The Most Dangerous Website in Ottawa

What is the more dangerous website in Ottawa? Here’s a secret. It isn’t a x-rated site, or loaded with tips and tricks on how to make weapons or break the law. It isn’t – contrary to what some politician might feel – even a newswebsite.

No, the most dangerous website in Ottawa is much, much, more boring than that.

The most dangerous website is actually a small site run by the Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform or FAIR (see you are yawning already).

But one simple page on the site, entitled Some Canadian Whistleblowers, is potentially the most damaging website in Ottawa. In one swoop the site is a devastating critique of a Conservative Government (and Liberal Government before it) that ran on accountability but that crushes those who seek to advocate for it, it is damning appraisal of a public service that is willing to turn on its own and even wreck the careers of public servants and citizens who try to prevent the defrauding of Canadian taxpayers or ensure the integrity of our government, and it is a cautionary tale to public servants who may be tempted – by their ethics and good judgment – to speak out when they see something is deeply wrong about how the country is being run.

Consider this, of the 29 Whistleblowers highlighted on the website:

  • one public works employee and a group of five RCMP employees who spoke out together have the appearances of a happy ending. (The RCMP employees were publicly commended by a parliamentary committee and the public works official ran for office).
  • 7 were attacked by the public service but ultimately have managed to keep their jobs but their careers have been negatively impacted.
  • 15 more found themselves turfed out of their jobs, often by the very authorities that should have protected them.
  • The final person – Richard Colvin – still has his job, but the Conservative Government has effectively muzzled him by refusing to pay his legal fees (as he is entitled).

One might suspect that these stories have political angles to them, like that of Dr. John O’Connor, an Alberta doctor, who work uncovered unusually high rates of cancers among the residents of Fort Chipewyan, in the Athabasca oil patch. As the site details:

His findings contributed to concerns that oil extraction operations may be contaminating the environment with carcinogenic chemicals.

In what was perceived as an attempt to muzzle him, Health Canada doctors lodged four complaints against O’Connor with his professional body – charges which could have resulted in the loss of his licence. Doctors were alarmed by this incident, since such reports from doctors in the field have been vital to the detection of new diseases such as AIDS. Consequently, in 2007 the Canadian Medical Association passed a resolution (#103) calling for whistleblower protection for doctors – apparently to protect them from Health Canada.

But these are actually more isolated incidents. The real lesson from the website is that your story doesn’t need to be political in nature at all – all you really need to do ruin your career is speak out. Indeed, from the stories on the FAIR website, it is easy to see that if you are a public servant and you note illegal or unethical activities to your supervisors you may seriously damage your career. Should those supervisors ignore you and you opt to go public with those allegations – your career will be literally or effectively over (regardless of whether or not those accusations end up being true).

This is why this is the most dangerous website in Ottawa. Politicians (particularly Conservative politicians) don’t want you to see it, the Public Service doesn’t want to have to explain it, and Canadian citizens and public servants don’t want to end up on it.

Is this the future of accountability in Ottawa?

12 thoughts on “The Most Dangerous Website in Ottawa

  1. Phil

    David are you sure you want to hitch your wagon to Dr. John O'Connor? Did you not see the report by the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons? Or do you think they are under the control of evil Health Canada too?

    Reply
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  4. David Eaves

    Phil – I agree that Dr. O'Connor is no saint – but the truth of the situation is unclear. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) report you mentioned explicitly cleared Dr. O'Connor of the charges of wrong-doing while also outline some of his problematic behaviour.However, ultimately, the Provincial government's initial whitewash report about the number of cancer cases was exposed to be essentially fraudulent (it used stats in a way that made it appear the number of cancer cases was in line with the average) and O'Connor's advocacy resulted in a real investigation – conducted by the province – that in 2009 showed there were elevated rates of cancer in the community.”First Nations Albertans have a significantly lower rate than non-First Nations Albertans for all cancer, leukemia and breast cancer. The rate for cholangiocarcinoma in First Nations Albertans, however, is significantly higher than that in non-First Nations.””The cancer rate overall (51 cancers in 47 individuals) was higher than expected (39). Higher than expected numbers of cancers of the blood and lymphatic system, biliary tract cancers as a group, and soft tissue cancers were found.””These findings were based on a small number of cases and could be due to chance, increased detection or increased risk in the community.”Finally, my point of that story was to show that this case was an outlier (in its political nature) not the norm. Anyway, I definitely don't hitch my wagon entirely on Dr. O'Connor, and he's far from flawless, but then given the campaign to discredit most of these people, that's hardly surprising…

    Reply
  5. Phil

    Actually David the reaction to that 2009 report was fascinating as every side (government, doctors, natives, NGOs) said they were very satisfied with the results. How often does that happen?And you don't actually think that there's “truth” to anything to do with this? There's no truth, there's just self interested parties on all sides (and that very much includes Fort Chip and those using the Fort Chip cause, especially in Europe were native issues play really well). Every party here has their own truthiness.

    Reply
  6. David Eaves

    Phil – completely agree. Every one has some deeply vested interests in this case (including Fort Chip). Your point on everyone being satisfied with the report is also interesting, I think this is precisely what happens when attention is brought to an issue – the level of transparency forces the process to adapt or fail. From my side – that is the best outcome from the whole thing… The downside is that, to get there, a doctor had to put his career on the line, be threatened by Health Canada and (potentially) do some things that crossed the line.

    Reply
  7. ianbron

    You're right that FAIR is an important and powerful site – but don't forget us at Canadians for Accountability! We're a newer organization than FAIR, formally incorporated by a group of grassroots whistleblowers and accountability activists just less than two years ago. Like FAIR, our mission is to advance integrity and accountability and to help and advocate for whistleblowers in all parts of our society. Although we are entirely manned by volunteers, and without funding aside from memberships and donations, we have been working hard to make an impact. We, too, highlight cases and moreover have started to advocate for individual whistleblowers. At present, what we can do is limited to helping individuals make sense of their situation, offering social support individually and through regular get-togethers, and analyzing, documenting and publicizing their cases.Jim Black, a former Ontario teacher who spoke out against the reinstatement of teachers with sexual offences on their records, provides an excellent example. Like many whistleblowers, he was suffering severe reprisals. We helped him boil his tale down into a narrative and timeline and have advocated on his behalf to the Ontario College of Teachers and the Minister of Education. This week I also published a long post on his case on our blog as well. We hope to do more in the future as well.There's one more thing that we're also starting to do: help whistleblowers who don't trust the Public Service Integrity Commissioner or the other internal official channels of public and private sector institutions. We are now working on two major cases which point to very serious wrongdoing. The reason these cases are not yet public is that we have to protect these individuals and, ultimately, our goal is to fix the problem and not simply to embarrass the government/institution. Sadly, though, avoiding embarrassment may not be possible in the current culture of denial and reprisal that exists in many – if not most – Canadian institutions. And, as we have seen with Richard Colvin, our federal government may be one of the worst offenders.I invite readers to visit our web site at http://www.canadians4accountability.org to learn more.

    Reply
  8. Kevin gauthier

    Not sure if you aware of it – there are also whistleblowers identified under the FAIR “special concerns” page ie here: http://fairwhistleblower.ca/issues/issues.htmlFurther, the information highlighted here:http://www.canadians4accountability.org/cases/c…and here: http://safeskies.ca/category/topics/industry-wh…reaffirms Ian Bron's statement above – and the simple fact that often there are various people/organizations that become involved in a whistleblower's plight.Just thought this was something I should point out.

    Reply
  9. SallyD

    One Whistle Blower in Ontario was fined $1,000 and suspended for two years from teaching. A former Judge (Justice of the Peace NWT 1978-82 ) turned Ontario Teachers, he stood up for the protection of children. Total penality of $181,00 in fine and lost income. He protested the Ontario College of Teachers practise of allowing repeat sex offenders into Ontario Classrooms. Think something is wrong with that…consider what is being said here and send off a email of protest. http://canadians4accountability.org/blog/catego

    Reply
  10. SallyD

    One Whistle Blower in Ontario was fined $1,000 and suspended for two years from teaching. A former Judge (Justice of the Peace NWT 1978-82 ) turned Ontario Teachers, he stood up for the protection of children. Total penality of $181,00 in fine and lost income. He protested the Ontario College of Teachers practise of allowing repeat sex offenders into Ontario Classrooms. Think something is wrong with that…consider what is being said here and send off a email of protest. http://canadians4accountability.org/blog/catego

    Reply

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