Whistleblowers: CPA Order calls for comprehensive response to Charbonneau Commission recommendation
Montreal, February 10, 2016 – The Quebec CPA Order applauds the Quebec government’s commitment to establish a program to protect whistleblowers by introducing Bill 87, An Act to facilitate the disclosure of wrongdoings within public bodies. However, the Order would like the government to adopt a comprehensive approach regarding Recommendation 8 of the Charbonneau Commission report aimed at protecting the identity of whistleblowers in all sectors, assisting them in their efforts and providing financial support, when required.
The Quebec CPA Order believes that an overall regime to support whistleblowers should be put in place, by defining the boundaries and effects, rather than a regime that focuses only on public bodies. The comprehensive regime could be adapted to distinct areas through specific legislation.
Bill 87 also raises a number of issues on which MNAs should focus.
First, Quebec must consider whistleblower initiatives put forth by other jurisdictions to ensure a level of legislative and application consistency, since such initiatives will likely be implemented by agencies exercising similar functions in Quebec and elsewhere. For example, on October 28, 2015, the Ontario Securities Commission launched a consultation on implementing a whistleblowing program that would include audit and accounting professionals reporting on their clients in certain circumstances, as well as introduce a financial incentive (whistleblower award). The program is expected to be in place by the spring of 2016.
In addition, the Order submitted the following observations to the members of Quebec’s Public Finance Committee:
The Bill should more clearly establish the confidential nature of the whistleblower’s identity.
Bill 87, sections 3 and 5
The Bill is short on details regarding the concept of the “safety” of a person. Is it the legislator’s intent to ensure physical as well as financial safety? The Order believes that, as is proposed in section 2 of Bill 496 – Whistleblower Protection Act, financial soundness should be referred to in the list of wrongdoings, by distinguishing it from the safety of persons. However, such a distinction would require prior consideration of the scope of financial soundness, as well as any related benchmarks.
Bill 87, section 9
Since this section refers to the procedure that applies when a wrongdoing is reported, which is an integral part of the Bill, it would be helpful to know the content before the Bill is adopted.
The Order fails to understand why the legislator has treated the professional secrecy of lawyers and notaries differently than for other professionals who are indistinctly referred to in section 9 of Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Other Quebec statutes in force do not make such a distinction in relation to whistleblowing and require all professionals to sound the alarm despite their duty of professional secrecy.
In light of the issues raised and comments made, the Order believes it is crucial that discussions on whistleblowing and whistleblower protection continue. In the Order’s view, this is a social issue that should be addressed in a comprehensive rather than piecemeal manner, as currently seems to be the case.
About the Quebec CPA Order
The Ordre des comptables professionnels agréés du Québec has 38,000 members and 5,600 future CPAs. The Order ensures the protection of the public and the visibility of the profession. It represents all areas of expertise of the accounting profession, including assurance, financial accounting, management and management accounting, finance and taxation.
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Quebec CPA Order
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