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 life.


Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, thank you for allowing me to speak on Bill C-13. This is one bill that needs much thought and consideration because of its ethical issues. Our answers to these ethical questions will help to define our society.

Bill C-13 is related to reproductive technology. The bill is a very broad bill and contains many areas of concern to Canadians, including cloning of human beings, therapeutic cloning and the importing and exporting of human gametes. There are numerous issues that need to be considered before the passing of the bill.

In Bill C-13 there are some excellent statements already in place, but there are others that need to be thought out and revised. I fully support the bans on reproductive and therapeutic cloning, chimeras, animal-human hybrids, sex selection, germ line alteration, the buying and selling of embryos, and paid surrogacy.

Just because we are now able to do something in reproductive technology does not necessarily mean we should. Human life is like that of no other creature on this earth. There are additional dimensions to the human life because of the human ability to think, to feel and to have all kinds of emotions. Human life is valuable and should not be treated lightly.

I also support the proposal that there should be an agency to regulate this sector. Although changes still need to be made, the people who would sit on the board of directors of the agency would be selected through orders in council, which needs to be subjected to some form of scrutiny. Currently there are not enough checks and balances in place for regulating the agency. With this issue and many others, we need to be aware of the conflict of interest. This situation needs to be avoided at all costs by not allowing any oversight of the board of directors when it comes to the agency.

I support the recognition that the health and well-being of children born through assisted human reproduction, or AHR, should be given priority. However, the priority of AHR and other sections of the bill fail to meet my standards. The bill specifies that the consent of the donor of a human embryo be required in order to use a human embryo for experiments, but the bill leaves it to the regulations to define “donor”. On top of this, there are two donors to every human embryo, a woman and a man. Both parents should be required to give written consent for the use of a human embryo, not just one.

I believe that the children born through donor insemination or from donor eggs should be given the right to know the identity of their biological parents. These sperm and ovum donors make a conscious, intentional choice to assist in the creation of life. This is contrary to adoption, where a decision to adopt a child is usually made after an unintentional pregnancy has begun. These children would be deprived of their history and the roots of either their biological mother or father. Such a vital chapter of the child's life would be denied.

There are other questions that also arise. How would people know that they were not marrying their brother or sister? If their biological heritage were unknown, then how would they know? This could all be avoided if we were to just tell the truth. An identified donor is a responsible donor. If all donors had to be willing to be identified, then people would donate for the right reasons, not for money.

Dealing now with the issue of embryonic stem cell research, embryonic research is an ethical topic that divides Canadians. Embryonic stem cell research always results in the death of an embryo, an early form of human life. To many Canadians, this is murder. This violates the ethical commitment to respect human dignity, integrity and life. There is also a very high chance that the body would reject the embryo because it is foreign tissue and subject to immune rejection. As well, even if medical therapies had been developed using human embryos, people might refuse them if they do not believe that this is ethical.

Why would embryonic stem cell research be able to continue in Canada when we know that adult stem cells have already been proven to be far superior?

Adult stem cells are very easily accessible and are a proven alternative to embryonic stem cells. The huge advantage is that they are not subject to tissue rejection and pose minimal ethical concerns.

With adult stem cells, there is usually tissue taken from a person's own body. Adult stem cells can be taken from the umbilical cord blood, skin tissue, bone tissue and other areas. This would eliminate the years of anti-rejection drug therapy that embryonic stem cell patients would require.

Adult stem cell researchers have already found many great possibilities with adult stem cells. They say that some day adult stem cells could replace bone marrow transplants in humans and also that stem cells circulating in the blood stream could grow new tissue in the liver, gut and skin. At Duke University Medical Centre, researchers have already turned stem cells from knee fat into cartilage, bones and fat cells. At the University of Minnesota it has been shown that adult bone marrow stem cells can become blood vessels.

Today, adult stem cells are being used in the treatment of Parkinson's, leukemia, multiple sclerosis and other conditions. However, embryonic stem cells have not been used in the successful treatment of a single person. Researchers need to be focusing on a more promising and proven alternative like adult stem cells rather than ethical non-proven embryonic stem cells.

Turning now to the issue of the regulatory agency, there is a problem with the assisted human reproduction agency of Canada not reporting to Parliament but only to the minister. It should therefore be made an independent agency.

In Bill C-13, clause 25 allows for the minister to give any policy direction to the agency and it must in turn follow it. The clause also ensures that everything must remain secretive. This clause could be completely eliminated if the agency were an independent agency answerable to Parliament.

I strongly feel that the health minister has it all wrong with wanting to undo committee amendments to subclauses 26(8) and 26(9). The clause requires that the board members of the assisted human reproduction agency must come under the conflict of interest rules. On the other hand, the health committee got it right in saying that the board members should not have commercial interests in the field of assisted human reproduction or related research.

I hope that members will consider seriously that there are amendments to the bill that need to be changed while others should be supported. This issue has many ethical concerns and needs to be treated with great care. It is also a matter that needs to be taken very seriously.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Madam Speaker, we try to get everyone to listen to us and convince them of our point of view and bring them around to that point of view. In doing so I want to direct people's attention to the very title of the bill. By omitting the one word “assisted” which is provided as a modifier, the title of the bill is “an act respecting human reproduction”. Let us think about that title for a moment, “an act respecting human reproduction”. That is what we are arguing about in debate. The point many of us are trying to make is that there has to be respect for the entire process of human reproduction.

I have an interesting story to tell that relates directly to this. This is the story of the banana tree. The banana tree as we know it produces a wonderful fruit. Perhaps people have noticed while eating a banana, especially if it has been sliced so that there is a very clean cut across the fruit, that it is made up of a lot of white fruit but toward the centre there are some dark brown dots that have the same consistency as the rest of the banana. When eaten, those dark brown dots go down very well and are digested very well. In the beginning of the banana they were the seeds. That was how the banana tree reproduced way back in times gone by.

The banana tree can no longer reproduce by seed. Originally when the banana reproduced by seed, it was virtually inedible. The seeds were large and hard and could not be chewed or digested. Basically, those seeds destroyed what has come to be a magnificent fruit that many people depend on as part of their diet.

How did we get the banana tree of today if it cannot reproduce by way of seed? The answer is that we clone it. That is part of what the bill is about. People are talking about the whole concept of cloning.

The banana tree as we know it is a clone. Every banana tree, whether it be in the southern United States, in South America, Hawaii or anywhere else in the world, is directly related to the original banana tree that was developed for the purpose of creating edible fruit. This is what happens when people start to play God even with something as simple as a tree.

Where lies the problem in the case of the banana tree? The banana tree that we have today is almost at the end of its existence because it is a clone of the original tree, a direct, exact copy of the original tree.

When things develop normally, when some new problem affects it, be it a virus or in the case of the banana tree a fungus, over the years it develops the ability to cope and to deal with it. However, because the banana tree that we have today is in fact thousands of years old, if a new fungus comes along and attacks the banana tree, the banana tree cannot defend itself from that fungus.

What is happening as a direct result is that on all the banana plantations the trees are not dying but their lifespan is being shortened to three to five years. This makes it totally impractical for them to be a commercial harvest. We may very well within our own lifetimes see the end of the banana tree. It may come to an end and may be gone.

Now we start talking about the concept of cloning humans and other adaptations. When we start playing with science without knowing the consequence of the outcome, when we dare to become the gods, we have not the slightest idea of what pitfalls and travesties we may be opening ourselves to for future generations. We may in this day and age by even contemplating the possibility of cloning be dooming the future existence of the human population.

I would like to go on to some specifics in the bill. They are things that have been mentioned before but they are very important and cannot be stressed too much.

In terms of the whole concept of embryonic stem cell research and what can generally be described as non-embryonic stem cell research, one of the problems we have, whether it be in this or in a variety of other areas, when we focus on one thing to the exclusion or even the death of others, we sometimes have to wonder if we are on the right track. If the voting were to happen, a lot of the research and obviously the money for research would be put toward embryonic stem cells. If that choice were made, we would be taking from the minds and efforts of some brilliant scientists, the funds, equipment and facilities they would use to investigate further development of non-embryonic stem cells for the betterment of mankind. We would be taking that potential away from them and having them focus instead on embryonic stem cell research.

Putting aside for a moment the whole concept of the moral question, what about where there has been proven success and, as has been amply demonstrated throughout this debate, all kinds of success in the use of non-embryonic cells? We have listed such things. Certainly bringing the moral questions in, it removes most if not all of the moral questions. It removes a source problem. It removes the rejection problem.

I know people, in some cases good friends of mine, who have had transplants and are on a regimen of anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives. We might take a vitamin pill in the morning and think nothing of it but for them it is not one pill, but a heavy regimen of pills that affect them for the rest of their lives. They have to make sure that they are carrying enough pills with them. What if they lose them? What if they are stuck somewhere and cannot get the pills? All these things go through their heads.

Now we are looking at the possibility of asking ourselves whether we should be spending our research and resources looking into embryonic stem cell research or should we be doing it on non-embryonic research where we already have proven success and where we do not have the anti-rejection regimen.

Motion No. 88 talks about the potential for abuse and recognizes that there are abuses. There will be abuses in any program.

Even in the House, as much as we would like to think we are all perfect and we are all honourable persons, abuses do occur. That is why we have provisions for such things as contempt of Parliament which is raised from time to time. Sometimes it may be argued that it is done politically and maybe as a result of that the charges are dismissed, but at other times when contempt of Parliament is brought forward and there has been found to be a case, action has been taken. Even in this place, as honourable as all the members attempt to be, there are abuses at times.

Motion No. 88 recognizes that these potential abuses could exist. The amendment requires the agency to establish limits for in vitro fertilization procedures on the number of ova that can be harvested or fertilized, the number of in vitro fertilization embryos that can be implanted at any time, the number that can be stored for later use and so on. The health committee recommended that there be limits placed on these activities. For some reason the government in its wisdom did not see fit to include them.

Again, going to the concept of abuses, Motion No. 89 talks about how a licensee who violates the act, in other words who causes one of those abuses, may have that licence suspended.

I ask all hon. members to again remember the title of the bill, an act respecting human reproduction. If members keep that title in mind I am sure they will ultimately do the right thing.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a few remarks about an amendment in Group No. 5, namely Motion No. 80. It states:

That Bill C-13, in Clause 40, be amended by replacing line 5 on page 21 with the following:

“proposed research and the Agency has, in accordance with the regulations, received approval from a research ethics board and a peer review.”

The reason for this proposed amendment stems from the draft bill produced by the health committee, which recommended that research be carried out only if there was not another ethical alternative to achieve the same objectives.

The purpose of this recommendation was simple and clear. The idea was to remove the possible conflict of interest of the agency itself in having to decide subjectively that research on embryonic stem cells should be necessary in the absence of objective research into possible alternatives like adult stem cells.

The bill, as presently written, would give the agency total licence to decide on its own volition, without any checks and balances, that research on embryonic stem cells was necessary. It would become judge and jury at the same time.

The purpose of my colleague's amendment would be to set up some checks and balances so that any decision made as to whether such research was necessary would only take place after a peer review. A peer review would, from a scientific standpoint and on a totally scientific basis determine whether or not it was justified. A research ethics board would recommend whether in its totally objective and fair view there was an ethical consideration, and all ethical considerations would have been observed and respected before such research was carried out.

My reading of this issue, the question of stem cell research, has shown that in cases that have been tested and proven in actual practice, not only in research but practical application, stem cells have proven highly successful as a medium time and again in eradicating diseases that have still to be proven correctable by embryonic stem cells.

The idea of my colleague's amendment would make it a statutory requirement that there should be two reviews before an agency could deem, by itself without any regard to outside considerations or peer review, that there was a necessity for research in embryonic stem cells. Therefore there would be two basic conditions: an ethical board review and a scientific peer review.

I support this amendment very strongly because I feel it goes in the direction and the spirit of the health committee's recommendation that research into embryonic stem cells should be carried out only if no other ethical alternatives exist. This is the spirit in which this amendment has been crafted. I would like to ask for the support of the House in carrying it out.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to add a few comments to this very important debate. My constituents have contacted me on numerous occasions to express their concern about the entire issue of stem cell research.

As has been mentioned in the House, the issue is not simply a political issue. It is an ethical issue. The idea that we want to somehow have a regulatory agency to govern this at arm's length from government is in many situations a good idea. We often want to ensure there is a measure of objectivity in decisions being made, especially in regulating ethics among government ministers. We have always felt that there should be an independent officer governing that kind of situation. Even in that situation the independent officer who looks at that is responsible to Parliament.

This issue is not as clearly defined in terms of what is the right thing to do. Because it is an ethical issue, it is a political issue and as a political issue we as parliamentarians must be involved in a much more direct way than is often the case.

It should be a committee of Parliament that governs this particular situation, not a committee of scientists or bureaucrats. The bureaucrats and the scientists bring a certain perception and a certain expertise, but they do not have the responsibility to answer to the Canadian people on this difficult issue.

Embryonic research is ethically controversial and it divides Canadians. As I indicated earlier, I received numerous calls, letters and petitions from constituents. They are concerned about this.

Embryonic stem cell research, as has been pointed out to me in a number of these letters and petitions, inevitably results in the death of the embryo, which is in fact early human life. For many Canadians this violates the ethical commitment to respect human dignity, integrity and life. It demands political accountability that can be provided by a parliamentary committee rather than the legislative proposal in the bill.

Embryonic research also constitutes an objectification of human life where life becomes a tool that can be manipulated and destroyed even for other ethical ends. That is the dilemma here. There are those who are concerned that perhaps embryonic stem cell research could point the way to the cure of difficult physical conditions, such as quadriplegics or paraplegics. Many of them see this as a possibility, and I emphasize the word possibility, because research to date has not demonstrated the value of embryonic stem cell research.

What we do know is that adult stem cell research has in fact proven to be a safe alternative to embryonic stem cell research. Adult stem cells are easily accessible, not subject to immune rejection, and pose minimal ethical concerns.

We as parliamentarians must be involved in this process to ensure that ethical and controversial decisions are made in such a way that we ultimately remain accountable in a very direct fashion for those decisions. I do not want even an eminently, highly qualified scientist making those decisions on my behalf as a parliamentarian. It is my responsibility as a parliamentarian to make those decisions. What I see in this legislation is a distancing of political accountability from the process.

My position and the position of my colleagues in the Canadian Alliance is that this is not a responsible way to proceed.

Adult stem cells are being used today in the treatment of numerous serious diseases, with beneficial results. Why would we embark in the whole area of embryonic stem cell research given the limitations of research money available? Let us use those precious health care dollars, those precious taxpayer dollars, on proven technology and research. Let us enhance our ability to make a difference in people's lives in the areas where we have already seen demonstrable beneficial results. Research focus should in fact be on this more promising and indeed proven alternative.

The Canadian Alliance has expressed this concern about the ethical controversy, the fact that Canadians are divided on this issue. Wherever we stand on this matter we know there will be controversy and there is not sufficient proven evidence that this would in any way advance the cause of human health.

It was for that reason, and others, that the Canadian Alliance minority report called for a three year prohibition on experiments with human embryos, corresponding with the first scheduled review of the bill. That is a reasonable position to take.

We need to encourage research and methods that will assist Canadians in restoring them to health. However, it is premature at this time to leave the area of adult stem cell research and move into the area of embryonic stem cell research.

Therefore, I have a grave concern to hand over that responsibility and decision making process to any other body but a body comprised of parliamentarians, indeed a committee of the House. I look forward to the continued debate in this matter.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Canadian Alliance Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for this opportunity, which is indeed an opportunity to express viewpoints that are shared by many Canadians. I too have received numerous calls from constituents in my riding.

A lot of them centre around the fact that the issue is so complex that I do not believe most Canadians really understand the complexities of the bill. I do not understand all the complexities of the bill and I have the privilege of sitting here and listening to many who have researched the issue in depth.

Given the fact that we sit in the midst of those with knowledge, and I know the member for Yellowhead has followed this extensively through the committee and listened to many experts, and given the mere fact we are still seeking a great deal of knowledge as to its implications for our society, I feel that most Canadians will take some time before they bone up on the whole issue themselves.

There is no question Bill C-13 is an attempt to fill a vacuum, a void where no law exists in certain areas in dealing with the matter of stem cell research. There is no question that a clear law is required, with clear prohibitions and clear penalties for those who want to violate those prohibitions. Matters of life and death, human cloning and embryonic stem cell research land squarely in the area of ethics and morality. I think we have heard much of that expressed over the days that the bill has been in the House.

I am trusting that many of the amendments put forward, and those that we are debating today in Group No. 5, will be adopted. I am certainly expressing that viewpoint as one member here and I encourage other members in the House to look closely at these amendments.

Going back to the general context of Bill C-13, we do in fact support a number of aspects of the bill. We support the ban on reproductive or therapeutic cloning. I heard the President of the United States express that very sentiment two days ago: Cloning is out. We support the ban on chimeras, the injection of an animal cell into a human embryo, and on animal-human hybrids, uniting human eggs with animal sperm, although there is some concern right at this point about an animal egg and whether there would be freedom to inject it with a human sperm. It does not cover that aspect of experimentation. We support the ban on sex selection, germ line alteration, the buying and selling of embryos and paid surrogacy.

It is interesting to look at the list of possible violations of ethics, morality and just violations overall and to think that some people would want to engage in that. I guess some would, but I can see out of that list alone that there would be a need for a strong agency. We do support the need to have an agency that will regulate and control those prohibitions and will charge if necessary. In that area we certainly support the list of prohibitions.

The bill in the overall picture deals with the health and well-being of children born through assisted human reproduction: that they must be given some level of priority, that their human individuality and diversity and the integrity of the human genome must be protected.

Those are the highlights of the bill and now I will look at some of our concerns, which I know are addressed in the motions before the House.

We support the recognition that the health and well-being of children born through assisted human reproduction should be given priority. In fact, here is where there is some breakdown now. The health committee came up with a ranking of whose interests should have priority in the decision making around assisted human reproduction and related research. Of course they are the children, the adults participating in these procedures, and the researchers and physicians who conduct assisted human reproduction.

Where this all starts to break down is in the area of those children born through donor insemination or from donor eggs. In this case they are not given the right to know the identity of their parents. There is no protection. There is protection for the donor, but there is no real protection for the child as far as knowing who his or her biological parents were. In this case, the right of the donor supersedes the right of the child, so the child who is born will never know.

If we look at some recent claims, there is ample evidence of children who are now seeking that knowledge, yet the bill would shut that out completely. They would be left, maybe going to their graves, without the knowledge of who their parents were.

The bill's preamble does not provide an acknowledgement of human dignity or respect for human life. Here again we talk in the realm of ethics, of morality. It is devoid of that acknowledgement. The bill is intimately connected with the creation of human life, yet there is no overarching recognition of the principle of respect for human life. That, in our opinion, is a grave deficiency.

In our minority report, we recommended that the final legislation clearly recognize the human embryo as human life, and that the statutory declaration include the phrase “respect for life”. As I explained earlier, just to recognize the human embryo as life would allow clear legislation and a prohibition that would define what scientists can and cannot do when it comes to dealing with that embryo. Right now with the way the bill is outlined, they actually could take that life, that is, kill the embryo and take stem cells from that embryo.

We believe, therefore, that there has to be a substantial inclusion in the preamble of this document: a statutory declaration that would include respect for human life. These amendments cover that.

Embryonic research is ethically controversial and it undoubtedly will divide Canadians. In the House we have been very much aware of the number of petitions that have been tabled pertaining to this research. I encourage all the members of the House, as we on this side already have agreed to do, to support these amendments that are coming up. I know that there will be an interesting debate to follow.

Assisted Human Reproduction ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance 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 ActGovernment 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Niagara Centre Ontario


Tony Tirabassi LiberalParliamentary 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rex Barnes Progressive Conservative 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal 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 ActPrivate 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rex Barnes Progressive Conservative 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Certainly, your correction has been noted.

Whistle Blower Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rex Barnes Progressive Conservative 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Canadian Alliance 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 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 ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance 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 ActPrivate 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.)