Public Interest Disclosure and Whistleblower Protection Act

Overview

The Public Interest Disclosure and Whistleblower Protection Policy (RSPEI 1988, c P-31.01) provides an administrative framework for the disclosure of wrongdoings. Public servants can disclose, in writing, wrongdoings to a supervisor, a Deputy Head, or the Ethics and Integrity Commissioner. The Policy prohibits reprisals against an employee who makes a protected disclosure.

What kind of disclosure is protected?

The Act protects any employee who, while acting in good faith and on the basis of reasonable belief, has disclosed information regarding a wrongdoing that has been committed or is about to be committed. The Commissioner may request that the employee who disclosed the information disclose additional information required for the investigation s.9(3), regardless of whether any other Act or regulation prohibits such disclosure s.9(4)

Under the Act, a wrongdoing is defined as: 

  • a violation of any provincial or federal law, 
  • the gross mismanagement of public funds or government assets,
  • an act or omission that creates a substantial and specific danger to the life, health or safety of persons or the environment, or
  • direction or counsel to others to engage in the above

This Act does not authorize the disclosure of information relating to s.9(5)

  • The deliberations or proceedings of the Executive Council or a committee of the Executive Council; 
  • Information that is protected by solicitor-client privilege; or 
  • Information that relates to the deliberations or decisions of a Crown prosecutor. Disclosure of personal or confidential information.

Who is eligible for protection?

The Act protects employees who have made a protected disclosure regarding information of a wrongdoing. 

The Act does not protect any persons who knowingly make a false or misleading statement, whether orally or in writing, to a deputy head, the Commissioner or any person acting on behalf or under the direction of any of those persons in relation to a disclosure s.25(1). The Act also does not protect any person who obstructs or interferes with a disclosure or an investigation s.25(2), or who destroys any evidence relating to the disclosure s.25(3).  An employee who commits any of the above wrongdoings may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination from employment s.27.

How are whistleblowers protected?

If an employee has made a protected disclosure, the Act prohibits any kind of reprisal s.17 against them. If an employee has suffered a reprisal, they may make a complaint under the Act s.19. The complaint must be made in writing and in the forms required by the Commissioner, to the employee’s deputy head or the Commissioner s.19(2)

Any person who knowingly takes any kind of reprisal against an employee for making a protected disclosure to the Commissioner or who violates any of the above prohibitions, is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than $10,000 s.26(1).

How should disclosures be made?

Be careful! Despite presenting some challenges for follow ups, one of the best protections for whistleblowers is their anonymity. Be cautious when providing any information through electronic means, especially emails! Read the security tips section.

In order to benefit from this protection, the disclosure must be made in writing and in the forms required by the Commissioner, to the employee’s deputy head or the Commissioner. 

A disclosure must include the following information s.9(2)

  • the name of the person or persons alleged to have committed or about to commit wrongdoing; 
  • a description of the alleged wrongdoing, including the date on which it is alleged to have occurred or is expected to occur; 
  • whether the employee has made a previous disclosure about the same matter and, if so, a copy of the disclosure and any documents related to it; 
  • the contact information and signature of the employee making the disclosure; 
  • any other information required by the regulations. 

Under the Act, employees or former employees who are considering making a complaint may request confidential advice from the Commissioner s.18. If the employee’s disclosure relates to personal or confidential information, the employee must ensure that they take reasonable measures so as to not disclose more information than is necessary for the purpose s.9(6)

The contact information for inquiries is: 

Additional information regarding the whistleblowing process for the Office of the Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner is available at https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/publication/public-interest-disclosure-and-whistleblower-protection-policy.