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Termination of “Whistleblower” upheld
July 15, 2005

The Federal Court of Canada has upheld the dismissal of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer who claimed his disclosure of an investigation to the media was protected by a “whistle-blower’s defence”. The officer, who had disobeyed an order not to discuss the investigation with the media, also disclosed to the media classified documents.

During the course of an investigation into suspected criminal activity involving the Immigration Section of the Canadian Mission in Hong Kong, the officer thought he had discovered a “massive criminal cover-up” within Citizenship and Immigration Canada. His supervisor removed him from the investigation after concluding he lacked objectivity and had been “browbeating” witnesses. An independent file review team later found no evidence of a cover-up or corruption. By that time, however, the officer had already gone to the media with his allegations.

The officer argued that his actions were covered by the “whistle-blower’s defence”, a defence which provides that an employee may publicly criticize his employer without reprisal, in certain circumstances. The court disagreed. It held that public employees, as a general rule, owe a duty of loyalty to their employer, and should not publicly criticize their employers except in limited circumstances.

In this case, while the court accepted that the officer honestly believed what he said, honesty was not enough to justify his public criticism and breach of loyalty to his employer. The court noted that a “loyal employee will give his employer a reasonable opportunity to correct the problem”, which the officer had failed to do before publicly criticizing his employer.

Read v. Canada (Attorney General), 2005 FC 798,