The Public Interest Disclosure Act

Overview

The Public Interest Disclosure Act (SS 2011, c. P-38.1) protects public servants that disclose wrongdoings to designated officers within their organization or to the Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner. Any retaliation towards a public servant is deemed an offence by the Act and is subject to fines.

What kind of disclosure is protected?

The Act protects public servants who, while acting in good faith and on the basis of reasonable belief, disclose information related to a wrongdoing that has been or is about to be committed s.10 to the designated officer for the government institution where the public servant is employed or directly to the Commissioner.

Under the Act, a wrongdoing s.3 is defined as any of the following events: 

  • a contravention of an Act, a regulation made pursuant to an Act, an Act of the Parliament of Canada or a regulation made pursuant to an Act of the Parliament of Canada; 
  • an act or omission that creates: (i) a substantial and specific danger to the life, health or safety of persons other than a danger that is inherent in the performance of the duties or functions of a public servant; or (ii) a substantial and specific danger to the environment; 
  • gross mismanagement of public funds or a public asset; 
  • knowingly directing or counselling a person to commit a wrongdoing

Under the Act, a designed officer s.2(1)(b) means:

  • a senior official of the government institution who is designated as a designated officer for the government institution; or
  • the permanent head s.2(1)(f) if the permanent head of the government institution does not designate a senior official;

Who is eligible for protection?

The Act protects public servants, individuals of a government institution, who have disclosed information regarding a wrongdoing s.2 (1)(h).

The complaint must be filed in writing to the designated officer no more than two years after the day of the alleged contravention s.41

The Act does not protect any persons who make false or misleading statements, or who obstruct or destroy evidence relating to a disclosure s.37, 38, 39. Persons who are found guilty of any of these acts will be liable to a fine of no more than $10 000 (summary conviction) or $100 000 (indictable offence).

How are whistleblowers protected?

The Act protects an employee who has made a protected disclosure, sought advice relating to making a disclosure, or cooperated in an investigation related to the disclosure, from any kind of reprisal s.26(1).

Under the Act, a reprisal s.2(1)(j) is defined as any of the following acts: 

  • a dismissal, layoff, suspension, demotion or transfer, discontinuation or elimination of a job, change of a job location, reduction in wages, change in hours of work or reprimand; 
  • any measure, other than ones mentioned above, that adversely affects the public servant’s employment or working conditions; or
  • a threat to take any of the measures mentioned above;

Any person who knowingly takes any kind of reprisal against an employee for disclosing information shall be liable to a fine of no more than $10 000 (summary conviction) or $100 000 (indictable offence) s.40.

The public servant is prohibited against disclosing any more information than is required to make the disclosure s.13(2). However, the public servant may be required to disclose additional information that may be useful in order to investigate the complaint s.11.  

The Act does not authorize the disclosure of information relating to deliberations and records of the executive council and information protected by solicitor-client privilege s.13(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.

The disclosure must be made in writing in either the prescribed form to the Commissioner, or to the designated officer in the organization in the following list.

For additional information on how to disclose a wrongdoing, please contact the office of the Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner at  http://www.saskpidc.ca/.