A phased expansion of the province’s whistle-blower legislation means that staff who call out bad behaviour at two high-profile farm organizations will now enjoy protection.
Staff at the BC Farm Industry Review Board as well as the Agricultural Land Commission now enjoy whistleblower protections under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, which allows employees of public-sector organizations to confidentially share information about a serious wrongdoing that affects the public interest with designated officers within their organizations or to the provincial ombudsperson.
Staff are also protected from reprisals, such as demotion, termination or other measures that adversely affect the employee’s work conditions, if they participate in investigations stemming from whistleblowers.
The legislation also ensures employees under investigation are treated fairly.
The protections won’t change much for the two agriculture organizations.
“Given the small size of BCFIRB, all complaints about BCFIRB under PIDA will be submitted directly to the Ombudsperson’s office and any investigations would be managed directly by the Ombudsperson’s office,” says BCFIRB executive director Kirsten Pedersen.
The province’s eight commodity organizations that fall under BCFIRB’s oversight are not covered by PIDA.
The changes have been a decade in the making, and help to bring BC in line with practices in other provinces. The new act came into force on December 1, 2019, but due to COVID-19 the roll-out of protections will run through 2024.