Tuesday, November 22, 2011



Shiv Chopra is a Canadian microbiologist and human rights activist, who was involved in one of the first major whistleblowing incidents in the Canadian public service.[1] Chopra was also involved in the second systemic racial discrimination case in the Canadian public service, when it was found by a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that his employer, Health Canada had discriminated against him on the basis of his race.[2]

Early life

Chopra is an East Indian Hindu born and raised in the Punjab, where he received in 1957 a B.VSc. from Punjab Veterinary College. He then worked at the Biologics Production and Quality Control Research Department at the Punjab Veterinary College. He immigrated to Canada around 1964, where he then received his PhD in Microbiology from McGill University in Montreal. After obtaining his PhD at McGill, he moved to England to work for Miles Laboratories. In 1969 Chopra moved back to Canada and began his career with Health Canada as a drug evaluator for the Bureau of Human Prescription Drugs at Health Canada, a Canadian government agency. In 1987, he applied and was selected to work at the Bureau of Veterinary Drugs, another of Health's Canada bureaus where he worked until being fired in June 2004.[3]

Racial discrimination

In 1992 and 1993, Chopra initiated two human rights complaints against Health Canada, citing discrimination on the basis of race and national origin.[4] On the basis of the ruling of the Tribunal in March 1996, Health Canada was ordered to make a series of corrective measures over a five-year period.[5] In August 2001, the Tribunal rendered a second decision finding that Health Canada had discriminated against Dr. Chopra on the basis of his race,[6] and specifically had altered job evaluations for Chopra in order to bolster its defense.[2]

This was one of two major cases of systemic racial discrimination in the Canadian public service. In 1992 and 1994, the National Research Council of Canada, a government scientific agency, was found by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to have systemically discriminated against Chander Grover, an expert in optics and photonics, on the basis of race, colour and national origin.[7][8]

Whistleblowing incident

In 1998 and 1999, Chopra, along with two co-workers: Drs. Margaret Haydon and Gerard Lambert, testified to the Canadian Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry that they were pressured by senior supervisors to approve multiple drugs of questionable safety, including Bovine Growth Hormone (rBST).[9][10][11] Prior to the mad cow disease crisis in Canada, Chopra warned the government that the current handling of feed to cows was inadequate.[12] Following this, Chopra, Hayden, Lambert and colleague Chris Bassude complained to the Public Service Integrity Officer (PSIO) office, a federal investigative body under the jurisdiction of the Treasury Board of Canada, indicating again that they were pressured by their seniors to pass a number of veterinary drugs without proof of human safety.[13] They are recognized as the first whistleblowers in the Canadian public service.[12] The PSIO case was initially dismissed in 2003, but the ruling was appealed to the Federal Court of Canada.

Firing from Health Canada

In June 2004, Chopra, Haydon and Lambert were fired from Health Canada. Health Canada denied that the trio was fired for speaking publicly about the pressure employed by their supervisors to approve the usage of a number of animal drugs, but did not reveal the exact reason, mentioning that the reasons were confidential and included in the letters of termination the three scientists received.[14] Chopra's letter revealed that the stated reason for his dimissal was his "total lack of progress" in a current project.[14]

Three weeks later, Chopra received a congratulatory letter and a gold watch from Deputy Health Minister Ian Green, declaring that his "years of service have not gone unnoticed" and that he had "earned praise and respect."[14]

Federal Court decision

On April 29, 2005, the Federal Court of Canada quashed the previous finding of the PSIO, and found that the PSIO had inadequately handled Chopra, Haydon and Lambert's complaints.[13] The Federal Court's decision called into question the credibility of the PSIO, citing a failure in the organization in protecting whistleblowers acting in good faith.[13][15] [16]

Human Rights Complaint

In September 2008, Human Rights Tribunal (HRT) adjudicator Pierre Deschamps ruled that Chopra was entitled to $4,000 in damages for "hurt feelings," lost wages, and interest, finding that Chopra was subjected to discriminatory comments, was suspended in retaliation for filing an earlier human rights complaint, and was discriminated against when passed over for a temporary promotion to acting chief of his division. The comments in question occurred on Feb. 9. 1998; Chopra was in the audience when his incoming boss at Health Canada, André Lachance, stated that "he liked visible minorities." Chopra claimed this was "a racist remark" and Deschamps accepted this argument that this comment was "discriminatory against Mr. Chopra as well as individuals … who were non-white" and that Lachance's remark "shows a lack of sensitivity on the part of Dr. Lachance for people whose skin is not white." Deschamps stated that Lachance's remark was "by any standard, racist." Deschamps criticized the "inherent racist nature" of Lachance's comment and stated that Lachance's intent was irrelevant: "The test is, over and above the racial nature of the comment itself, whether or not the person alleging discrimination was offended by the comment."[17][18]


Jonathan Kay of the National Post criticized the decision, alleging that Deschamps accepted Chopra's claim without any substantive explanation.[19] Kay described Chopra as "a race-obsessed paranoiac" and that the ruling is an "advertisement for why we should be closing down Canada's human-rights commissions" and "nicely illustrates the absurd lengths to which our society's elites will now go to demonize Whitey." Kay noted that Chopra alleged discrimination when he was passed over for a promotion, yet he had failed a test which was a prerequisite to the position; the tribunal did not accept Chopra's argument on the point. Kay also noted that Chopra's colleagues had complained he was authoritarian and confrontational.[19]


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