POLITICS

One whistleblower's story: no job, no rent, no recognition, no redress

11/17/2013 01:06 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
OTTAWA - Sylvie Therrien now lives at a friend's house because she can't afford to pay rent after being fired from the federal public service.

"Anything they can do to have me on my knees, they do," she says of her ex-employer.

Therrien was sacked for revealing there are quotas — $35,000 to $40,000 in clawed-back benefits each month — imposed on every public servant investigating on employment insurance fraud.

Therrien says she's convinced she was right to tell the news media about the quota earlier this year.

"It is not against the law," she said in an interview in Vancouver.

"And if the government has such a law where we are not allowed to tell the truth and be honest with the citizens we are supposed to work for, well then, it's an unfair law and it should not be respected."

Therrien said she had no other choice but to turn to the media after she tried to raise the issue internally and was rebuffed.

She says the law designed to protect her, as a whistleblower, should have meant congratulations, if not money. But Therrien says she never had faith in that law.

"So, what was I to do? I said maybe I should go to the commissioner of integrity.

"I know of some other civil servants who have gone all the way through the internal channel, all the way to the commissioner of integrity, that are without a job today ... because they complained."

The Public Service Alliance of Canada, her union, has filed a grievance against her firing. And a Quebec group of unemployed workers is organizing a campaign to help her financially.

"I am so touched by this. People have given over $12,000," she said in an interview last week. The amount was nearing $20,000 by Friday.

"And these are people, citizens, who say 'Too bad there aren't more people like you'."