By Mike Blanchfield
The Canadian Press
In a long-running whistleblowing saga, two of three scientists fired by Health Canada [akin to the US Food & Drug Administration] have lost a bid to get their jobs back, though they protected food safety.
And one of the country’s largest public service unions is calling it a “sad day” for bureaucrats who want to raise concerns about public safety.
In a decision released without fanfare last week, the Public Service Labour Relations Board dismissed the grievances of Shiv Chopra and Margaret Haydon, who were fired for insubordination in 2004. It did, however, rule that Gerard Lambert was wrongly dismissed.
The three scientists — probably the country’s best-known whistleblowers — have sparked headlines since the 1990s in a series of high-profile disputes over food safety. They have said publicly they were pressured by their bosses to approve drugs despite human safety concerns.
In the late 1990s, they publicly opposed rBST, a bovine growth hormone, which enhances milk production in cows. Their criticism led to a Senate inquiry and a decision not to approve the drug.
The Professional Institute of the Public Service says it will likely appeal the 208-page decision, which followed 150 days of hearings over nearly five years.
“Today is a sad day,” PIPS President Gary Corbett said Monday. “The government of Canada offers little protection to whistleblowers.”
“Their only defiance is that they resisted commercial pressure and provided evidence to official parliamentary committees. Cases of dismissal like these do nothing good to help public-service whistleblowers to come forward and denounce wrongdoing within their departments.”
Chopra, perhaps the most outspoken of the group and the author of a book that is scathingly critical of Health Canada, echoed the sentiment.
“The issue here is not just some employees losing their jobs or whistleblowing,” said Chopra. “We’re not talking about our rights … the public’s right to know from the people they pay to protect their health and safety — that is the issue.
Read more at The Canadian Press