Government introduces public interest disclosure legislation for public service

David Eby
David Eby

THE Government of British Columbia has introduced legislation that will create a framework to allow public service employees to disclose serious wrongdoing, and will provide protections to those who do so.

The Public Interest Disclosure Act (2018) will enable concerned public servants to report incidents to their supervisor, an internal designated officer or the ombudsperson. The act makes it an offence to commit or direct a reprisal against such employee, which could take the form of a demotion, termination or disciplinary measure. Protection from reprisal is vital to employees feeling safe to report wrongdoing without fear that they may suffer consequences for doing so.

The Office of the Ombudsperson recommended the introduction of public interest disclosure legislation as part of its 2017 report into the firing of Ministry of Health employees, titled Misfire: The 2012 Ministry of Health Employment Terminations and Related Matters. The report addressed the flawed investigations and rush to judgement that resulted in harmful consequences to the individuals impacted.

“Government has introduced this important legislation to ensure that public service employees are safe to report serious wrongdoing without fear of reprisal,” said Attorney General David Eby. “This is a critical step forward to enhance the accountability, transparency and higher standards of public administration here in B.C. that all employees and citizens reasonably expect.”

The act draws on best practices from around the world, with much of its content derived from jurisdictions such as Manitoba, Ontario, Alberta, Australia and the United Kingdom. While it will only apply to the public service to begin with, the legislation may be expanded to include the broader public sector.