Whistleblowers at Health Canada fired
On July 14, 2004, three whistle-blower scientists in the Veterinary Drugs Directorate, Shiv Chopra, Margaret Haydon, and Gerard Lambert, were fired by Health Canada. They are known as whistle-blowers as a result of their efforts to publicly raise awareness of various products and practices of questionable safety. Since the early 1990s they have spoken out about the use of antibiotics and hormones in livestock production, including genetically modified cow growth hormone (rBGH).
While at Health Canada they were given slapped with gag orders, suspended without pay, reprimanded and demoted for disputing orders to approve drugs. In 2002, Chopra said "We're being told to approve things even without receiving data from the company. If we don't receive the data, then there's nothing we can do. But we're often told that the U.S. has approved it so we should approve it and we shouldn't even ask questions." From CTV story "Health Canada workers feel pressured to OK drugs".
In 1998 they were ordered to appear as witnesses in front of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry hearings into rBST and the Drug Approval Process . The Senate reported, "Several of the Health Canada scientists who appeared before the Committee were so concerned about their future employment that they delayed appearing until they had received assurance that there would be no reprisals. As well, they took the unusual step of swearing an oath before testifying. These concerns are serious, and the Committee re-iterates the point made during their appearance: it wishes to be contacted should they feel they are suffering reprisals related to their appearance, whether in the short or the long term."
The Beyond Factory Farming Coalition and other organizations circulated a petition which that was presented to Parliament, calling for an independent and public investigation into Health Canada’s firing of Shiv Chopra, Margaret Haydon and Gerald Lambert.
Following the firings …
February 15, 2005
The fired scientists testified before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates regarding the insufficiency of Bill C-11, the whistleblower protection bill.
April, 29 2005
the Federal Court rendered its decision in Chopra, Haydon, and Lambert’s application for judicial review of a report by the Public Service Integrity Officer ("PSIO") dated March 21, 2003, concerning allegations by the four applicants of wrongdoing at Health Canada. The judge stated, “the applicants' application for judicial review is allowed, the report of the PSIO is set aside and the matter is referred back to the PSIO for reconsideration.” Click here for the full decision.
May 11, 2005
The 'sign-on letter' calling for an independent investigation into the whistle-blower firings endorsed by 70 organizations was delivered to Prime Minister Paul Martin, all Members of Parliament and all Senators.
May 19, 2005
The Standing Committee on Health heard testimony from the three scientists regarding the circumstances around surrounding their firing.
June 8, 2005
The petition signed by thousands of individual Canadians calling for an independent investigation into the whistle-blower firings was introduced into Parliament by MPs from each of the opposition parties.
Shiv Chopra published a book about his experience, Corrupt to the Core: Memoirs of a Health Canada Scientist.
- Canadian Health Coalition clipping archive