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Wrongly Fired Ministry Workers Kept on Security File for Months

Failure to remove cleared employees an 'administrative oversight,' minister says.

By Andrew MacLeod 27 May 2015 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia (Harbour Publishing, April 2015). Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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Wrongfully dismissed employee Ron Mattson: 'Never in my wildest dreams did I think they would do what they did to so many people with no evidence of wrongdoing.'

Long after the British Columbia government cleared workers who Health Minister Terry Lake admits were inappropriately fired, the ministry kept their pictures in a binder for security officers at the ministry's Victoria headquarters building.*

"It shows you the level of incompetence of those undertaking the investigation when a year after the settlements they still have our pictures on the most wanted poster," said Ron Mattson, who in August 2014 received an out-of-court settlement from the government in exchange for dropping his wrongful dismissal and defamation lawsuit.

Responding to a question from Adrian Dix, the MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway, during debate about the health ministry's budget, Lake said it is standard practice to notify security when an employee is terminated.

"This system alerts the guards to watch for any type of activity that the individual may be engaged in around the ministry building, and it is actually to protect the safety and security of employees who continue to work in the building," he said.

There have been many examples of fired employees harming their former colleagues, including about 10 years ago at the Ministry of Environment in Kamloops. "I know some of the people involved personally and the impact it had on their lives," he said.

'Administrative oversight': Lake

Lake said the failure to remove the pictures from the security binder after the workers were cleared was an "administrative oversight" and that the pictures have now been removed. "I can, on behalf of the ministry, apologize today that [the pictures] were not removed earlier."

Dix said it is "just unacceptable" and "immensely disrespectful" that up until this week the workers -- including Roderick MacIsaac, a fired co-op student who committed suicide in 2012 -- had the stigma of having their pictures in the security binder.

"It shows a lack of seriousness in wanting to achieve justice," Dix said. "I'm glad now as a result of the exchange the photos are gone."

He drew a connection with the government's failure to notify the RCMP that the ministry's investigation was over and that it had no more information to provide the police. In 2012, the government had announced in a press release that it had asked the RCMP to investigate.

"It shows the only interests they're interested in respecting are those of ministers, deputy ministers and the premier," he said.

Dix noted that lawyer Marcia McNeil's review into what went wrong with the firings found nobody took responsibility, and that the most senior people all blamed each other.

Mattson said the government has admitted it was wrong to fire the workers but it has kept, and in some cases promoted, the people who conducted the investigation and made the recommendations that led to the firings.

He asked, "When are those who are responsible for doing this going to suffer some sort of consequences?"

The unfair treatment has left him feeling betrayed and bitter. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think they would do what they did to so many people with no evidence of wrongdoing," Mattson said. "This is Canada. It's not supposed to happen here."

*Story clarified May 29 at 5 p.m.  [Tyee]

Read more: Health, BC Politics

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