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?