Quebec has its very own whistleblower website with the launch of QuebecLeaks – all it needs now is a whistleblower.
Like its international forerunner WikiLeaks, the Quebec-based organization has set its sights on keeping governments on their toes by publishing secret or classified documents from anonymous sources who may fear retribution for going public with sensitive information.
"It has become more and more difficult for journalists to do their job," said QuebecLeaks spokesman Luc Lefebvre in an interview. "Major portions of government documents obtained through access to information laws are often deleted. And in the end the population isn't getting all the information it should."
He said the organization received three documents but decided against publishing any of them.
"Documents have to meet three criteria. They need to be authentic, contain sensitive information and be exclusive to QuebecLeaks. They met the first two criteria but they weren't exclusive so we didn't publish them," Mr. Lefebvre said.
With the launch Wednesday lacking in a blockbuster leak, the media instead focused attention on Mr. Lefebvre's political background as a former Parti Québécois member in a local Montreal riding association where he briefly served on the executive.
Mr. Lefebvre, 28, said he quit the party last year over his criticism of Pauline Marois's leadership as well as the lack of transparency within the PQ.
"I can't see how [my PQ membership]can hurt the organization's credibility," Mr. Lefebvre said. "I'm only one member. We have people who share different political views and that's not an issue. What is important is that all of us share a common goal of wanting governments to be more transparent and to be part of a social activist group."
He explained the decision to create QuebecLeaks with a friend was prompted by Premier Jean Charest's refusal to launch a full public inquiry into allegations of corruption in the province's construction industry and unethical government practices.
He said he made several unsuccessful attempts to contact the founders of WikiLeaks to seek their advice, but later got help from OpenLeaks, the site created by former WikiLeaks members.
The Quebec group also received the backing of Birgitta Jonsdottir, member of the Icelandic Parliament who worked with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in setting up the international media organization.
Mr. Lefebvre said he understands the consequences of becoming the public spokesman for QuebecLeaks. He said he expects to be asked to leave his job at the Couche-Tard chain of convenience stores, where he works in the web marketing division. "I don't think my employer will want to be associated to what we do here," he said. "It's the price I'm willing to pay."
He said QuebecLeaks is made up of about 30 people who work in clusters of small groups with only a few knowing the identity of the other members. Mr. Lefebvre added that journalists, lawyers, financial analysts, computer experts and engineers are part of the organization's teams.
A number of provincial ministries and federal departments have attempted to seek more information about the group, including the Department of National Defence, he said.
"If anything that's a sure sign that we are making some officials nervous."
QuebecLeaks attempted to get a copy of the Quebec Environmental Assessment Board's report on the controversial shale gas development in Quebec but didn't succeed. However, its efforts may have prompted the Charest government to release the report on Tuesday, much earlier than expected. Quebec Environment Minister Pierre Arcand acknowledged that he moved quickly to release the report for fear that it was going to be leaked to the media.