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Whistleblowers Deserve Judicial Umbrella of Protection

Speaking Truth to Power

Recent scandals – such as between physicians and pharmaceutical manufacturers – bring home a problem behind-the-scenes: The gathering of evidence can be a long, laborious process. The only shortcut is to count on whistleblowers, who in some countries are called bell-ringers or lighthouse-beacons.

Today more than ever, society needs to encourage people willing to ‘speak truth to power.’  The conundrum: Doing so frequently brings a severe, life-changing backlash.

The medical clerk who notices a finagled audit; the researcher who chances across emails gloating over a skewed clinical trial; the patient who sees double-billing on a medicare invoice – these people should not lose a job, suffer ostracism, or endure the frightening experience of being harassed by their own medical caregivers. Such outcomes are all too conspicuous in the media and on personal ‘injustice’ blogs.

Who is a whistleblower, at heart? He or she is an average citizen who encounters documents or data that connect in some way with an ongoing, grievous wrong. The decision to blow the whistle is a process: The citizen agonizes, weighing the choices. The most attractive path is that of least resistance, namely suppressing the knowledge – but the heart rebels. The citizen fights upward through a sea that feels like dominance. And finally, finally … decides to step forward.

A whistleblower is simply someone who cannot live with what he or she knows. But it takes courage to carry through and report a wrong committed by a doctor, a dean, or a bellicose DDoS merchant. Canada owes something back: We must enact solid legislation to place whistleblowers under a judicial umbrella of protection.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal observed: “Bill C-25, which would have provided some whistleblower protection, died on the order paper when the next federal election was called. But it offered little in genuine protection anyway. The bill did establish an agency to which whistleblowers could turn, but did not allow anonymous reporting, a critical element. Rewards should also be incorporated in legislation, since whistleblowing often kills careers.”

Georgena S. Sil
Saskatoon, Canada
Physicist & Technical Writer
Alumnus: University of British Columbia
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