The Federal Court of Appeal won't hear the case
Sep 7, 2017 — PLEASE KEEP THIS PETITION GOING. SHARE IT WIDELY. HERE IS THE ARTICLE FROM THE OTTAWA CITIZEN:
The Federal Court of Appeal won’t hear the case of a former Health Canada scientist fired for alleged insubordination in 2004.
Shiv Chopra, a veterinarian and microbiologist who drew national attention for his criticism of the veterinary drug approval process, was one of three researchers fired in June 2004 by Health Canada. While the other two scientists were eventually ordered re-instated, the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board upheld Chopra’s dismissal last year.
On Wednesday, Chopra’s lawyer, David Yazbeck, said the Federal Court of Appeal concluded that the adjudicator’s decision was not unreasonable.
However, Chopra says the critical issue at the heart of the matter — Canada’s food safety system — has never been dissected by tribunals and courts. And that leaves him disappointed.
“Nobody asked the question, ‘What did I say?’ I was speaking out, but it was my duty to speak out. They didn’t get to the bottom of the issue,” he said.
“Circumstances change. People get old. I’m 83 years of age. This is a travesty of justice,” said Chopra, who had worked for the federal government since 1969. He was almost ready to retire at the time of his firing and has been collecting his pension since then.
“If today I had won, I would get compensated for my loss of salary. But the issue of public food safety would still remain.”
In the 1990s, Chopra attracted attention by accusing the federal government of allowing corporations to influence the approval process for veterinary drugs and inadequately protecting the food system.
In 1998, Chopra and fellow scientist Margaret Haydon testified before a Senate committee that they were being pressured to approve Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rBST), a controversial growth hormone aimed at boosting milk production in dairy cattle. The product was never approved in Canada.
A third scientist, Gérard Lambert, joined Chopra and Haydon in writing a letter to then-health minister Anne McLellan following the discovery of bovine sponiform encephalopathy, known as “mad cow disease,” calling for a ban on animal feeds containing the rendered materials of other animals. A fourth Health Canada scientist, Cris Basudde, also signed the letter, but died soon after.
A few months after the firings, then-prime minister Paul Martin said the firings had nothing to do with the scientists’ whistleblowing.
“First of all, Health Canada made it very clear at the time that that happened that this had nothing to do with whistleblowing, that their reasons for taking their actions had nothing to do with calling attention to any problem and I certainly accept Health Canada’s word on that,” said Martin.
In a letter to the Citizen in August 2004, Ben Lobo, a drug evaluator in the veterinary drugs directorate of Health Canada, said the media gave Chopra and Haydon undue credit for preventing the approval of bovine growth hormone. The drug was not approved for major animal safety concerns, he wrote.
“There is nothing unusual about scientists having different opinions on a particular subject. This is good and it stimulates discussion. Health Canada has many mechanisms in place for employees to debate issues such as those raised by the three scientists. They chose not to use these processes to the full extent,” wrote Lobo.
It took Lambert seven years to get his job back. In 2011, the Public Service Labour Relations Board ordered that Lambert be reinstated with the Veterinary Drugs Directorate. But after more than 150 days of hearings, the board upheld the dismissals of Chopra and Haydon.
In 2016, the tribunal overturned Haydon’s dismissal and awarded her the right of reinstatement to her job. The tribunal also voided a 20-day suspension imposed on Chopra, but did not order his reinstatement.
In his retirement, Chopra founded an organization called the Canadian Council for Food Sovereignty and Health and has been a public speaker and expert witness. He still has concerns about five classes of products used in the food system — hormones, antibiotics, slaughterhouse byproducts used in animal feed, pesticides and genetically modified organisms.
“The cause and the issue is still there,” he said.
Yazbeck said there is still another possible avenue for his client. “There is a possibility — a rare one — to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada said it was too soon to say whether the institute would pursue that option.