(Canadian OH&S News) — The government of Newfoundland and Labrador is one step closer to passing whistleblower legislation, after Bill 1 received second reading in the House of Assembly on May 6.
Under Bill 1, An Act Respecting Public Interest Disclosure, the Office of the Citizens’ Representative (OCR) would be responsible for receiving and investigating disclosures of wrongdoing, the Office of Public Engagement said in a press release. The legislation, which allows employees to “disclose a serious and significant wrongdoing without fear or threat of reprisal,” would apply to employees of all government departments, boards, corporations, authorities and agencies, as well as other public bodies, such as school boards and regional health authorities. It is expected to be proclaimed on July 1.
“We are fulfilling commitment to the people of the province by introducing whistleblower legislation for public service employees of the government of Newfoundland and Labrador,” Steve Kent, Minister Responsible for the Office of Public Engagement, said in the press release. “This legislation ensures that employees who use the whistleblower legislation in good faith are protected from acts of reprisal,” Kent said, adding that the act would feature an independent process for receiving and investigating complaints through the office, making the legislation unique among the provinces.
A backgrounder said that unlike other provincial jurisdictions with whistleblower legislation, the Public Interest Disclosure and Whistleblower Protection Act establishes a single, independent disclosure process. The Newfoundland and Labrador Labour Relations Board would also be given the power to hear complaints filed by employees who believe that a reprisal or retaliation had been taken against them as a result of the disclosure process, the backgrounder said. The board could award remedies, including reinstatement, for reprisals against whistleblowers.
The backgrounder noted that one key aspect of the legislation is the requirement for the OCR to table an annual report in the House of Assembly, outlining the number of inquiries and disclosures received and the number acted on and not acted on. The report would also include the number of investigations commenced, the number of OCR recommendations and whether the department or public body has complied with the recommendations.
Newfoundland and Labrador would become the eight jurisdiction — following Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, in addition to the federal government — to implement such legislation.
“The introduction of whistleblower legislation, which will provide a mechanism for the disclosure of wrongdoing in the public service, and for the protection of employees who make disclosures from reprisals, is one of a number of ongoing measures taken by government to improve governance practices and openness,” the press release said.