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La law on whistleblowers unknown to civil servants

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The citizen protector obtained this information thanks to four surveys of civil servants.

The Canadian Press

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More than six years after its entry into force, the majority of state employees are unaware of the law on whistleblowers, according to the latest special report from the Public Protector filed Thursday.

The methods of disclosure are not well known enough and many people fear reprisals if they decide to make a denunciation, said the Ombudsman Marc-André Dowd at a press conference at the National Assembly on Thursday. .

Indeed, the report also indicates that several state employees allege that their workplace is under the influence of a “culture of omerta”, where the duty of loyalty to the employer is overvalued.

Some say they have the impression of living in an environment hostile to whistleblowers who would put them at risk of being hunted, tracked and possibly punished, particularly if the denounced act involves a superior or a highly placed manager.

According to Mr. Dowd, this type of practice goes against the spirit of the whistleblower law. The spirit of the law is to create safe spaces where people can feel confident, in complete confidentiality, to come and disclose a wrongdoing, he said.

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So practices which would consist of searching for emails, doing a search active to know who gave the information, it does not appear to me to be compatible with the spirit of the law, added the Protector.

The problem also comes from the fact that those responsible for monitoring disclosures (RSD) in public bodies are too often people high up in the institutional hierarchy, which goes against the recommendations of the Protector.

According to the report, 85% of RSDs are managers or senior managers.

It is understandable that employees may be intimidated or reluctant to disclose a disclosure to senior authorities. So changes are necessary, indicated the Protector.

Marc-André Dowd affirms that the entire verification and investigation aspect following a disclosure should be the responsibility of the Public Protector. The RSDs should rather play a role of carrying the file of public integrity in their organization.

The Public Protector obtained this information thanks to to four surveys among civil servants.

The law on whistleblowers came into force on May 1, 2017, with the aim of facilitating the disclosure of wrongdoing committed or about to be committed against public bodies, and to ensure the protection of disclosers and persons who collaborate in audits or investigations against possible retaliatory measures, we can read in the report.

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