Quebec agriculture minister says he was wrong to endorse firing of whistleblower

Quebec's agriculture minister says he went too far when he endorsed the firing of a whistleblowing bureaucrat who had raised concerns about pesticide use.

Last week, Andre Lamontagne said he personally approved the dismissal of department agronomist Louis Robert for transmitting a confidential document to a journalist.

The minister told reporters this morning he had misspoken and the firing was an administrative decision. He said he has asked the Quebec ombudsman to investigate the case.

Robert, a seed expert, spoke out last year against what he said was private-sector interference in a public study on pesticide use. He was fired Jan. 24.

Quebec's whistleblower law protects employees who disclose information within their department. But disclosure to the public is protected only if the employee believes there is a serious risk to health, safety or the environment.

Robert's union has vowed to contest his firing, saying it was unprecedented for a minister to intervene in the dismissal of an employee five levels below him in the bureaucratic hierarchy.