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Dec 7 Senate Hearings moved



**** These Hearings have been moved to The Victoria Building , at
Wellington and O'Connor, Room 705

Dec 7 Senate meeting on whistleblower legislation - Everyone invited

On Tuesday, Dec 7, at 4:30 pm, (Victoria Building , at Wellington and
O'Connor, Room 705, Ottawa)  the Senate Committee on Privileges, Rules, and
Regulations will be meeting to discuss whistleblower legislation to protect
government employees who report concerns in their department.

The meeting was in response to action against Dr.  Shiv Chopra, a scientist
at Health Canada who was suspended for five days without pay after he
testified before a Senate Committee about pressure in his department to
approve bovine growth hormone and other drugs of questionable safety.

The public is invited to attend this meeting to support Dr. Chopra and
other government employees who put their career on stake by voicing their
concerns that public safety is being compromised due to the cozy
relationship between industry and government.


An article on this issue follows:
........
Ottawa Citizen

Friday Dec 3, 1999, Page A4

Bill would shield whistleblowers from retaliation

Senate to probe scientist's suspension after testimony against growth hormone

Jack Aubry

When whistleblower Shiv Chopra testified before a Senate committee last
year about a controversial hormone, he was reassured he would not face
repercussions from his employer, Health Canada.

Almost a year later, the department disciplined him with a five-day
suspension without pay -- for what it said was an unrelated incident.

The Senate will hold hearings next week to see if the suspension is related
to the revealing testimony Mr. Chopra gave.

"Dr. Chopra was concerned that the evidence he would give, which was
critical of his employer, would be used against him by that employer," said
Conservative Senator Noel Kinsella, who also tabled a bill yesterday in the
Senate on whistleblowing.

Mr. Kinsella noted that no job action was taken against Mr. Chopra until
five months after the cited offence, which occurred before the scientist's
last two appearances at the agriculture committee.

Mr. Chopra was one of five Health Canada scientists who were witnesses
before the Senate's agriculture committee in October 1998 during its study
on the bovine growth hormone, rBST, and its effects on human and animal
safety. He also testified this past April and May before the same committee.

The Health Department said in January it would not approve rBST in Canada
because of concerns about animal health, adding that human health was not
considered an issue.

The Senate's agriculture committee had cancelled the October 1998 meeting
after the scientists said they were concerned about the repercussions to
their careers if they testified. Health Minister Allan Rock subsequently
wrote the committee a reassuring letter that any suggestion the employees
were under threat was "completely without foundation," and the meeting went
ahead later that month.

Mr. Chopra testified at the time that the scientists were being "pressured
and coerced" to approve the hormone intended to boost milk production in
dairy cattle. The scientist testified that without meaningful long-term
studies on animals and then on humans, it would be unsafe to release the
hormone into the basic food system.

As well, he raised questions about the ethics of making cows sick to
produce more milk.

In July, Mr. Chopra met with Health Canada officials to discuss comments he
made at a Heritage Canada conference in March, and was given a five-day
disciplinary suspension which he served in August.

Health Department officials says Mr. Chopra was disciplined because he
appeared at the Heritage conference without prior authorization, since he
was listed as "drug evaluator, Health Canada."

Mr. Chopra says he appeared in his capacity as president of the Federation
of the Race Relations Organizations of Ontario.

Mr. Kinsella says his private member's bill on whistleblowing emphasizes
"educating and promoting ethical and professional practices in the public
service, and establishing a method by which wrongdoing may be reported by
public servants without fear of retaliation."

The bill would hand responsibility for dealing with whistleblowing to the
Public Service Commission, which would investigate and report allegations
of wrongdoing and see that wrongdoing is dealt with.

Mr. Kinsella cited testimony before the agriculture committee from deputy
minister David Dodge in October 1998, when he said the allegations being
made by the scientists were being examined and they deserved the protection
of "due process."

Conservative Senator Terrance Stratton said it "took a lot of courage" for
the scientists to testify before the committee. He told Mr. Dodge "the last
thing this committee wants to hear is that one of them ends up in Timbuktu."


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