the conflict of interest act by accepting the gift of accommodation and travelling on a non-commercial aircraft to Aga Khan’s private island.

Canadian whistleblower advocate David Hutton, the senior fellow at Centre for Free Expression, says only public demand will lead to stronger whistleblower protections.

“We have no shortage of scandals, but we just don’t have the pressure because the public has not got sufficiently angry about it or not made the connection that this could be prevented if whistleblowers had protection.”

W5 requested an on-camera interview with Trudeau to respond to the claims. Instead, a statement was provided, claiming that the Government Accountability Project “did not paint an accurate picture of the approach taken in Canada” because it failed to recognize that Parliament can’t impose whistleblowing laws on provincial and municipal governments.

During a press conference on Jan. 12, W5 asked Trudeau about allegations that his personal scandals play a role in Canada’s weak protection of whistleblowers.

“As a government we have consistently stood up for openness and transparency and brought forward reforms that have supported people coming forward to highlight wrongdoing in workplaces or institutions across the country and we will continue to do just that,” said Trudeau.

Hutton says most whistleblowers who come to him are shocked to discover how little protection they have.

“We’re trained to trust government and to believe that official channels will work and justice will prevail. Whistleblowers that come to us are typically far too trusting and not understanding what they’re up against.”