A bill that seeks to reform federal whistleblower protections for employees who report on corrupt practices has been passed in the House of Commons with a 172-0 vote on Feb. 15. The Liberal government abstained from the vote. Bill C-290, An Act To Amend The Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, would expand protections to federal employees, particularly reprisals against them, when they report cases of abuse of authority, breach of conduct, mismanagement, and political interference, among several more. This includes extending the complaint deadlines and fines for reprisal against a whistle-blower, which would increase from $10,000 to $200,000 for indictable offences and from $5,000 to $100,000 for summary convictions.
Conservative MP Stephanie Kusie said in Parliament on Nov. 2, 2022 that the legislation would provide these protections. Bloc Québécois MP Jean-Denis Garon, who sponsored the bill, said the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA) that came into force in April 2007 under the Harper government has not kept up with the times. He added that the bill seeks to address the shortcomings of the original act, such as allowing the auditor general to investigate cases, broadening and updating the definition of wrongdoing, and allowing public servants to report political interference.
The Commons operations committee in a 2017 report noted that the PSDPA “does not sufficiently protect whistleblowers from reprisals as most of them face significant financial, professional and health-related consequences.” The International Bar Association in a 2021 report said “it is concerning that the [PSDPA] is nearly entirely dormant.”
A report prepared for the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner noted that fear of reprisals is not the only reason why public servants are hesitant to report wrongdoings they see in their workplaces. The report, titled “Exploring The Culture Of Whistleblowing And The Fear Of Reprisal In The Federal Public Sector,” published on March 25, 2022, found that the workplace culture is dominated by an attitude that no one should “rock the boat.”