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MLA calls for whistleblower legislation

Andrew Raven
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 05/04) - A Yellowknife MLA renewed calls last week for territorial legislation designed to protect whistleblowers.

Range Lake MLA Sandy Lee said government and private sector employees might be hesitant to voice concerns about their employers business practices.

"We live in a small jurisdiction and people might not want to speak out," said Lee on Monday.

During her tenure as MLA, Lee said she has spoken to dozens of potential whistleblowers who declined to voice their concerns for fear of being fired.

"You should not be in total fear of losing your job if you speak out," Lee said. "We need a law to set guidelines for what you can and cannot do."

At present, a hodge-podge of federal legislation offers some protection to whistleblowers, including the Environmental Protection Act and the Human Rights Act, but the coverage is far from complete.

Federal legislation expressly designed to protect whistleblowers was introduced to Parliament in March, but faded into the background following the national election.

The proposed legislation would have allowed government employees to speak out against their employers without the fear of being fired. It also would set up a federal office to investigate the complaints. Employees whose work is a matter of national security -- including the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Armed Forces and the RCMP -- would not be covered by the legislation.

Lee said the territorial government should not wait for Ottawa's lead.

"The government might not want to look at this now," said Lee, referring to two recent cases where employees at the Jackfish Power Plant and North Slave Correctional Centre complained publicly about working conditions. "But it's something that should be addressed."