Dismissal of a whistleblower: the intervention of the minister of Agriculture considered disturbing

Congédiement d'un lanceur d'alerte: l’intervention du ministre de l’Agriculture jugée inquiétante

Photo: Seth Perlman Archives Associated Press
The agronomist Louis Robert has provided information to journalists regarding the interference of the agricultural industry in the research with the public on pesticides.

The intervention of the minister of Agriculture of Quebec in the dismissal of a public servant whistleblower raises concerns in many organizations. André Lamontagne was revealed Wednesday to have “personally authorized” the dismissal of the agronomist Louis Robert who had denounced the pressures and interference in the work of research on the pesticides neonicotinoids.

“The decision which has been taken by the ministry, it is a decision that I personally authorized to the light of the information that I have collected, in the light of the questions that I asked, and then it is the decision that I felt it was important to take “, argued the minister Lamontagne during a media scrum in the morning.

Mr. Robert was placed at the door of the MINISTRY because he has passed information to journalists concerning the interference experienced by the officials of the Centre for research on grains (CEROM) in their work on pesticides.

Political Intervention

“At the beginning I didn’t believe that, I have never seen a minister interfering in “personal” the dismissal of someone who is at least five or six levels of management below him, ” says Richard Perron, president of the Syndicat des professionnels du government du Québec.

It recalls that Mr. Robert had turned to the media in march 2018 for lack of being listened to, as the discomfort had been reported to the ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of Quebec as of 2013.

The Fédération professionnelle des journalists du Québec (FPJQ) also denounces the intervention of the minister Lamontagne in the record of Mr. Robert.

“It is very unusual for a minister to meddle personally in the dismissal of an employee “, stresses Stéphane Giroux, president of the FPJQ. He was amazed also of the energies devoted to find the people at the origin of a leak.

“Rather than trying to resolve the situation denounced by the employees, the government has devoted all its efforts to get rid of the one who has dared to denounce them,” he laments.

The minister Lamontagne let it be understood, however, that” a set of factors, which are not necessarily all known ” has led to the dismissal of Mr. Robert.

A statement that has propelled Mr. Perron, since it indicates that the letter of dismissal evokes only two reasons, either he ran out of loyalty to his employer having talked and leaked documents to journalists.

“It’s about someone who was first exposed to the internal, who is accused and who before the fatality to see that nothing was done, decided to transmit information to journalists “, insists Mr. Perron. “Mr. Robert, with his 32 years of experience, his loyalty, he considered that he owed more to the health of Quebec that the protection of the interests of private companies “.

Interference and climate control

In march 2018, nearly a dozen people have reported the Duty of the interference and a climate of control in scientific research in the agri-environment in the CEROM project, funded in majority by Quebec. The chairman of the board of directors, Christian Overbeek, was questioned, since he himself is a producer (and president of the grain Producers of Quebec.

An internal note of the ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of Quebec (MAPAQ) was also the review of the issues raised by the sources of the Duty. The seats of the board of directors are held mainly by organisations that have interests, publicly declared, that differ from the public interest “, could you read there. Three seats are occupied by grain producers. The other two are from representatives of la Coop fédérée, the largest suppliers of pesticides in Québec.

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