Montreal

Whistleblower protection bill for public-sector workers tabled in Quebec

The Quebec government has tabled legislation aimed at protecting public-sector whistleblowers, however, Bill 87 doesn't cover workers in the private sector.

Bill 87 offers anonymity and job protection to public employees but doesn't cover private sector

Quebec Treasury Board president Martin Coiteux tables legislation to protect public-sector whistleblowers Dec. 2 in the National Assembly. (Canadian Press/Jacques Boissinot)

The Quebec government has tabled a bill aimed at making it easier for whistleblowers in Quebec's public sector to come forward and report wrongdoing – although the proposed legislation doesn't cover private-sector employees.

Bill 87 would protect the identity and job of any public employee or former employee who discloses wrongdoing within the government, including within parapublic agencies, Crown corporations and universities.

The bill defines wrongdoing as an illegal act, the misuse of funds, a serious breach of ethics, an act or omission that compromises health or safety and gross mismanagement.

If passed, the law would protect whistleblowers from reprisals such as job loss or demotion. It would also allow whistleblowers to remain anonymous.

A whistleblower would take a complaint to the provincial ombudsman or to a designated official within a government department or agency.

"We want to apply the highest standards of ethics within our public sector, and this is our first responsibility," said Treasury Board President Martin Coiteux.

Extend to private sector: Québec Solidaire

Coiteux said the bill is in line with recommendations from the Charbonneau commission into corruption and collusion in the construction industry.

However, Québec Solidaire MNA Manon Massé said the bill does not go far enough because it does not protect whistleblowers from within the private sector, as the Charbonneau report recommended.

"The Charbonneau commission showed that private-sector employees, often more vulnerable than those in the public sector, are essential collaborators when it comes to putting an end to corruption and collusion," Massé said in a news release. "They must be protected!"

Massé pointed out that had it been law, Bill 87 would have offered no protection to Ken Pereira, the former construction union organizer in the FTQ labour federation who was among those singled out by Justice France Charbonneau for his courage in coming forward to denounce corruption. 

Pereira eventually had to leave Quebec and find work in Alberta. 

Massé also gave the example of Stéphanie Bérard, the former executive director of the Quebec association representing masonry companies (AEMQ), who was fired after announcing her intention to cooperate with the Charbonneau commission to denounce dishonest practices in her industry.

"She was threatened and feared for her life," Massé said. "I don't understand why the government has refused to offer protection to people as courageous as they were."

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