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Damn those kids who taught us not to be ‘rats’


May 30, 2014
By Anthony Capkun


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May 30, 2014 – At a very early age, we all learned not “to be rat”… not to go “telling on” someone for some stupid thing they did. We may have learned this from our siblings or our schoolmates, but learn it we did because, if we didn’t, we would be ostracized, labelled, bullied, and so on. Sadly, as we mature and supposedly grow wiser as a society, those same consequences continue to plague us.

I was very pleased to learn that, today, CSA announced it is set to develop a best practices guideline for whistleblowing arrangements within an organization, aimed at both the public and private sectors, as well as NGOs and voluntary organizations.

The news came to me from a group called FAIR, which stands for Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform. I first learned of FAIR at CSA’s Committee Week 2012 in Quebec City. The group’s founder, Joanna Guattieri, and executive director, David Hutton, gave a short but passionate presentation on the importance of enacting guidelines for protecting whistleblowers.

Joanna made headlines when, back in the 1990s, she discovered gross violations of the rules for housing diplomatic staff abroad, which she believed had cost Canadian taxpayers vast sums over the past decade. When she brought this information to the attention of senior management in Foreign Affairs and sought to have the situation corrected, she says she was ostracized by her bosses, shunned by colleagues and, ultimately, sent on leave without pay.

Motivated by this experience, she established FAIR to help other whistleblowers avoid a similar fate, and sued the government for damages. In 2010, after dragging her case through the courts for 12 years, government lawyers finally settled.

So why should anyone care? Why should you care?

FAIR describes whistleblowers as, usually, just ordinary people who only want to do their job properly. When asked to do something unethical or illegal—or to turn a blind eye—they refuse. This refusal is a risk in itself but, when they try to stop the wrongdoing, they may find themselves in serious trouble, as they frequently suffer vicious and carefully orchestrated reprisals from those in power, adds FAIR.

“The purpose of protecting whistleblowers, then, is to help ensure that corruption and mismanagement are identified and rooted out quickly before innocent people are harmed or money wasted…”

Granted, FAIR was established on the heels of government corruption, but do you think the private sector could perhaps benefit from whistleblower protection?

How about you, and your company and its assets?

Consider an employee that secretly ‘borrows’ tools and equipment from you, or regularly uses your vehicle for personal recreation without your knowledge or permission? Would you want to know about it? Of course you would! But without assurances of any protection, his co-workers may never come forward to tell you about it for fear of reprisal. For fear of being labelled. Fear of being “a rat”.

And that shouldn’t happen. We’re adults, after all, right? Or are we just paying lip-service to all those anti-bullying campaigns aimed at teens? What example are we setting for them?

So good on FAIR for its lobbying efforts, and on CSA, the latter of which is now calling for people from various backgrounds who have expertise in this area to take part in developing the guideline.

Interested in participating? Submit a brief bio or CV, along with a short statement outlining your interest and ability to contribute to the work of this committee. Send your application to whistleblowing@csagroup.org by June 6, 2014.

We need this to help good people do the right thing.

— Anthony Capkun, Editor, acapkun@annexweb.com .