Shiv Chopra

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Shivdarshan. L. Chopra,[1] or commonly Shiv Chopra, was a Canadian microbiologist and human rights activist, who was involved in one of the first major whistleblowing incidents in the Public Service of Canada.[2] 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.[3]

Career[edit]

Born in Kapurthala, Punjab, India, Chopra studied veterinary medicine at Punjab University in Chandigarh, receiving the degree Bachelor of Veterinary Science & Animal husbandry in 1957. For graduate study he went to Indian Veterinary Research Institute at Izatnagar, obtaining in 1960 his diploma in the production and standardization of vaccines and sera.[4] He relocated to Montreal, Quebec and studied microbiology at the Macdonald Campus of McGill University, obtaining a master's degree in 1962. His research induced enteritis by early weaning of piglets to obtain samples of e-coli for study.[1] Chopra was awarded the Ph. D in 1964.

For 1965 the Medical Research Council of Canada granted him a fellowship to work with Bram Rose in the Division of Immunochemistry and Allergy at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal. Subsequently, Miles Laboratories hired Chopra to direct its Biological Research Division in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, England until 1969. He assisted in applications to regulatory agencies for new products. Chopra then returned to Canada where he worked with Health Canada, first as a senior scientific advisor in the Bureau of Drugs until 1987, and then in the Bureau of Veterinary Drugs until 2004.[5]

In 1998 he became a member of the rBST gaps analysis team at Health Canada, investigating effects of bovine growth hormone in milk and human vulnerability to this molecule produced by genetic engineering. His opinion was that approval of this dairy enhancement was not warranted. He testified before the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry of the Canadian Senate 22 October 1998, 26 April 1999, and 3 May 1999.[4]

Shiv Chopra died on 7 January 2018.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8] In August 2001, the Tribunal rendered a second decision finding that Health Canada had discriminated against Dr. Chopra on the basis of his race,[9] and specifically had altered job evaluations for Chopra in order to bolster its defense.[3]

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.[10][11]

Whistleblowing incident[edit]

In 1998 and 1999, Chopra, along with two co-workers, Drs. Margaret Haydon and Gerard Lambert, testified to the Senate of Canada's 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."[12][13][14] Prior to the mad cow disease crisis in Canada, Chopra warned the government that the current handling of feed to cows was inadequate.[15] 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.[16][17] 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.[15] 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.[18] Chopra's letter revealed that the stated reason for his dismissal was his "total lack of progress" in a current project.[18]

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."[18]

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.[17] 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.[16][17] [19] As of 2009 it appears that the PSIO or its successors has still not issued a new ruling on the case,[20] 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).[21]

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."[22][23]

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.[23] 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."[22]

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."[24]

Autobiography[edit]

Shiv Chopra identified his life so completely with his whistleblowing at Health Canada that his autobiography is nearly all about his work protecting Canadians from unsafe products being pushed through approval.[5] In 1974 Chopra sat for an interview for a shift in position at the Bureau of Drugs. He was asked, "Suppose you are selected for this post, whom would you consider to be your client?" Chopra replied, "The public, of course." The interviewer replied, "No, it is the industry." Chopra insisted that the mandate of the position was Parliament's Food and Drugs Act (page 19). Such unabashed subservience of supervisors to corporate influence convinced Chopra that Health Canada was Corrupt to the Core, the title of the autobiography. One aspect of his whistleblowing was flagging obstructions to advancement, which he grieved and sued. The major conflict was approval of unsafe products:

All these managers expected everyone to follow as government policy expecting the departments' own scientists to pass products of questionable safety. Among the products that they were expected to pass were growth hormones, antibiotics and drugs to be used in food-producing animals in order to obtain extra yields of meat and milk. The potential harm that these products could cause in consequence of passing them into the food supply included cancer, immune and reproductive disorders, antimicrobial resistance, and other effects in people. (page 40)

As a whistleblower has a daunting task of standing up to an institution, Chopra demonstrated the importance of documentation and public relations. Some family background and the wedding with Nirmala fill the first chapter, but most of 295 pages of text recount bureaucratic battling. The names and positions of 120 interlocutors in government are listed (pages 323-6). An appendix gives 20 pages of reproductions of key correspondence. Furthermore, Chopra lists 59 print media reports, 11 radio or television shows, and a bibliography of media sources, special reports, books and letters. Prefaces to the autobiography were supplied by Maude Barlow and MP Paul Dewar.

Five Pillars of Food Safety[edit]

In an epilogue, Chopra recounts a trip to Powell River, British Columbia where he met with organic farmers. He experienced an epiphany while speaking to them. He summarized his expression in this declaration:

It is our divine right as people of God and our constitutional right as people of Canada to eat and feed our families the food that the earth produces naturally. Therefore, we demand all contaminants in our food supply be banned by an act of Parliament. The five items in question include: Hormones, antibiotics, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), rendered animal proteins, and pesticides.

Since people in any country might aspire to such protection, Chopra stated, "Canada is a key country in which to launch such an action." (page 295) Chopra acknowledged assistance from The Council of Canadians to spread the word for food safety.[25]

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."[26]

Film appearances[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Excherichia coli associated with enteritis of early weaned pigs", McGill Theses of 1964 from Érudit
  2. ^ Health Canada fires outspoken scientists. CTV.ca news staff. July 15, 2004. Available online at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-03-13. Retrieved 2009-04-23. , accessed August 22, 2006
  3. ^ a b Health Canada guilty of racial discrimination: tribunal. CBC news. 14 Aug 2001. Available online at cbc.ca [1], accessed online on August 22, 2006
  4. ^ a b Curriculum Vita at personal site
  5. ^ a b Shiv Chopra (2009) Corrupt to the Core: Memoirs of a Health Canada Whistleblower, KOS Publishing ISBN 978-0-9731945-7-9
  6. ^ Shiv Chopra at Peace
  7. ^ 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 [2]
  8. ^ Health Canada scientist again challenges employer. Paul Weinberg. Rabble News, May 28, 2003, available online at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-03-12. Retrieved 2006-08-22. , accessed August 22, 2006
  9. ^ 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 [3], accessed online on August 22, 2006
  10. ^ Grover v. NRC. Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision, August 21, 1992. Available online on Canadian Human Rights Tribunal web site [4], accessed online on August 22, 2006
  11. ^ Grover v. NRC. Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision, March 18, 1994. Available online on Canadian Human Rights Tribunal web site [5], accessed online on August 22, 2006.
  12. ^ Minutes of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, March 1999, Government of Canada, available online at Government of Canada web site [6] and accessed August 22, 2006
  13. ^ 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 [7], accessed online on August 22, 2006
  14. ^ Scientists "pressured" to approve cattle drug. James Baxter. Ottawa Citizen, October 23, 1998, Page A1. Available online at [8], [9], accessed online on August 22, 2006
  15. ^ a b Whistleblower scientists to fight government firing. CBC.ca news. 15 Jul 2004 Available online at CBC.ca web site [10], accessed online on August 22, 2006
  16. ^ a b Health Canada whistle-blowers win round against public service integrity office Dennis Bueckert. Canadian Press. May 2, 2005. Available online at [11], accessed online on August 22, 2006.
  17. ^ 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 [12], accessed online August 22, 2006
  18. ^ 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 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-08-28. Retrieved 2006-08-22. , accessed on August 22, 2006
  19. ^ Court blasts federal investigation into drug complaints Dennis Bueckert. May 03, 2005. Edmonton Journal page A10. Available online at [13], accessed online on August 22, 2006.
  20. ^ http://www.cjly.net/deconstructingdinner/123109transcript.htm
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-06-22. Retrieved 2012-08-06. 
  22. ^ a b Decision: Shiv Chopra, Canadian Human Rights Commission and Health Canada, ruling by Pierre Deschamps, September 19, 2008.
  23. ^ a b Health Canada ordered to pay $4,000 for MD's 'hurt feelings' Archived 2008-09-21 at the Wayback Machine. by Don Butler, The Ottawa Citizen, September 20, 2008.
  24. ^ Jonathan Kay: A bold new way to slam Whitey Archived 2013-01-29 at Archive.is by Jonathan Kay, National Post, September 22, 2008.
  25. ^ Shiv Chopra at The Council of Canadians
  26. ^ 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 [14], accessed December 5, 2011.
  27. ^ Oxdb The Corporation
  28. ^ mafab.hu Frankensteer
  29. ^ Fundació Roger Torné Homo Toxicus, one documentary on the relationship between our life style and children’s health
  30. ^ notre Cinéma Le Monde selon Monsanto ****
  31. ^ OV Guide Release Date: 2009 Duration: 93 min
  32. ^ Seattle Community Media Better Days Films - Day 19, Seeds of Death - Award Winning - Unveiling the Lies of GMOs - Part 1

External links[edit]