This is an excellent first step for the Alberta government. The next key components are support, engagement and enforcement. While it is powerful to have this legislation in place, it is only valid if the agencies affected actually implement the system and if the Office of the Public Interest Commissioner ensures the public employees are aware and protected by this Act.
Article by Steven A.A. Dollansky
The Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act, SA 2012, c P-39.5 (the “Act”) was passed by the Alberta Legislature during the Fall Sitting and given Royal Assent on December 10, 2012. The Act has not yet come into force, but this is expected later this spring.
The Act requires affected organizations to designate a responsible officer and to establish detailed procedures that facilitate the disclosure of wrongdoing, investigation of disclosures, and reporting of investigative outcomes. Each organization must also have procedures which ensure the confidentiality of information collected and the protection of the employee who makes the disclosure. Moreover, the legislation allows for the Public Interest Commissioner to investigate disclosures within affected organizations in certain circumstances.
Individuals who knowingly withhold material information, make a false statement, obstruct an investigation, or retaliate against an employee who makes a disclosure may be found guilty of an offence under the Act.
Organizations which may be affected should be taking steps to prepare for this legislation. Although a number of employers may already have procedures in place which allow for employees to report concerns, these procedures will need to be reviewed to ensure they comply with the detailed processes which will be required.
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