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From: TSS ()
Subject: Canadian MADCOW whistleblowers win review Court orders integrity office to reconsider report on four fired
Date: May 4, 2005 at 12:25 pm PST

Canadian whistleblowers win review

Court orders integrity office to reconsider report on four fired
Health Canada scientists | By Doug Payne

Three Health Canada scientists who say they were fired for raising questions about the way that the agency approves veterinary drugs have won another round in their years-long battle in their campaign for reinstatement.

The Federal Court quietly released a decision on April 29 ordering the public service integrity officer to reconsider complaints from Shiv Chopra, Margaret Haydon, and Gerard Lambert that they, and the late Cris Bassude, had been pressured—and then sacked—for speaking out about the dangers of mad cow disease and about the use of hormones and antibiotics in the food supply, particularly the use of bovine growth hormones. The court decision relates to a report by the Public Service Integrity Officer dated March 21, 2003, that the allegations submitted by the applicants were unfounded.

The Public Service Integrity Office (PSIO) was created in 2001 to provide "public service employees with an independent and neutral external review of disclosures of wrongdoing in the workplace." Its mandate includes ensuring "that an employee who makes a good-faith disclosure is protected from job reprisal."

By investigating the scientists' concerns about one drug, Tylosin, but not their concerns about several others, "the [public service integrity officer] failed to conduct the investigation in accordance with its mandate," the court said.

The decision underscores the importance of having "proper internal whistleblowing mechanisms," said David Yazbeck, the lawyer for the fired scientists. "You really need an investigative process," Yazbeck told The Scientist. "And the PSIO did not do a thorough or sufficient job. [The decision] means that the Federal Court is going to intervene, so whistleblowers will have another recourse. This is a victory for the public. The standard the PSIO thought had to be met has to be higher now."

The PSIO said it was considering how to proceed and could give no indication of when the review would take place.

Nor does it appear likely that another action by the scientists, a hearing before the Public Service Labor Relations Board, is likely to be heard before the fall, government lawyers said in late March.

"They are trying to starve us out," one of the fired scientists, Shiv Chopra , told The Scientist. "But if that's what they think, they are wrong." Chopra, who is now 70, has no income and is trying to sell his house. "What are they going to do? They've fired me once, they can't fire me again."

Chopra is using his time to finish a book he's calling Corrupt to the Core—Memoirs of a Whistleblower, which he expects to finish this summer. In it, he will claim that the corporatization of Canada's agriculture and food sectors is pushing the sectors "to the brink of death," he said. "In my opinion, the whole food system in Canada is corrupted, [and] our politicians are not yet listening. There should be a public investigation into Canadian food safety."

Links for this article
D. Payne, "Canada sacks three scientists," The Scientist, July 16, 2004.

Federal Court, Chopra vs. Canada: 2005 FC 595, April 29, 2005.

Public Service Integrity Office

D. Payne, "'You're fired,' Canadian-style," The Scientist, 18:12, The Scientist, August 30, 2004.


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