Launch of a new website to inform Canadian whistleblowers

Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2021

 

The Centre for Law, Technology and Society is delighted to announce that the launch of InfoWhistleblowers.ca, a new website launched by Prof. Florian Martin-Bariteau to inform Canadian whistleblowers about the existing legal protection—and their limits.

Whistleblowers have been involved in the evolution of modern democratic societies and have spurred growing interest from citizens for transparency and freedom of information. The Internet and social networks have allowed for the development of citizen actions and large-scale disclosures of public interest information. In addition to responding to citizens’ desire for society’s openness and transparency, the protection of whistleblowers is part of risk management before disasters. In fact, in the past, these actors of change have brought several health, environmental, financial, surveillance and corruption scandals to light. 

While the determination of whistleblowing limitations is essential to ensure a fair, secure and open society, the Canadian legal framework is uncertain and unclear. Without knowing the criteria of protection, their rights, obligations and the risks involved to their safety, informed people will not disclose. In 2018, Véronique Newman and Florian Martin-Bariteau published Whistleblowing in Canada: A Knowledge Synthesis Report, a report resulting from a Knowledge Synthesis Grant awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), as part of the “Imagining Canada’s Future” initiative. The report explained the Canadian framework for whistleblowers and highlighted the gaps in the Canadian legal system, which is confusing at best, regarding whistleblower protection and the need for critical reflection and change.

The report noted an array of legal rules protecting secrets and disclosures found in dozens of federal, provincial and territorial laws, not to mention procedures specific to certain agencies or regulatory bodies. Each framework sets different definitions and protection criteria, which is further complicated through case law, adding to the vagueness through specific definitions and interpretation criteria. There is also an important technological and digital literacy gap that comes from both the organizations that are trying—and are often required—to protect whistleblowers, as well as from the whistleblowers themselves. Combined with unclear and uncertain legal frameworks, the absence of proper technological literacy and protection subjects’ disclosure to several risks.

 

To answer those needs, Dr. Florian Martin-Bariteau, and his team at the University of Ottawa Research Chair in Technology and Society, developed a new information portal for Canadian whistleblowers: InfoWhistleblowers.ca.

Based on years of research supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, this new free information portal presents the diversity of protection available for whistleblowers—individuals making public interest disclosures. The website tries to provide this information in plain and accessible language. In addition, the website also includes warnings, and tips—both from a legal and technical perspective.

 

The website is available at www.infowhistleblowers.ca

 

Dr. Florian Martin-Bariteau is the University Research Chair in Technology and Society, an Associate Professor of Law and Technology at the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section, the Director of the Centre for Law, Technology and Society at the University of Ottawa and the Director of the AI + Society Initiative.

Initiated with Véronique Newman (JD’19) and Véronique Poulin (JD’20), the finalization of the website was made possible by Michelle Folinas and Kahina Haroune, JD candidates at the University of Ottawa. The research has also been supported by JD candidates Chris Casimiro, Sania Ahuja, Kari-Anne Murphy, Shahrzad Shab Afrouz, Jordan Samaroo and Priyanka Bahl.

 

 

Please note that anyone requiring or seeking legal advice or help should retain the services of a competent professional. The content available on this website is intended for informational purposes only, with no intent to provide any legal or professional advice.

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