Newfoundland and Labrador was the seventh Canadian province to
enact whistleblower protection legislation, which came into force
on July 1, 2014. It is designed to promote the good faith
disclosure by public service employees of significant and serious
wrongdoings without fear of reprisal. The Public Interest
Disclosure and Whistleblower Protection Act (the
"Act") describes the steps for disclosure, the process of
investigation by the citizens' representative, and mechanisms
for the protection of the employee making the disclosure.
The Act is not retroactive, however, and only applies to
wrongdoings occurring after July 1, 2014.
The Act applies to employees in government departments, boards,
corporations, authorities and agencies, including regional health
authorities and school boards. Confidentiality of the employee is
stated to be a priority throughout the process, but is not
As the Act is designed to promote good faith disclosure by
employees, it also allows for disciplinary action against an
employee who makes a frivolous, vexatious or bad faith claim.
Wrongdoings are described in the Act as committing, or directing
or counselling another person to commit, a legal offence, an act or
omission that creates a substantial danger to persons or the
environment, or a gross mismanagement of public funds.
Reprisal is defined in the Act as discipline, demotion,
termination, or measures that adversely affect employment or
working conditions, as well as threats of any of these
Advice and Disclosure
An employee can make a disclosure of information about a
wrongdoing that he/she reasonably believes has been committed or is
about to be committed. While considering making a disclosure, the
employee can first request advice from the citizens'
representative. The disclosure is to be in writing and signed by
the employee making the disclosure. It is to include the name of
the individual committing the wrongdoing and the date and
description of the wrongdoing.
Some provisions of the Act restrict the disclosure of certain
information including deliberations of the Executive Council and
documents that are restricted by solicitor-client privilege. In
addition, the employee making the disclosure should take all
reasonable precautions to minimize the disclosure of personal or
The investigation by the citizens' representative is
designed to be informal and quick. The citizens' representative
has the discretion to proceed with or cease an investigation or
refer the matter to the auditor general or the commissioner for
legislative standards. If the citizens' representative ceases
the investigation or makes a referral they are to report on the
matter to the employee that made the disclosure. There is no time
limit for this report other than "at the time the
citizens' representative considers appropriate". The Act
also provides for measures against a person that attempts to impede
After an investigation the citizens' representative is to
give a copy of their report to the employee that made the
disclosure and the appropriate individual in the department or
public body. This report may include recommendations that the
department or public body must comply with. The Act also provides
for accountability to the general public as an annual report is to
be submitted to the House of Assembly addressing the number of
inquiries, disclosures, investigations, recommendations, and
potential issues and recommendations for improvement of the
Protection of Employee
The legislation allows the Labour Relations Board to hear
complaints from employees if they feel that reprisal has been taken
against them as a result of a disclosure. The Labour Relations
Board can provide remedies such as reinstatement, compensation, and
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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