BC whistleblower protection extends to public post-secondary institutions

Legislative changes are introduced to uphold accountability within the public service

BC whistleblower protection extends to public post-secondary institutions

Following the expansion of the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) in British Columbia, employees in public post-secondary institutions now have enhanced protections when reporting serious wrongdoing.

This legislative change, announced by Niki Sharma, BC Attorney General, aims to preserve and uphold integrity and accountability within the public service.

"Expanding PIDA to public post-secondary institutions will allow employees to confidentially disclose serious wrongdoing without fear of reprisal," stated the Attorney General. "As we bring more employees under the protections of this legislation, we are making sure integrity and accountability in our public service is preserved and upheld."

The first phase of this expansion took effect on June 1, and research universities are scheduled to become subject to PIDA later this year. PIDA protects employees and promotes accountability and transparency by providing a framework for reporting serious wrongdoing to designated officers within their organization or to the Office of the Ombudsperson.

Under PIDA, employees who disclose wrongdoing or participate in related investigations are protected from acts of reprisal, such as demotion, termination, or other measures that negatively impact their work conditions. The act also mandates fair investigations and promotes transparency by requiring organizations and the Ombudsperson to report annually on the disclosures received and the outcomes of any investigations.

PIDA was enacted in 2018 in response to the Ombudsperson's 2017 report, "Misfire: The 2012 Ministry of Health Employment Terminations and Related Matters," which included 41 recommendations that have since been fully implemented. The act has been gradually extended across the public sector since it came into force on December 1, 2019. It currently applies to government ministries, independent legislature offices, tribunals, Crown corporations, provincial health authorities, Providence Health Care, BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS), public K-12 schools, and select agencies, boards, and commissions.

The specific types of wrongdoing that may be disclosed under PIDA include serious acts or omissions that, if proven, would constitute an offence under BC or Canadian law, acts or omissions that pose substantial and specific dangers to life, health, safety, or the environment (except those inherent to an employee's duties), serious misuse of public funds or assets, gross or systemic mismanagement, and knowingly directing or counselling a person to commit any of the above wrongdoings.

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