Shiv Chopra

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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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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) and Baytril, which in the words of Chopra, "is even more controversial. It's a critical antibiotic, one that produces cross-resistance against a critical antibiotic necessary for human use called ciprofloxacin. It's from the same class of drugs. When it is used in poultry, beef, turkeys, pigs, or whatever, then it causes cross-resistance in the intestines of those animals. Then those bacteria, like salmonella, campylobacter, or E. coli, get transferred to people and cause disease and death of immense order."[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, Haydon, 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, including Tylosin, Revalor H, Synergistin Injectable Suspension, Baytril, rBST, Carbodex and Eugenol, without proof of human safety.[13][14] The PSIO case was initially dismissed in 2003, but the ruling was appealed to the Federal Court of Canada.

In June 2004, Chopra, Haydon and Lambert were fired from Health Canada.[12] 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.[15] Chopra's letter revealed that the stated reason for his dismissal was his "total lack of progress" in a current project.[15]

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."[15]

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.[14] 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][14] [16] As of 2009 it appears that the PSIO or its successors has still not issued a new ruling on the case,[17] although Chopra's case is mentioned in a history of managing in ethics in public service issued by the human resources office of Canada's Treasury Secretariat (which oversees the PSIO).[18]

Human Rights Complaint[edit]

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 after 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. Chopra's "hurt feelings" were in response to a 1998 speech by an incoming superior at Health Canada, during which the speaker stated that "he liked visible minorities.” In his complaint, Chopra claimed this was a "deeply insensitive racial remark toward visible minority employees of the bureau." Deschamps accepted Chopra's argument, writing that Lachance's remark was “discriminatory against Mr. Chopra as well as individuals … who were non-white” and that Lachance's remark showcased his insensitivity. Deschamps criticized the racist nature of Lachance's remark. Deschamps also stated that the supervisor's intent was irrelevant, as: "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."[19][20]

Although the tribunal ruled in favour of Chopra on some points, it also chastised him for "asserting that every manager at Health Canada practises racial discrimination, and for alleging that every appointment in the past 20 years has been discriminatory" and that such sweeping assertions, made "without a proper evidentiary basis," undermine Dr. Chopra's credibility. Several other complaints by Dr. Chopra that he was passed over for promotions because of his race were also dismissed.[20] The Tribunal also ruled that "there is no reason for the Tribunal to conclude that systemic discrimination still exists at Health Canada and to order it to take additional measures to address general or systemic issues of discrimination."[19]

Jonathan Kay of the National Post criticized the decision, alleging that Deschamps accepted Chopra's claim without any "substantive explanation." Kay argued that the case was 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 also noted that the tribunal did not accept Chopra's argument that he was passed over for a promotion because of discrimination (and not because he lacked sufficient experience). Kay also noted that one of Chopra's colleagues had complained he was "authoritarian and confrontational."[21]

Awards and honors[edit]

On November 14, 2011, Drs Chopra, Haydon and Lambert became the first recipients of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Integrity Award, in recognition of their role as "individuals who acted courageously in the public interest without thought of personal gain, and in doing so risked reprisals in the form of threats to their careers, livelihood, or personal freedom."[22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Health Canada fires outspoken scientists. CTV.ca news staff. July 15, 2004. Available online at [1], accessed August 22, 2006
  2. ^ a b Health Canada guilty of racial discrimination: tribunal. CBC news. 14 Aug 2001. Available online at cbc.ca [2], accessed online on August 22, 2006
  3. ^ NCARR v. Health and Welfare Canada et al. : CHRT. March 19, 1997. Available online at chrt-tcdp.gc.ca [3], accessed online on September 24, 2006
  4. ^ Chopra and Canadian Human Rights Commission v. Department of National Health and Welfare. Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision, March 8, 1996. Available online at Canadian Human Rights Tribunal web site [4]>
  5. ^ Health Canada scientist again challenges employer. Paul Weinberg. Rabble News, May 28, 2003, available online at [5], accessed August 22, 2006
  6. ^ Chopra v. Department of National Health and Welfare. Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Decision. August 13, 2001. Available online at Canadian Human Rights Tribunal web site [6], accessed online on August 22, 2006
  7. ^ Grover v. NRC. Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision, August 21, 1992. Available online on Canadian Human Rights Tribunal web site [7], accessed online on August 22, 2006
  8. ^ Grover v. NRC. Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision, March 18, 1994. Available online on Canadian Human Rights Tribunal web site [8], accessed online on August 22, 2006.
  9. ^ Minutes of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, March 1999, Government of Canada, available online at Government of Canada web site [9] and accessed August 22, 2006
  10. ^ Minutes of the Standing Committee on Health, 38th Parliament, 1st session, May 19, 2005, Government of Canada, available online at the Government of Canada web site [10], accessed online on August 22, 2006
  11. ^ Scientists "pressured" to approve cattle drug. James Baxter. Ottawa Citizen, October 23, 1998, Page A1. Available online at [11], [12], accessed online on August 22, 2006
  12. ^ a b Whistleblower scientists to fight government firing. CBC.ca news. 15 Jul 2004 Available online at CBC.ca web site [13], accessed online on August 22, 2006
  13. ^ a b Health Canada whistle-blowers win round against public service integrity office Dennis Bueckert. Canadian Press. May 2, 2005. Available online at [14], accessed online on August 22, 2006.
  14. ^ a b c Chopra, Hayden, Basudde and Lambert vs. Attorney General of Canada and Public Service Integrity Officer. Ruling of the Federal Court of Canada, 29 April 2005, Docket: T-624-03, Citation: 2005 FC 595, available online at Federal Court of Canada website [15], accessed online August 22, 2006
  15. ^ a b c Scientist gets congratulatory letter from Health Canada after being fired. Dennis Bueckert, Canadian Press, August 4, 2004, available online at Canadian Press web site [16], accessed on August 22, 2006
  16. ^ Court blasts federal investigation into drug complaints Dennis Bueckert. May 03, 2005. Edmonton Journal page A10. Available online at [17], accessed online on August 22, 2006.
  17. ^ http://www.cjly.net/deconstructingdinner/123109transcript.htm
  18. ^ http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/rp/scv07-eng.asp
  19. ^ a b Decision: Shiv Chopra, Canadian Human Rights Commission and Health Canada, ruling by Pierre Deschamps, September 19, 2008.
  20. ^ a b Health Canada ordered to pay $4,000 for MD's 'hurt feelings' by Don Butler, The Ottawa Citizen, September 20, 2008.
  21. ^ Jonathan Kay: A bold new way to slam Whitey by Jonathan Kay, National Post, September 22, 2008.
  22. ^ Dr. Shiv Chopra, Dr. Margaret Haydon, and Dr. Gérard Lambert: 2011 Integrity Award. Monday, November 14, 2011. Press release of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. Available online at http://www.cjfe.org/resources/features/dr-shiv-chopra-dr-margaret-haydon-and-dr-g%C3%A9rard-lambert-2011-integrity-award [18], accessed December 5, 2011.

See also[edit]