OTTAWA — On Monday the whistleblower charity FAIR (Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform) was ordered off the Advisory Committee of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner’s office (PSIC) – the agency charged with protecting government whistleblowers.
Integrity Commissioner Mario Dion stated in a letter that this action was because FAIR was “Constantly undermining the work of this Office in the media… and in so doing discouraging potential whistleblowers from coming forward is inconsistent with the role of a PSIC Advisory Committee member.”
Mr. Dion’s action was in response to a letter to the editor by FAIR’s executive director David Hutton that appeared in the Ottawa Citizen on Saturday.
A federal judge recently handed down a ruling highly critical of PSIC’s handling of a case, saying that the investigators made so many mistakes that these amounted to ‘a clear breach of the common law duty of procedural fairness’. This ruling was the subject of a Citizen article by Andrew Duffy. Mr. Hutton wrote to add that the judge’s findings mirrored the frustrations expressed by more than 30 whistleblowers and their lawyers who had spoken to FAIR about their dealings with PSIC.
Two other civil society organizations, which also sit on the Advisory Committee, voiced their alarm at this action, and called for FAIR’s immediate reinstatement.
“I believe that FAIR is being kicked off the committee for doing its job properly by publicly representing the experience and the views of whistleblowers – who mostly have no voice other than through organizations like ours,” said Allan Cutler, president of Canadians for Accountability. “Based on what we hear from whistleblowers, PSIC’s treatment of them is often inadequate and disrespectful, and their investigations often seem unprofessional. There’s nothing in Mr. Hutton’s letter that our group hasn’t already been saying.”
“We are shocked at Mr. Dion’s decision since FAIR’s participation in the Advisory Committee was valuable to us, and we thought, to Mr. Dion” said Tyler Sommers, coordinator of Democracy Watch. “It’s easy for agencies like this to become so absorbed in their internal processes that they forget the perspective of their clients.”
Both groups indicated that they do not intend to continue on the Advisory Committee if FAIR is not reinstated. “Without us it’s difficult to see that this committee will have much legitimacy, since it will exclude the only civil society organizations in Canada whose sole mandate is to represent whistleblowers,” said Allan Cutler.
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David Hutton, Executive Director, Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform: (613) 567-1511
Allan Cutler, President, Canadians for Accountability: (613) 863-4671
Ian Bron, Managing Director, Canadians for Accountability: (613) 304-8049
Tyler Sommers, Coordinator of Democracy Watch and Chair of the Open Government Coalition: (613) 241-5179