The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is welcoming an investigation by Prince Edward Island’s privacy commissioner on how a former government worker’s e-mails found their way to the Liberal party from a provincial cabinet minister’s office.
Nathalie Des Rosiers, the association’s general counsel, says a former contract employee in the Innovation Department should not suffer reprisals for bringing allegations of wrongdoing to the federal Immigration Department during the Oct. 3 provincial election campaign.
Ms. Des Rosiers says the release by the governing Liberals of the e-mails sent last year by Svetlana Tenetko to Innovation Minister Allan Campbell could inhibit potential whistleblowers.
“I think they should have thought twice before releasing the information because the message it sends to citizens is ‘If you complain and you see something illegal and you raise it we will come after you and we will deprive you of your basic right to privacy’,” she said in a telephone interview from Ottawa.
Privacy commissioner Maria MacDonald confirmed Thursday that she is investigating Ms. Tenetko’s complaint.
The federal department forwarded Ms. Tenetko’s allegations that bribes were paid to fast-track immigration applications to the RCMP, which is considering whether to investigate.
The Liberals have denounced the allegations as unfounded and say the claims were orchestrated by the Tories, which Conservative Leader Olive Crane denies.
In one of the e-mails, Ms. Tenetko says she would go to federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and The Globe and Mail if she did not get another job with the government after her contract was not renewed.
Spencer Campbell, a lawyer and the Liberal spokesman who sent the e-mails to the media, has said Ms. Tenetko didn’t have a reasonable expectation to have her privacy protected because of her statements claiming corruption.
But Ms. Des Rosiers disagrees.
“To call the police on something you suspect is going on is not by itself an act that means you are abandoning all your claims to privacy,” said Ms. Des Rosiers, a former president of the Law Commission of Canada.
“That’s incorrect. That should not be the law otherwise people will never call the police, or make allegations of things they suspect have gone wrong.”
Cora Plourd, another former employee behind the allegations about the immigration program, said she has also asked the privacy commissioner to investigate her case.
Her employment record was described in the Liberal news release that included Ms. Tenetko’s e-mails.
Ms. Plourd said she agrees with Ms. Des Rosiers’ view.
“If we can’t, in a democracy, criticize without this kind of personal attack, then what is democracy?” she said in a telephone interview.
RCMP Sgt. Andrew Blackadar said the commercial crime unit is still considering whether to proceed with an investigation of the allegations about the immigration program.
“I am certain we will make a public statement when we determine if we enter into an investigation or if we do not move beyond the review,” he said in an e-mail.
The immigration nominee program was a federal-provincial initiative in which the province nominated people for immigration to Canada in exchange for an investment of $200,000 in a local business. Immigrants were to pay a $25,000 deposit that would be returned after living in the province for one year. The program was suspended in 2008 by the federal government.