House of Commons Hansard #53 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was stem.

Topics

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, one of the interesting things about this debate is that we have people in the House of Commons and in society at large who are concerned with the subject of animal rights, yet today we are dealing with the subject of the rights of human beings and, in a sense, embryos as the beginning of human life. I always find it intriguing that in our modern age we have a scenario where in this place and in society at large sometimes the rights of animals are more pristinely maintained or upheld or looked after, or there is more concern for their rights than the rights of human beings. We are in a perverse situation in these decades where animal rights issues seem to trump some of the very concerns that we are trying to deal with in this legislation. It is a perverse warping of a sense of priorities and a sense of rights.

It reminds me in a sense of the whole criminal justice debate in our country, where the rights of the criminals trump those of the victims. We deal with those issues, whether it is conditional sentencing, early parole, consecutive sentences, age of consent with regard to pimps and minors, or pedophiles. We get into this perverse situation where the government many times seems to take the rights of the criminals into account more than it does the rights of the victims. It is a shame.

This reminds me of the whole idea that somehow the rights of human beings, embryos and babies are not as important as even animal rights would be. We had that debate in the last session.

Going on to the specifics, I would like to talk about how I and my party believe that the preamble should have an acknowledgement of human dignity and respect for human life. We also believe that the bill is intimately connected with the creation of human life and yet there is no overarching recognition of the principle of the respect for human life. It is a grave deficiency.

I could go on with all of these things I have in front of me, but I would like to touch on some of the things that I think other people will not cover. One is the question of what sword upholds the covenant.

As I am running out of time, I will say that we have to ask this question: Who profits from the bill? I would say it is the drug companies who are going to be coming up with anti-rejection drugs.

As well, would it pass a referendum? Fundamentally that question should be answered with this one: Why is it not being put to a referendum of the Canadian people?

Assisted Human Reproduction Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It being 5:30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Whistle Blower Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

February 5th, 2003 / 5:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

moved that Bill C-201, an act respecting the protection of employees in the public service who make allegations in good faith respecting wrongdoing in the public service, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central and many whistleblowers to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-201, the whistle blower human rights act, which I call in short, WHRA. I thank the hon. member for Elk Island for seconding this most important bill.

The purpose of Bill C-201 is to protect members of the Public Service of Canada from retaliation for making, in good faith, reasonably well-founded allegations of wrongdoing in the public service to a supervisor or to a public body.

Thousands of Canadians, both in the private and public sector, witness wrongdoing on the job. Most remain silent but a few cannot keep quiet. Their sense of duty and love for their country results in their choosing to speak out by blowing the whistle.

Whistleblowers are sometimes regarded as heroes, particularly when exposing serious dangers to public health or safety. At other times, they are perceived as disloyal employees or vilified as traitors.

Employees who expose workplace wrongdoing almost always pay a heavy price for their decision. They sometimes face different forms of retaliation. Punishments range from being shunned by their colleagues to harassment to termination to being blacklisting.

Feature films like The Insider , which depicts Jeffrey Wigand, a tobacco company researcher who exposed his employer on 60 Minutes , for lying about the dangers of smoking and whose life was shattered as a result, acts as a deterrent to potential whistleblowers.

Let us take a moment to remember some of the well publicized cases in Canada.

Bernard Dussault, chief actuary, Canada pension plan, reported that he was asked to modify numbers to paint a more positive state of the CPP. He was fired.

Michelle Brill-Edwards, senior physician in Health Canada's prescription drug approval process, was pressured to approve medication that had caused deaths in the United States. She went public and had to resign from her job.

Joanna Gualtieri, portfolio manager for Latin America and Caribbean in DFAIT, blew the whistle on waste and lavish spending on diplomatic housing and embassies. The Inspector General and Auditor General of Canada later supported her allegations. She was harassed and marginalized within the department. Finally, she had to quit, go through the expensive courts and her career was ruined.

Brian McAdam was a 25 year veteran foreign service officer in Canadian diplomatic missions in the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, South America and Asia. In 1991 he documented evidence of corruption at Canada's foreign mission in Hong Kong. I talked about that in some of my previous speeches. He was demeaned and ostracized by his colleagues and finally he gave up. He took an early retirement.

Michael Sanders, financial analyst, Office of the Superintendent for Financial Institutions, blew the whistle on the absence of sufficient safeguards to protect taxpayers against the collapse of major financial institutions. He was fired from his job.

Dr. Shiv Chopra, a senior veterinary drug evaluator in Health Canada's Therapeutic Products and Food Branch, blew the whistle on the drug approval process for bovine growth hormones. He said human health concerns were being ignored due to pressure from lobbyists of drug companies. He suffered harassment.

Corporal Robert Reid, a veteran RCMP officer associated with the report called “Sidewinder”, which has been ignored due to political pressure, paid a huge price like others.

There are many other cases: Dr. Margaret Haydon, Health Canada; Marilla Lo, Treasury Board; Russell Mills, the Ottawa Citizen ; Bob Stenhouse, RCMP; and Dr. Barry Armstrong, Canadian Armed Forces. The list goes on but since my time is limited, I will stop naming them.

If public servants reveal wrongdoings within their departments or agencies, should they suffer as consequence or should they be rewarded? I believe employees should be able to raise their concerns without fear of reprisal. This is why I introduced my bill, Bill C-201, which would make it an offence to discipline or disadvantage an employee for such actions and provides for a fine and order of restitution to the employee.

The Liberal cabinet members, while in opposition, are on the record supporting whistleblower protection. For instance, the former Liberal Party critic for public sector ethics and current government House leader, the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, said in 1992:

The [whistleblowers] bill provides protection for people who are trying to act in the best public interest...It provides for means to protect people who are employees of the public sector and feel morally bound to protect the interests of the public.

He went on to say:

Why should someone who is defending the public interest in good conscience have to then defend themselves in courts and everywhere else for having taken what was right to start with? That is the difficulty with the absence of any kind of law that protects whistleblowers.

He also said:

I think as a general principle all of us who represent the public interests in this House should believe in our conscience that it is not the side of the boss you take, it is the side of the public because it sent us here. That is the fundamental principle of our democratic system.

He went on to say:

In order to provide that kind of accountability and those means, we need a bill such as this...I think in principle, I like it.

The hon. member then went on to quote from a Liberal caucus approved document. The document was entitled “Public Sector Ethics” and it called for whistleblower protection. I do not agree with the government House leader very often but on this issue I absolutely agree with him.

Since the direct quotation establishes that the Liberals, their caucus and the former Liberals ethics critic agreed in principle with the whistleblower protection legislation, the million dollar question is: after 10 years, where is the whistleblower protection legislation?

Since 1993, there have been no government bills on this subject. Maybe it did not get a chance to draft it but now we have one, which is Bill C-201.

Sound legislation protects democracy from itself. The presence of a dictatorship coincides with the lack of sound legislation and the habitual rejection of transparency and accountability. The habitual rejection of transparency and accountability in public life systematically corrupts social institutions. Corrupt social institutions breed neglect, political interference, waste, mismanagement, corruption and weaken our national security.

Whistleblowers are now being muzzled and denied a forum. The Public Service Commission has no power to hear the cases of whistleblowers. The Public Service Staff Relations Board has no jurisdiction for a whistleblowing claim. Ministers do not even respond to letters from whistleblowers. A good starting point is the creation of and passage of legislation that is directed at institutions that are publicly funded.

Some people might come up with a lame excuse and say that we have an internal disclosure policy. The Public Service Integrity Office was established by the terms of this Treasury Board policy to be an agency to facilitate the internal disclosure by public servants of wrongdoing in the public service. It is considered to be independent, external and impartial to receive and investigate good faith disclosure allegations alleging wrongdoing.

Let us look at the contrast between the whistleblowers human rights act, the WHRA, and the internal disclosure policy, IDP.

First, according to the WHRA, every employee has a duty to disclose wrongdoing. Under IDP, employees have no obligation to reveal wrongdoing, though the integrity officer has criticized the IDP for this failure.

The WHRA would permit public servants to disclose alleged wrongdoing to public bodies, including the media. On the other hand, under IDP unauthorized external disclosures can result in disciplinary action, including termination of employment.

Under the WHRA, a whistleblower would have the right to bring a civil action before a court. Under IDP, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal is an option for employees facing harassment.

According to the WHRA, a supervisor, a manager or other person of authority who harasses a whistleblower would be subject to criminal prosecution and would face a fine of up to $5,000. As well, they would be subject to personal liability for any resulting damages that may be awarded to an employee pursuant to any civil or administrative proceeding.

According to the IDP, employees are subject to disciplinary actions, including termination of employment. Superiors are not liable or responsible.

According to the WHRA, the minister responsible for the relevant department shall issue a public apology to an employee who is successful in a claim. Under IDP, there is nothing of this nature.

According to the WHRA, an employee who successfully blew the whistle would also be recognized with an ex gratis award. Under IDP, there are no rewards, but only punishment for whistleblowers.

The integrity officer wants some sort of reward system introduced to offer encouragement to public servants to come forward in good faith with evidence of wrongdoing.

According to the WHRA, written allegations shall be investigated and reported upon within 30 days of receipt. In the IDP there is no time guarantees even in feeble attempts.

With WHRA, the minister shall ensure that remedial action is taken promptly. IDP promises a prompt response and failure to do so will result in the integrity officer taking his report to the Clerk of the Privy Council.

According to the WHRA, the President of the Treasury Board shall create a registry in which a copy of every written allegation is deposited. This registry would be made available to the public. In the IDP the integrity officer issues an annual report to Parliament.

Dr. Edward Keyserlingk, Canada's integrity officer, began his work in April 2002. He is critical of the government's current whistleblowing policy, not legislation, and he argues that Canada needs a tougher whistleblowing policy. It should be a public servant's duty to expose any suspected wrongdoing, and not enough people are coming forward.

He says that whistleblowers should be rewarded with promotions and citations. He says that the creation of his seven person office is not good enough to stop the inertia, suspicion and fear of job reprisals so ingrained in the system.

By May 2002, the integrity officer had received 45 cases and 21 were quickly closed. Either the issue was resolved, or the matter was referred to another jurisdiction, or a decision was made not to pursue or it did not come within the purview of his office.

Dr. Keyserlingk identifies that the root problem is a lack of leadership and accountability. I translate that lack of leadership into lack of political will. Critics say that we will have a framework that offers no protection to public servants because the minister's office said so.

In many countries around the world public service employees are protected by whistleblowing legislation. The United Kingdom passed the public interest disclosure act in 1999. The U.S. federal employees were initially protected under the civil service reforms act, 1978, which empowered a special council of the merit system protection board and it was unanimously passed. In Canada we do not have such legislation.

Therefore I would ask all hon. members to kindly support Bill C-201 and let us send it to the committee where any appropriate changes or amendments can be made.

Whistle Blower Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Niagara Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Tirabassi Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, before addressing any specifics relating to Bill C-201, I would first like to thank the hon. member for Surrey Central for allowing me to make this my first representation as parliamentary secretary and to compliment the hon. member for Surrey Central for his efforts in bringing forth this proposed legislation.

His obvious and very serious concern for protecting the rights of employees who, in good faith, make allegations respecting suspected wrongdoing within the public service is truly laudable.

The Government of Canada is strongly committed to promoting and protecting the dignity and the human rights of its public service employees.

The existing policy on internal disclosure of information concerning wrongdoing in the workplace, or IDP for short, allows employees to bring forward, in good faith, information concerning wrongdoing. This same policy ensures that they may do so in confidence and are protected from reprisal.

It is applicable to all departments and organizations of the public service as listed in schedule I, part I of the Public Service Staff Relations Act. Since its inception one year ago, the IDP has been working and it has been working very well.

A survey of departmental senior officers of disclosure, to whom employees may turn with information concerning suspected wrongdoing in the workplace, confirms this.

The survey carried out this past July revealed that to date more than 30 disclosures of wrongdoing have been handled through the IDP. All disclosures were addressed promptly, with two-thirds having been resolved within a few weeks and one-third still under investigation. These results clearly show the willingness of public service employees to come forward with information under this policy without fear of reprisal.

The IDP is not a static document. The policy has been in place for a short time. It is open to possible change and improvement. In fact, it will be reviewed in 2004 to ensure that it continues to allow employees to bring forward information concerning wrongdoing and to ensure that they are treated fairly and are protected from reprisal when they do so in a manner consistent with the policy.

We all know that Canadians expect their government to be guided by the principles of honesty, justice, integrity and good governance. These are precisely the principles that the IDP is working to maintain and ensure.

Having said that, I must now say that the government is unable to support Bill C-201 for several solid reasons. First, the government cannot support the bill because we are not convinced that legislative measures are necessary to address the issue of employee protection when whistleblowing in the federal public service.

In drafting the IDP, we chose a policy approach instead of legislation largely because our values as Canadians are clear: tolerance, integrity and respect for democracy and the democratic tradition.

The IDP reflects Canadians' beliefs about professional and ethical behaviour. This policy is not based on a rule book, but rather, resonates with commonly held standards of conduct.

Two other important considerations of why the government is unable to support the bill are because it confuses the mandates and jurisdictions of government, as well as reaching far beyond the purview of the Treasury Board.

The bill proposes to define an employee as a person who is or has been employed, or is being considered as an applicant for a position within the federal public service. It generously and, I might add, erroneously extends the definition to persons who provide goods or services to the Government of Canada on a contractual basis.

The bill would erode the important role of deputy ministers in the management of human resources in the public service.

A policy approach is more appropriate by situating accountability in the hands of deputy ministers as per the existing legislative framework. This was clearly stated in the Auditor General's report, chapter 12, which was tabled in October 2000, where there was a consensus that work had to be done in Canada's federal public sector to allow the voicing of ethical issues with appropriate protection for all concerned and it needed to be addressed as part of a comprehensive approach.

Furthermore, it was proposed that a senior independent authority be established to receive reports confidentially and act in a fair and impartial manner. That is to say, accountability as defined in the Public Service Employment Act, the Financial Administration Act, Security of Information Act and the Criminal Code of Canada.

As such, still toward accountability, the bill would seek to extend the regime over bodies that are under provincial and territorial jurisdictions and to govern conduct in the courts and in the media.

On another important point, it would be remiss to fail to take note of the bill's assertions concerning unrestricted freedom of expression. These assertions are in fact in direct opposition to the duty of loyalty recognized by the courts that public service employees owe to the government and that underpins the institution of non-partisan public service.

Similarly, the creation of a registry by Treasury Board, which would encompass a copy of every written allegation made pursuant to this bill, would be contrary to the protection of employee confidentiality as assured under the existing policy.

Finally, I would like to point out to the House that remedies for violation provided for in Bill C-201 go far beyond IDP provisions. These are particularly troubling elements of the bill. If the House will bear with me, I will take a few moments to elaborate on this section.

As set forth in the proposed legislation, persons with authority can be fined up to $5,000 upon violation of the rights of disclosure. The bill would also permit the disclosure to bring a civil action before the court. Going one step further, any legal fees incurred by the disclosure would be reimbursed. Successful claimants, moreover, would receive both a public apology from the government and a discretionary award. These are troubling remedies. They are also, in my opinion at least, classic examples of the cure being worse than the affliction.

In conclusion, I would like to assure all members that the government is committed to protecting the rights of those who see wrongdoing in the workplace and ensuring that public service employees have the confidence to come forward. This is a responsibility that the Government of Canada does not take lightly.

The government does not, however, regard Bill C-201 as the appropriate path to follow in protecting the rights of the federal public service employees who, in good faith, bring forward information concerning wrongdoing in the workplace. The government therefore will not be voting in support of the bill.

Whistle Blower Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I compliment the member for Surrey Central for bringing forward this important issue of providing protection from reprisal for public civil servants who have the decency to report what they view as wrongdoings in the public service.

It has been interesting to watch the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board, in his new role, dancing all around the issue and scrambling to find reasons not to support this worthy bill. I do not accept many of the excuses that have been put forward. I do not believe they stand as a good argument for not introducing whistleblowing protection.

How quickly people change when they get into government. I can read a quote from the Liberal approach to the public service which was printed in September 1993. I also would point out that the election was in October of that year. Just before the election, the Liberals said:

Public servants who blow the whistle on illegal or unethical behaviour should be protected.

A Liberal government will introduce whistle blowing legislation in the first session of a new Parliament.

A month later, realizing that it would be their government having the whistle blown on it, they reversed their position on whistle blowing completely. They were no longer interested in introducing legislation to protect public servants. Now they have a wishy-washy policy guideline, supposedly to protect civil servants, which, as we all know, does not work.

I will give a recent example of how it does not work. I know of a recent case of a woman who brought forward information to her employer, the federal government, because she felt there was wrongdoing in her workplace. She felt sure there was illegal activity going on in her workplace. Does anyone know where it was? It was in the Prime Minister's Office.

Louise Ross, who worked in the Prime Minister's Office as the assistant to the photographer, found out that the photographer was using House of Commons cameras, darkrooms, et cetera, to do private events, weddings, et cetera, for his own benefit. She went to her superior and said that she thought that was wrong. She said that her boss, the professional photographer for the House of Commons, was using government equipment for his own personal gain. Ms. Ross' superior thanked her very much for bringing that to his attention but then told her to clean out her desk because she was fired because she had the goodwill and the fortitude to live by her convictions and report this.

I can use her name because she is still fired. She lost her job because she came forward with information like that, which is the very reason that the member for Surrey Central introduced this bill. I should point out that I tried to introduce a similar bill in the previous Parliament and it went about as far as I predict the hon. member's bill will go.

We have had more high profile cases that have made the newspapers. We had the famous case of Dr. Chopra, a longtime Health Canada veterinary drug evaluator, who brought a matter of perceived wrongdoing in his workplace to the attention of his employers . He has been in the courts for years over this.

The bill the hon. member has put forward would provide a legislative mechanism whereby there would be a comfort for public servants so they could bring this information forward with anonymity and it would be dealt with and brought to the attention of the appropriate department heads or minister without any fear of reprisal or repercussion.

Some of those repercussions can be subtle. People are not always fired. Sometimes they are passed over for promotion because of an event like that or they are not given their vacation on the weeks for which they asked. Little things are keeping well-meaning public servants from coming forward with evidence of wrongdoing.

Perhaps the most famous example is the recent Groupaction sponsorships scandal where these money for nothing contracts were going to companies and no work was being produced. Public servants who were involved in the administration of these money for nothing deals came to us saying that they were forced to sign cheques for work they knew very well was never performed, or to sign a cheque for $100,000 for work that could not possibly be worth that amount of money. They were uncomfortable with it. They balked at it and questioned it but they were ordered to do it anyway.

Those people would like to come forward to clean up some of the scandal of the sponsorship contracts but they cannot. I cannot use their names for fear of jeopardizing their jobs. If there were a mechanism in place, they could go forward without fear of reprisal.

I would argue that the difference between my bill, Senator Kinsella's bill and the bill from the Conservative member from New Brunswick is that the agency should be the Auditor General. I respectfully put it forward as a possibility that the Auditor General could be the one to assess the complaint to ensure that it is not put forward in a vexatious or malicious way and to ensure that it is put forward in good faith. Once the Auditor General was satisfied that it was a good faith complaint, it would be investigated on the merits of the complaint and subsequent action would be taken. We all have respect for the independence of the Auditor General.

I lament the fact that we have been so slow to introduce this necessary legislation. It seems it is only parties in opposition that are fans of whistleblowing legislation. Yet other jurisdictions around the world, as the hon. member pointed out, have already implemented sensible whistle blowing legislation, not the least of which is the United States. Many state governments within the United States have very firmly established whistleblowing legislation.

We would argue that we should be leading by example in the public sector so that such measures are also introduced in the private sector. I think again of the Enron scandal in the United States. Had employees felt that they had a mechanism with which to report wrongdoing, perhaps a great deal of tragedy could have been avoided in that situation.

We have already got some form of whistleblowing legislation in terms of workplace safety and health. An employee cannot be disciplined for bringing forward information about unsafe working conditions. If a scaffold is faulty and the employee's fellow workers are working on the scaffold, the employee cannot be disciplined for putting a stop to the work of the employer, even if it is a public sector employer, the maintenance department of the House of Commons, for instance. No one can be disciplined for that.

We are simply saying we should extend that to other incidents of wrongdoing, whether it is a misuse of funds, out and out theft, breaking of laws, or in the case of the Prime Minister's Office, abusing the privilege of using government equipment for personal gain. Any of those issues should fall under the same category of whistleblower protection.

I should point out that my predecessor in the NDP, Jim Fulton, fought for this long and hard during the 1980s and got nowhere. At that time it was a Tory government that was resisting. It seems the ruling party never has any interest in introducing whistleblowing legislation because the civil servants would be reporting wrongdoings within that government's own administration and it would be embarrassing.

A good employer should welcome whistleblowing legislation. The government should embrace whistleblowing legislation if it is serious about running an efficient and transparent government operation.

With respect to those who oppose the concept of whistleblowing legislation, there is reason to believe that they are not comfortable with having their operation fully transparent. They should be openly embracing the idea of their employees coming forward to point out wrongdoing, providing it is not done in a vexatious or malicious manner.

An hon. member used the excuse of the common law tenet of loyalty to the employer which is archaic. It is medieval. It goes back to the servant-master relationship. The courts have upheld it from time to time, but rarely. It should not be used as an obstacle for this issue of basic fairness. This is the place where legislation is crafted, where legislation is made. We can decide to override and trump an archaic concept like the common law point of loyalty to the employer.

Whistle Blower Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rex Barnes Gander—Grand Falls, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to speak to Bill C-201 respecting the protection of employees in the public service who make allegations in good faith respecting wrongdoing in the public service.

Before getting into any type of political arena, I worked as a government employee. I worked with union members who would do certain things and unfortunately they would be looked at as the bad guys.

The bill came forward from the member for Surrey Central. Opposition parties are supportive of it but it seems that government members will not support it. That is too bad because I firmly believe that if this bill were enacted, companies, businesses and all sectors would save money because all the wrongdoings would be reported and things could happen that would be in the best interests of being open and fair.

I could tell stories that would lead members to believe that no one really cares, that people do not want to get to the truth, to the facts. I have a story of a gentleman whom I know personally who decided to report a certain activity. For some reason or another he was given the impression that he was the bad guy, but he did what an honest employee would do. He reported something that was not right, something that was wrong. The result was that he was the one who felt that he did something wrong.

There are people who get hauled over the coals for doing something that is honest. They have told the truth and they are the ones who are put in an awkward situation. Because of that, the old saying that we see no evil, we hear no evil, so we will speak no evil comes into play and a person who is in that situation will say that it does not concern him and he is not going to worry about it. Then we get bad employees.

Although the bill is very lengthy, it is precise and accurate. It gives employees the right to do something that is honest, just and fair. I do not think the legislation will see the light of day because I am sure the government will not enact this bill for the benefit of all employees.

It is stated throughout the bill that all wrongdoing should be reported and that there should be protection for the whistleblower so that the person is not at a disadvantage. I am sure there are all kinds of stories of employees out there where employers have disciplined the whistleblowers to the point that they are not be promoted, they are not given pay raises, and they are looked at differently.

If we are to have a society that is based upon truth and honesty, we as a government must enact a law that protects individuals so that they can work honestly in workplaces, be fair to employers, and at the same time report things that will be a major negative to society. As I said, people who tell the truth are looked at differently, but if they tell a lie, people are happy. As a result, whistleblowers today will not do what is right. They will not save money for the government or for other employers only because they know that they will be suspended, or fired, or there will be no room for advancement.

This is not a votable bill. It is good legislation, but unless the government decides to make the bill votable, we could talk all day long until the cows came home to no avail. We are the ones who have the ideas and the government is just trying to protect the wrongdoings rather than opening up the field for doing the right thing.

Everyone expects politicians to do the right thing. We are sending a message to public servants. If we do not do the right thing by implementing such a great bill to protect whistleblowers, the result will be that we will be classified as politicians who cannot be trusted to do the right thing.

We need to take a stand to move the bill forward. We need to send the right message to the public sector that we are here for the good of all. The good of all means protecting the people who come out and tell the truth and not the ones who tell lies.

We hear all the time that the RCMP snitches are paid certain numbers of dollars to protect the public interest. They report things to the RCMP so an arrest can be made for the good of everyone in society.

It is no different with this bill. We need to make sure that we act in good faith for the country and that we act in good faith for employees. This would be good for everyone. If we do not do this, we are going nowhere.

I could stand here all day and give examples and talk about the bill, but sometimes I think we are just wasting our time and we are just here to hear ourselves talk. This is an issue of such importance and there is hardly anyone on the other side. We are trying to make sure the government gets the message--

Whistle Blower Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. A member is not allowed to mention the presence or absence of members in the House.

Whistle Blower Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I am sorry. I was talking with a clerk on business of the House and I did not hear. Did the member for Gander--Grand Falls refer to the absence of a member?

Whistle Blower Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rex Barnes Gander—Grand Falls, NL

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I did refer to the absence of certain members and I do apologize for that.

Whistle Blower Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, on a separate point of order, it has been brought to my attention that during my remarks on the bill, I made reference to the photographer of the Prime Minister's Office and a woman who was fired from there for whistleblowing about wrongful activity.

It has been brought to my attention that I may have said the photographer for the House of Commons. I did not intend that. The woman who was fired did not work for the photographer of the House of Commons. She worked for the photographer of the Prime Minister's Office. I would like to clarify that.

Whistle Blower Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Certainly, your correction has been noted.

Whistle Blower Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rex Barnes Gander—Grand Falls, NL

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to prolong the debate so I will just end off by saying that we need to look closely at all bills. This bill is a good bill. This is not a bad bill. We should not be afraid to move forward on it. If people are afraid to move forward, it is because they do not want to change anything. We have done the right thing by standing up and bringing forth our thoughts.

The hon. member from the opposition brought the bill forward because he knows very well it is a big concern. It is time that the Liberal government did the same.

Whistle Blower Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague from Surrey Central for bringing this bill forward. The issue of the need to protect people in the public and private service who bring forward wrong-doing has long been an interest and passion of my colleague. I am pleased to be here today to support his bill.

Transparency and accountability in government, and in business, are two important elements of a healthy democracy. In fact, a healthy democracy requires citizens to practise transparency and accountability.

The practice of transparency and accountability requires sound legislation that would undergird our social institutions. I read a book a few years ago by a man who went with a group from North America to the Soviet Union. He was invited by the KGB. The reason the KGB invited the group was because it was composed of individuals who were leaders in the religious community and taught ethics.

The KGB said to the individuals that it was concerned that its society was falling apart because there was no practice of ethics, honesty and accountability. For example, a company would enter the country to develop resources. It would bring in equipment for drilling or other resource development, but the train cars carrying the equipment would be absolutely stripped bare before they would even get to the mining or drilling site.

The KGB said it could not induce foreign investors or foreign business people to do business in its country because contracts were not honoured. The group was told that it was needed to help put back some adherence to moral and ethical standards into that society.

Whether the book was accurate or not, I do not know, but I do know that the individual is well respected and that he gave a very compelling story of the situation of a society where transparency, accountability, honesty and ethical standards were not upheld.

This is not a small matter. It is a very important matter that goes right to the heart of our democracy because habitual rejection of transparency and accountability in public life systematically corrupts social institutions. The example I just gave is but one example.

Corrupted social institutions breed neglect, political indifference, defeatism, and mismanagement of human and social resources. People give up because they no longer trust or believe in the institutions that are working for them and their society.

At the end of the day dictatorship really is what coincides with habitual rejection of transparency and accountability within social institutions. Anything that can be done to emphasize and demonstrate to citizens and to society that the lack of accountability and the breeching of ethical standards will result in someone being held to account is very important. Time magazine in its December 22 edition unveiled Time 's persons of the year. Time chose whistleblowers and gave this account:

Sherron Watkins is the Enron vice president who wrote a letter to chairman Kenneth Lay in the summer of 2001 warning him that the company's methods of accounting were improper.

Coleen Rowley is the FBI staff attorney who caused a sensation in May with a memo to FBI Director...about how the bureau brushed off pleas from her...office that [an individual], who is now indicted as a Sept. 11 co-conspirator, was a man who must be investigated. One month later Cynthia Cooper exploded the bubble that was WorldCom when she informed its board that the company had covered up $3.8 billion in losses through...phony bookkeeping.

These women were not seeing themselves as heroes. The article continued:

They were people who did right just by doing their jobs rightly—which means...with [their] eyes open and with the bravery the rest of us always hope we have and may never know if we do. Their lives may not have been at stake, but...pretty much everything else on the line. Their jobs, their health, their privacy, their sanity—they risked all of them to bring us badly needed word of trouble inside crucial institutions. Democratic capitalism requires that people trust in the integrity of public and private institutions alike. As whistle-blowers, these three became fail-safe systems that did not fail. For believing—really believing—that the truth is one thing that must not be moved off the books, and for stepping in to make sure that it wasn't, they have been chosen by TIME as its Persons of the Year for 2002.

The article further stated that:

...whistle-blowers don't have an easy time. Almost all say they would not do it again. If they aren't fired, they're cornered: isolated and made irrelevant. Eventually many suffer from alcoholism or depression...These were ordinary people...[and these three whistleblowers]...did not wait for higher authorities to do what needed to be done.

We heard the parliamentary secretary say that we do not need whistleblower legislation because there is a good policy and we accept the kind of whistleblowing that people might do. This is completely and utterly untrue. In fact the nervous hysterical laughter you hear, Mr. Speaker, probably comes from hundreds of cubicles in the public service today.

I received a letter from a man who says the following:

Since 2000 I was trying to alert the proper authorities about the huge security failures at our borders. At that time I was acting as a senior immigration officer. Following the capture and imprisonment of a smuggler, I was reprimanded. The result: I have been laid off.

That is in our public service. This is a case that has been in the newspapers. I met last night with a man who is an inspector who brought forward deficiencies in safety standards in certain transportation vehicles in our country. What happened? He was ignored, yet he persisted, and he was effectively and constructively dismissed.

One thing that happened to another person in the company who did the same thing was that this person was told, “You're going to be transferred right away. We don't know how long you will be there, probably a few weeks, maybe a few months and then you will be transferred somewhere else”. This is a man with a wife and kids who had been living in a particular province for all of his life. Yet he was told, “We don't want you any more. We are not going to fire you, but we are going to make your life so miserable that you have no choice”. This is happening in Canada.

Therefore, for the government to even pretend--especially with its record in the human resources development department, advertising contracts, cost overruns in the gun registry, and so many other things--to dare to stand up and say to public servants, civil servants, in this country, “Don't worry. If you see something that isn't working, that is wrong, you just come forward. We'll welcome that”, is a joke.

This legislation is absolutely necessary and critical not just for the short term, but because Canadians deserve a society where people can adhere to ethical standards and can speak up when they see those standards breached, and not be fearful.

Other examples have come forward from other members who have spoken where this is now happening in this country. I urge the House to support this legislation because it is critical for our democracy.

Whistle Blower Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank all the members who participated in this debate on Bill C-201, my private member's bill, which provides in law for the protection of a whistleblower in the workplace. It prohibits retaliatory action against whistleblowers. It ensures that Canada sets into law, not in just a wishy-washy, half-baked policy, the framework for a legal grievance procedure and a defined recourse for our conscientious public servants who report wrongdoing within the system.

Bill C-201 provides for a mechanism to address the wrongdoing and compensates the whistleblowers for any damages they suffer. We need to encourage public servants to come forward when they find evidence of wrongdoing, corruption or the misuse of taxpayers' money.

The threat of employer retaliation must be eliminated in order to encourage government employees to speak up. By passing legislation, Parliament will send a clear message to employees that they will be protected by law if they blow the whistle. Time Magazine declared 2002 the year of whistleblowers and featured three famous whistleblowers on the front page. If this bill were passed, with appropriate legislation in place perhaps Maclean's magazine would make a similar declaration in 2003.

There is a very important need for the bill. The drinking water fiasco in Walkerton, Ontario could have been prevented. As well, the September 11 terrorist attacks highlight a longstanding necessity to strengthen free speech protection for national security whistleblowers. Also, the accounting misdeeds that led to the collapse of corporate giants like Enron, Arthur Andersen and WorldCom and resulted in thousands of workers losing their jobs left many wondering why someone did not blow the whistle on these dishonest practices sooner.

Many countries have this whistleblower legislation, as I mentioned, such as the United States, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. In the United States, whistleblower protection was passed unanimously by Congress in 1989, a long time ago, and was strengthened again by a unanimous vote in 1994. In the U.S. there is also a whistleblower reporting agency. Under the federal false claims act in the U.S.A. a whistleblower can receive a percentage of money that is recovered.

Here in Canada we need such legislation. The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, which is a national union representing about 36,000 professional and scientific employees, and the Public Service Alliance of Canada, representing about 150,000 federal public servants, have been calling for the enactment of legislation to protect federal public sector employees from reprisals for blowing the whistle. Whistleblowers should not be denied fair and just redress for the injuries they suffer as a result of disclosing corruption and rot in the system.

Bill C-201 is a unique and comprehensive bill. It is unique because whistleblowers like Brian McAdam, Joanna Gualtieri, founder of FAIR, Federal Accountability, Integrity and Resolution, and Louis Clark, executive director and founder of the U.S. Government Accountability Project, GAP, were consulted to take advantage of their real life experiences. I thank them for their input in drafting the bill.

However, the government does not seem prepared to pass legislation, being content instead with an internal disclosure policy that even its overseer says is flawed. Despite a caucus document that was approved a long time ago, I consider this another broken promise. It was promised in caucus that it would support whistleblower legislation and today the parliamentary secretary denied that.

The non-legislative approach offers little new incentive for employees or potential whistleblowers in this country who would rather not disclose wrongdoing to their employers. It is an affront to democracy. It is inhibiting transparency and accountability in the government and putting the lives of many Canadians in jeopardy because something going wrong somewhere will not be reported to the public. I think it is an affront to democracy and it should not be happening.

The government still has a chance to support the bill. If members support the bill, I urge them to send it to a committee where it can be amended if there is any problem with it.

I thank all the members who participated in this debate.

Whistle Blower Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. As the motion has not been designated as a votable item, the order is dropped from the Order Paper.

It being 6:30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:30 p.m.)