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News December 19, 2022

New report finds Nova Scotia’s whistleblower protection law fails on all counts

In the third of a series of reports about the adequacy of whistleblower protection laws in Canada, the Centre for Free Expression gives Nova Scotia’s Public Interest Disclosure of Wrongdoing Act a failing grade on all major criteria.

Despite the law’s intention of protecting people who speak up about potential or actual wrongdoing, the report finds there is no evidence that it has protected any whistleblowers since the Act came into force in 2011.

Issued by the Centre for Free Expression (CFE) at Toronto Metropolitan University, the report measures the provisions of the Nova Scotia legislation against Evaluation of Criteria for Protection of Whistleblowers developed by researchers at the Centre.

In its detailed assessment, the report indicates that the Nova Scotia law suffers from 12 critical weaknesses that undermine the objectives of the Act.

The report highlights six specific areas for improvement. These include expanding protected disclosure to all workers, including employees, contractors, temporary staff, interns, volunteers, and job applicants and mandating the proactive protection of workers making disclosures, informed by a risk assessment.

Other vital changes necessary are establishing a reliable and effective process for workers to obtain injunctive or interim relief from reprisals while investigations are ongoing; establishing a standard for proving reprisal that shifts the burden of proof to the organization once the worker has established a prima facie case of reprisal; setting high standards for investigations and investigators, including for competence and timeliness; and requiring monitoring and the evaluation of the effectiveness of the legislation every five years using meaningful performance indicators and data.

In a letter to the Nova Scotia Government, CFE Director James L. Turk says that he hopes the report will encourage the province to amend its legislation so that it achieves the government’s desire to facilitate the disclosure and investigation of potential wrongdoing and to provide protection for those who do so.

The Centre for Free Expression is a non-partisan platform focused on freedom of expression – the human right to hold opinions and to seek, receive, and share information and ideas. It works in collaboration with academic and civil society organizations across Canada and internationally and is based in The Creative School at Toronto Metropolitan University. It will release its report on the whistleblower protection legislation in Saskatchewan in January.