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Government whistleblower watchdog fails to deliver after five years

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OTTAWA - Following the release of the fifth annual report by the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, civil society groups are calling the federal Conservatives' 5-year-old whistleblower regime a failure and calling for major reforms to ensure protection of Canadian whistleblowers.

"After five years of bureaucratic charades, taxpayers have essentially nothing to show for more than 30 million dollars spent on the Integrity Commissioner's office and the associated Tribunal," said David Hutton, executive director of FAIR, the whistleblower charity. "Not a single wrongdoer has been sanctioned and not a single whistleblower has been protected. It is time for a root and branch reform of this law."

Integrity Commissioner Mario Dion has thus far uncovered only one case of wrongdoing out of more than 320 complaints submitted over the past 5 years. Due to loopholes in the law, the manager found to have misspent taxpayers' money could not be disciplined because she had left her job for another outside the public service. Dion declined to use the only remaining sanction available -- to name her.

The government has also failed to initiate the five-year review of the Whistleblower Act, as legally required. "More than two months after it was supposed to begin, Minister Clement has still not announced the review or provided information on the format or timing. The earliest date for a review is now the fall, well after it was to begin according to the Act," said Tyler Sommers of Democracy Watch. "If this government wants to protect honest public servants it will launch a comprehensive, open, and transparent review process immediately -- and invite experts from other jurisdictions such as the U.K., USA, and Australia, that are decades ahead of Canada in protecting truth-tellers."

"This government rode into town on a white horse of transparency and accountability, with whistleblower protection the centrepiece of its election campaign," said Mr. Hutton. "It's time to deliver on the 'ironclad' protection promised in 2006."

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