1994 and 1996, Cutler worked at the public works department as a procurement
officer under Chuck Guité, the bureaucrat who almost single-handedly ran the
sponsorship program. Cutler said he was asked to backdate contracts, refused,
and then was told he'd have to pay a price for his behaviour.
eventually made a formal complaint to a union official in June 1996 and almost
lost his job.
Cutler found another job within the federal government, he never went higher in
the ranks and eventually retired last year. He now teaches and does consulting
in the area of government ethics.
said that although attempts have been made to identify a specific profile for
whistleblowers, studies show that they tend to be most diligent and apply
similar moral standards in their workplace and at home.
a personal level I couldn't accept it and on a professional level I couldn't
accept it, and I blew," he said. "I took a bigger vision than my organization."
Cutler spoke out, the repercussions started immediately, which he said happens
in about 85 per cent of cases of whistleblowing. Employers can use
intimidation, blacklisting, threats, forced transfers, and firing to retaliate
against whistleblowers. Basically, he said, the methods are "limited only by
his case, Cutler was denied meaningful work, and would often spend entire work
days with nothing to do.
introduced legislation, the "public servants disclosure protection act,"
purports to help protect federal public servants from this kind of retaliation
but falls far short of its goal, said Cutler. This is the second bill dealing
with whistleblowing, as the former bill C-25 died on the order paper.
C-11, which went through second reading at the Senate last month, is designed,
said Cutler, to "protect the innocent from the guilty." He said he would never
recommend that whistleblowers trust that this bill would protect them.
are many flaws with the proposed law, he said:
· It leaves the burden of proof for
reprisals on the whistleblower. "A good bill would shift the burden of proof to
management," Cutler said, as often these decisions are made behind closed doors
with no paper trail. "How do you prove something nobody put in writing?"
· The government can add or delete any
Crown corporation or public body from the protection of the bill.
· There is to be no public disclosure
except under exceptional circumstances, and whistleblowers must follow a
prescribed route, which "is a means of covering up the problem," said Cutler.
· The bill only covers permanent federal
employees and not contract employees.
· The remedy for reprisals is to apply to
the government-controlled Staff Relations Board.
· The person accused or involved in the
complaint may be assisted by counsel paid for by the government, while the
whistleblower is not. "The odds are stacked against the whistleblower," Cutler
· The independent commissioner is
investigative only, and can't enforce compliance.
said it is noteworthy that 2003's Public Service Modernization Act took away
the right of public servants to bring a court action against their employer, a
right bill C-11 does not restore.
present, their only remedy is to complain to their boss — a process that we
would normally expect only from totalitarian regimes," he said.
Canadians may be protected under the whistleblower provisions of U.S.
legislation, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which raised the stakes of even
the most routine employment actions taken against employees of publicly traded
companies who make complaints or provide information or assistance in certain
act only deals with large Canadian publicly traded companies and covers the
area of financial wrongdoings. Cutler said whistleblowing often involves health
and safety issues.
it rather interesting that Canada
has no equivalent?" asked Cutler. "Canadians are better protected by U.S. law and
very few Canadians are protected at all."
given the fallout from and the consequences of speaking out, Cutler said he
would do it again in a heartbeat.
you are honest with yourselves, whistleblowers, far from being perceived as a
liability, are in fact an asset and should be placed in that side of the
ledger. Their early warnings offer a golden opportunity for senior executives
to avoid blindsides by risks taken without their knowledge and to save them
from liability for decisions taken far from their own purview."