Under the Act to facilitate the disclosure of wrongdoings relating to public bodies, all bodies subject to the Act must appoint an officer responsible for dealing with disclosures and establish a procedure for facilitating the disclosure of wrongdoings. Childcare centres, subsidized day care centres and municipal bodies are exempted.
However, exemptions may be granted, notably because of the size of the public body or the scarcity of its resources. Public bodies with fewer than 50 employees made be granted an exemption if they request one from the Québec Ombudsman. If there are more than 50 employees, other factors may be taken into consideration (including financial resources and certain situational challenges).
The Québec Ombudsman has produced guidelines to assess requests for exemptions.
The officer responsible for dealing with disclosures must, at least for this mandate, report directly to the highest ranking administrative official. The officer must have the independence and impartiality required to receive disclosures from employees confidentially and to carry out the appropriate verifications.
No. Officers responsible for dealing with disclosures within a public body can carry out verifications, but, unlike the Québec Ombudsman, they do not have the powers of a public inquiry commissioner. As a result, they cannot summon someone to provide them with the information or documents needed for an investigation.
Officers responsible for dealing with disclosures can only process disclosures from the personnel of the public body to which they report.
For more information, see the reference document for public bodies.
Officers cannot delegate authority to someone else. If they did so, whistleblowers would lose the immunity and protection against reprisal provided under the Act. Immunity and protection apply when a disclosure is made to the officer or during the audits carried out by the officer.
However, as part of an audit, the disclosure officer may require the cooperation of anyone who can provide information or documents, as well as ask for an analysis or opinion on a matter.
To find out more about the disclosure officer’s obligations, see the Information to public bodies section. The officer is nonetheless responsible for ensuring that the procedure is such that the whistleblower cannot be identified.
This situation could be very delicate for the disclosure officer. In such cases, it is possible, and sometimes preferable, to transfer the file to the Québec Ombudsman.
No. The board members are not part of the staff of the public body (unless they are employees of the board). They must therefore contact the Québec Ombudsman to make a disclosure.
In principle, no. The disclosure officer must maintain the confidentiality of the audit unless wrongdoing has been committed, in which case, the officer must report it to the highest administrative authority.
If no wrongdoing has occurred, the disclosure officer must close the file and maintain its confidentiality. However, he or she may refer the whistleblower to other internal mechanisms or transfer the file to them, but only with the whistleblower’s consent.
To find out more about the disclosure officer’s obligations, see the Information to public bodies section.
No. The disclosure office is not empowered to make recommendations, unlike the Québec Ombudsman. The officer is responsible for determining whether wrongdoing has occurred based on the information collected. The officer must then report these findings to the highest administrative authority, who takes the appropriate corrective measures.
For more information, see the reference document for public bodies (PDF, 615 KB, In French).
No. However, the Québec Ombudsman has a one-year limitation period, interpreted broadly at present, given that the Act came into force on May 1, 2017, and that it is a new form of recourse.