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Proposed amendments to protect whistleblowers announced

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/6/2015 (1849 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Selinger government has introduced legislation that would further protect the identity of government whistleblowers. 

The proposed amendments to the Public Interest Disclosure Act were introduced today by Family Services Minister Irvin-Ross, the minister responsible for the Civil Service Commission. 

"We want to make sure anyone who becomes aware of significant and serious wrongdoing in, or relating to the public service, feels they can disclose it to the appropriate officials without fear of reprisal," Irvin-Ross said in a statement. 

The amendments are based on recommendations from a review of the legislation by Dianna Scarth, former executive director of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, and the provincial ombudsman’s office.

The changes would prohibit the disclosure of the whistleblower's identity in a civil court proceeding or a proceeding of an administrative tribunal, and allow the ombudsman’s office to receive and investigate reprisal complaints, for example acts or threats of reprisal by employers to a whistleblower’s complaint. 

Whistleblowers would also be able to file a further complaint to the Manitoba Labour Board about the alleged reprisal if he or she is not satisfied with the outcome of the ombudsman's process. 

Additional changes would clarify the roles and investigatory powers of designated officers and the ombudsman, and requiring a review of the act every five years.

There are more than 600 public-service organizations covered by the act including government departments, the independent offices of the legislature and government bodies. The new provisions of the act would come into effect Jan. 1, 2016.



Summary of Key Changes

1. Disclosures and Investigations

Disclosures would be handled by a senior official within the government entity (referred to as a 'designated officer') or by the ombudsman. In this bill, their roles would be clarified and the investigatory powers of a designated officer would be strengthened. Specifically, amendments would:

  • authorize the ombudsman to request, review and provide recommendations concerning the disclosure procedures of a public body;
  • require information about the act to be annually communicated to employees;
  • require a supervisor who receives a disclosure from an employee to promptly refer the matter to the designated officer;
  • clarify which disclosures are to be investigated by a designated officer and which by the ombudsman;
  • clarify that a designated officer may consult with the ombudsman, the chief executive or other people as necessary regarding the conduct of an investigation;
  • specify that an investigator must take steps to protect the identity and the procedural rights of all people involved in the investigation including the whistleblower, a witness and the person alleged to have committed the wrongdoing;
  • specify the circumstances in which a designated officer or the ombudsman may decide not to investigate a disclosure;
  • empower a designated officer to compel an employee to produce documents and be interviewed for the purpose of an investigation; and
  • allow the designated officer or the ombudsman to determine the manner in which the whistleblower is to be informed of the results of an investigation.

2. Reprisal Complaints

The powers of the ombudsman would be enhanced to receive and investigate reprisal complaints expeditiously and to make recommendations to address acts of or threats of reprisal. This bill would require reprisal complaints to be made to the ombudsman. The employee or former employee may file a further complaint about the alleged reprisal with the Manitoba Labour Board if he or she is not satisfied with the outcome of the ombudsman's process.


3. Protection of Whistleblower's Identity

In addition to requiring all people involved in the investigation or management of a disclosure to protect the identity of whistleblowers, protection for whistleblowers would be further strengthened by prohibiting the disclosure of the whistleblower's identity in a civil court proceeding or a proceeding of an administrative tribunal.


4. Review of Act

The minister responsible for the act would be required to review it every five years. Consequential amendments would be made to the Personal Property Security Act and the Real Property Act.


The amendments would come into force Jan. 1, 2016.


Source – Manitoba Government



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