Abstract Countries around the world consider whistleblowing a first and often best early warning system for corruption and regulatory failure because whistleblowers are usually organizational insiders with first-hand knowledge of complex systems often impenetrable and unintelligible to outsiders. Why then do whistleblowers, these harbingers of wrongdoing, suffer censure and reprisals? The answer to this question sparked this case study of a whistleblower’s concerns regarding the effectiveness of Health Canada’s drug approval process in 1996 and the resulting impact on the whistleblower, the organization and ultimately the implications for public safety and accountable government. The methods used were process-tracing, in-depth interviews and data and document review. The results suggested problems with culture in the main organization Health Canada, possibly exacerbated by deregulation. The conclusion is a multi-faceted approach to addressing culture is needed before whistleblower protection legislation can work and accountable organizations can flourish.