Oct. 27, 2010. OTTAWA – Today, in an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and opposition party leaders, an alliance of more than 30 accountability organizations called for the appointment of a new Public Sector Integrity Commissioner with a much stronger mandate, and key reforms of the federal whistleblower protection law (the Public Servants Disclosure and Protection Act).

The new Commissioner must be selected through a public, merit-based process overseen by a body independent Cabinet, such as the Public Appointments Commission the Conservatives promised in 2006 but have still failed to establish. 

“The federal government’s good government laws are not enforced effectively because the watchdog agencies lack key powers or have not been doing their job properly, and that is why a strong system to protect anyone who blows the whistle on wrongdoing is needed, along with a strong Public Sector Integrity Commissioner,” said Duff Conacher, co-ordinator of Democracy Watch and chairperson of the nation-wide Government Ethics Coalition, which is made up of 31 groups with a total membership of more than three million Canadians. 

The Coalition has sent the letter to federal political party leaders in alliance with FAIR Canada and Canadians for Accountability, groups that both work with whistleblowers. 

The alliance also called for an independent review of 150 past claims of wrongdoing and 59 claims of reprisal, most of which — like Gulf War veteran Sean Bruyea’s — were never even investigated.  

The system to protect whistleblowers, which was supposed to make the government more transparent and accountable, is completely broken.

The government watchdog charged with protecting whistleblowers recently resigned suddenly, less than half way through her seven-year term, and her office is under investigation by the Auditor General.

During her three-year tenure, the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner failed to uncover a single case of wrongdoing in the entire public service, nor a single case of reprisal against any whistleblower. The law that provides her mandate, which was claimed to provide “ironclad” protection for honest public servants, has been described as a ‘disaster.’

The case of veteran Sean Bruyea, whose personal medical records were widely distributed in one of the worst violations in history of our privacy laws, illustrates the seriousness of the problem. The Commissioner ruled that there was no evidence of wrongdoing and that it was “not in the public interest” for her to even investigate Bruyea’s disclosure of wrongdoing.

To see this news release and the letter to federal party leaders, click here.