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Readers praise, criticize suspended EI whistleblower

Categories: Politics

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Sylvie Therrien told CBC News that she and other investigators were given a target to recover nearly $500,000 in EI benefits every year. (CBC)

Readers reacted en masse to the story of Sylvie Therrien, the federal fraud investigator who had been suspended without pay after leaking documents about meeting quotas for fraudulent employment insurance claims.

Therrien told CBC News she and other investigators were given a target to recover nearly $500,000 in EI benefits every year.

Therrian's story was consistently in the top 10 most-viewed stories on CBCNews.ca since it was posted on Friday, with more than 2,200 comments posted as of Monday. It received more than 1,500 shares and 500 comments on our Facebook page alone.

In February, then-human resources minister Diane Finley denied the use of dollar-amount quotas, but said here were "performance objectives" in place.

The most active and most-liked comments on CBCNews.ca praised Therrien's whistleblower move and criticized the government's alleged quota directive.

This woman is a Canadian Hero. Our own government is against us and it's time we put Harper out on the streets. Thank you for your honesty and for sacrificing yourself for the sake of your fellow Canadians, Sylvie - :) - afroturf

Thank you, Sylvie Therrien - in my books, you deserve a medal. You did the right thing, even though you put your own financial security at risk to do it. I'm sure your next job will be a lot better - any decent employer would be lucky to have you. - milkweed

Whistle blowing has become something of a national pastime in some areas, but here is a woman that should be applauded and then some. For anyone who has ever been on EI, the thought of it being suspended so that some government bureaucrat can make his/her "quota" is unconscionable to say the least. This dear gal is a hero, and her job needs, immediately, to be reinstated. - Jim Duval

Others debated the significance of the word 'quota' versus 'guideline' or 'performance objective.' For many, the use of a hard dollar figure meant that people were in danger of losing legitimate employment insurance claims.

Over time investigations into social programs including EI and welfare have shown that the vast majority of recipients are honestly entitled to their benefits. There's always a percentage that will rip off any system (see the senate), but why harass the majority to punish the minority? Some of the behavior they encourage is the "might as well rip them off anyways" folks who are fed up with being treated as criminals. - EBunikowski

Their "target" should be to eliminate fraud. Not, say, half of the fraud, and then an arbitrary number of legitimate claimants in order to achieve an arbitrary numerical value. Being forced to treat people who are not fraudulent, as fraudulent, for any reason at all, would simply not be acceptable to me. I applaud anyone who resists and opposes pressures to do so. - Pete from Scarborough

The people who defraud EI are a very tiny percentage, even though the general public thinks it's rampant. We all pay into this insurance fund, yet investigators are forced to make everyone feel like a cheat. It's humiliating enough for most people to even apply for EI. The situation bothered me when I worked there, too. - R Townsend

Some were critical of Therrien, however - and for a number of different reasons. Some doubted her claim that a hard dollar figure of $485,000 was in fact true. Others felt it was not her place to blow the whistle on the matter. Other readers defended Therrien's actions in response.

Don't have much sympathy for this person. The targets exist as part of an accounting so there can be a budget for things like salaries for employees. Yes some people cheat on EI and they need to be detected...but no manager in the federal public service is going to tell an employee to cut someone's EI benefits without real evidence to support that decision. We are not an anachronistic society yet. - Earl_James

@Earl_James This is rubbish. As a retired provincial civil servant involved in budgeting, which is similar among provinces and the federal governments, I say budgeting for EI funds and budgeting for salaries are totally separate. Money "saved" (from denying claims) cannot be used to pay for salaries because it was not authorized by the Parliament. - Rexall

She was a fraud investigator. She was not a front-end employee opening up new files. Her job was to identify and recover defrauded monies. A quota or guideline, call it what you will. This is just an expectation her position would have measurable results to justify the position. And she agreed to keep her mouth shut. Time to find a new job. The sensationalism around this story is not helpful. - trollkiller

@ trollkiller You are assuming that in her region that there actually is fraud worth $485 000 a year. What if there was only $385 000 and she got it all? Should she lose her job for not getting $485 000? - Kevin500

@ trollkiller Let's assume it was a guideline. If the job is to find fraudulent claimants, who is to say how many there are? Giving her a number is telling her that there are $500,000 worth of "guilty" false claimant out there and we want you to find them. That's a quota! - Jack_of_Spade

One commenter, NQuick, shared a personal story about being ordered to pay back EI money.

I was ordered to pay back $10,000 even though I still believe I was entitled to the money. They said I would not be penalized if I admitted guilt and since I did not have the mental resources to fight the government (depression and anxiety issues) so I just paid it back using my line of credit on my house. - NQuick

@NQuick Unfortunately this is often the result. May be you should consider contacting your MP for a review of EI's decision on the grounds that the revelation of the quota could have led to an unfair decision. Also please consider finding help from your community. - Rexall

Thanks, as always, for your feedback and discussion. Feel free to continue the discussion.


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