Manitoba reviews whistleblower act

Dianna Scarth, former executive director of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, made 10 recommendations in her review of the Public Interest Disclosure Act, a report made public by the Manitoba government on Aug. 11.

The 2007 act was to enable people to come forward with accusations of serious wrongdoing and have the alleged behaviour investigated, all while protected the whistleblower from reprisal.

Manitoba’s ombudsman Mel Holley said his office received a dramatic increase in disclosures last year, citing 47 allegations of wrongdoing in 2013 resulting in 16 investigations.  The year before, there were only eight investigations. The whistleblowers reported things like abuse and risk to health and safety, fraudulent income, favouritism in hiring, and inappropriate conduct.

Holley said this increase reflects a growing confidence in the legislation.

“We were the first province to bring in stand-alone legislation to protect whistleblowers,” Finance Minister Jennifer Howard said in a statement. “We welcome these recommendations which will allow us to make the legislation even stronger.”

Scarth’s recommendations included ensuring adequate education programs for employees and strengthening the protection of whistleblowers by giving the ombudsman the authority to investigate and take more timely action to address reprisals.