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Ministry Ordered to Release Records to Fired Health Workers in 60 Days

Records needed for workers to partake in review of 2012 firings, lawyers argued.

By Andrew MacLeod 16 Dec 2016 | 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, 2015). Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has given the health ministry 60 business days to respond to a freedom of information request related to the 2012 firings, instead of the 180 days the ministry wanted.

“After considering the submissions from the Ministry and from the applicants I have decided that the Ministry has not provided sufficient evidence to convince me that it is entitled to a 180-day time extension,” wrote Tabitha Foulkes, an intake officer with the OIPC, in a Dec. 14 letter.

“However, in my view the Ministry is entitled to a partial approval of 60 days,” she said.

The records were requested by lawyers acting for fired health ministry employees Ramsay Hamdi and David Scott, as well as Linda Kayfish, whose brother Roderick MacIsaac committed suicide a few months after he was fired from a co-op position with the ministry.

The Tyee reported earlier this week that lawyers Gary Caroline and Joanna Gislason had written to the OIPC objecting to the ministry’s delay.

They said their clients needed the records, which include their own email files, to fully participate in Ombudsperson Jay Chalke’s review of what went wrong with the firings. Chalke has said he expects to complete his review this spring.

The lawyers also noted that the ministry’s timeline would push the release of the records well past the scheduled May 9, 2017 provincial election.

Hamdi, Scott and MacIsaac were among seven people fired from the ministry over what officials said at the time had to do with breaches in data management, contracting and possible conflicts of interest.

Government officials, including Premier Christy Clark, have since admitted the process that led to the firings was badly botched. Some employees have returned to work for the government, five lawsuits were settled out of court, and Chalke is now investigating what government decision-makers did wrong.

A previous investigation by labour lawyer Marcia McNeil failed to answer key questions about who ordered the firings and why.

In her four-page letter, Foulkes gave several reasons for the decision to require the ministry to release the records by March 14, 2017. “The Ministry of Health is a very large ministry with considerable resources and it has not demonstrated that it has provided sufficient resources to process this access request,” she wrote.

The ministry estimates the request includes 150,000 records, but has assigned just two full-time employees to the file. Foulkes recommended assigning more staff to the task.

“The Ministry has been processing this access request for 195 business days, yet the Ministry has not demonstrated that it has made appreciable progress on this file,” she wrote. “The Ministry must begin releasing records to the applicants in stages as soon as possible.”  [Tyee]

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