The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.
News

Wrongly Fired Health Workers Reject Ombudsperson Review

Only a broad public inquiry will provide answers public deserves, they say.

By Andrew MacLeod 28 Jul 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.

image atom
Roderick MacIsaac took his life after health ministry fired him with others over allegations never proven and no longer pursued.

Eight people affected by the botched firings from the British Columbia health ministry in 2012 say a proposed review by the Ombudsperson will fail to provide the answers and accountability that they and the public need.

The B.C. legislature's select standing committee on finance and government services is considering a request from Health Minister Terry Lake to ask recently appointed Ombudsperson Jay Chalke to review what went wrong with the firings.

"After consultation with our legal counsel and despite our genuine efforts to find a way to make this option work, it is clear that our needs and those of the public cannot be met through an Ombudsperson's investigation," said the letter dated July 27. "Indeed, it is a legal impossibility."

Signing the letter were Ramsay Hamdi, Robert Hart, Malcolm Maclure, Ron Mattson, David Scott and Rebecca Warburton, all of whom were fired from the ministry in 2012, as well as former ministry contractor William Warburton and Linda Kayfish, whose brother Roderick MacIsaac killed himself a few months after being fired from a co-op position with the health ministry.

The government justified the firings in 2012 citing allegations related to data management, contracts and conflicts of interest. It has since reinstated Maclure and Hart, and settled out of court in wrongful dismissal and defamation lawsuits with them as well as Mattson.

Premier Christy Clark has apologized for some of the firings and for misleading the public about a non-existent RCMP investigation into the allegations. Lawsuits initiated by Rebecca and William Warburton are ongoing.

An earlier investigation report by employment lawyer Marcia McNeil said some key senior officials declined to participate in her review and that she could not answer the questions of who made the decision to fire the employees or why.

Public inquiry preferred

The letter from the eight people affected, released by Vancouver lawyers Gary Caroline and Joanna Gislason who are representing some of them, details why they would prefer a full public inquiry to an investigation by the Ombudsperson.*

While they are glad Minister Lake sees the need for an independent review, the Ombudsperson lacks the jurisdiction to get to the heart of the matter, the eight said.

"There is no escaping that confidentiality is a core tenet of his process or that his interviews are conducted outside the public eye," they wrote. "No amount of tinkering with his statutory process can change the fundamental mandate of the Ombudsperson."

The Ombudsperson Act says investigations must be conducted in private unless the Ombudsperson believes there are "special circumstances" where public knowledge is essential in order to further the investigation. Chalke has also stressed the value of a private investigation in a letter and testimony to the committee.

The letter writers also say the Ombudsperson's role is not well suited to investigating the kinds of broad concerns they have. "The central matter requiring investigation is what motivated the dramatic interference with research and programs which were improving the safety and effectiveness of prescription drugs for British Columbians," they wrote. "This was the direct result of our unexplained terminations."

Cancelled research 'of tremendous benefit'

The letter said that more than 25 other employees and contractors were negatively impacted by the investigation. "Some were fired or forced to retire; others had their contracts or data access suspended, terminated, or not renewed," it said. "Many were intimidated in various ways."

The work the employees and contractors were doing was important research on prescription drugs, they wrote. "The now largely suspended, hampered, or cancelled work at the Ministry of Health was of tremendous benefit to the public purse and to public health. The public is entitled to know why it was targeted."

Among the questions that need answers is who benefited from the firings, the writers say, and "Did the pharmaceutical industry have explicit or implicit influence over government decision-making?"

According to the letter writers, "The evidence must be followed wherever it leads, including into the Premier's Office and Cabinet."

The review needs to be transparent to the public and broad in its scope, the letter said. It also needs to give the people who were fired the ability to participate meaningfully and to satisfy the public right to know what happened.

"It would simply not be appropriate for the Ombudsperson to accept the referral of a matter he lacks legal authority to pursue," they concluded. "Nor is it appropriate to ask him to do so... Another process that provides no answers and no accountability will only cause us further damage."

The select standing committee on finance and government services next meets on July 29.

*Story corrected July 28 at 8:30 a.m. Lawyers Gary Caroline and Joanna Gislason are representing only some of the fired workers, not all of them as previously stated.  [Tyee]

Read more: Health, BC Politics

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

LATEST STORIES

The Barometer

Tyee Poll: Are You Preparing for the Next Climate Disaster?

Take this week's poll