On the first day of the official B.C. election campaign, Linda Kayfish said she still wants a genuine apology from Premier Christy Clark for the death of her brother Roderick MacIsaac.
“I’m still waiting for a real apology about what this government did,” Kayfish said Tuesday at a press conference in a hotel across the street from the B.C. legislature.
“It’s better to look somebody in the eye and tell them why you’re sorry,” she said. “Everybody makes mistakes and we can accept that, but when you keep saying you’re sorry and you don’t really seem to know what you’re saying sorry about, no, it’s not right.”
MacIsaac was a co-op student who, along with six other health ministry employees, was wrongly fired in 2012. He committed suicide a few months later. Four of the other fired employees were at Tuesday’s press conference.
“As early as November 2012 an investigator found that Rod had done nothing wrong,” Kayfish said. “The ministry chose not to contact him and instead to delay and continue the scurrilous behaviour. Roderick was still alive then.”
Last week Ombudsperson Jay Chalke released a 487-page report that found none of the employees deserved to be fired, that politicians were not directly involved in the decision to fire them and that the process that led to the firings was unfair.
Kim Henderson, deputy minister to Clark and head of the public service, apologized on behalf of the government, but Kayfish said the apology should come from Clark and be made in person.
Kayfish said she is not interested in reopening the union grievance process, which was one of Chalke’s recommendations, but that she appreciated the plan to establish a $500,000 scholarship endowment at the University of Victoria in her brother’s name.
Kayfish said the government politicized the firings when then health minister Margaret MacDiarmid gave a news conference and said the government had asked the RCMP to investigate.
“It was those political accusations by this government that we feel tipped Roderick over the edge.”
Less than two hours after the press conference, Clark was at government house in Victoria to ask Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon to dissolve parliament and issue the writs for the May 9 election.
“I know Linda Kayfish is grieving,” Clark told reporters. “I hear that when she talks about it. What happened was a tragic event, there’s just no question about that.”
She said that the apologies that she and then-health minister Terry Lake made in the legislature to Kayfish in 2014 were sincere.
“If she’d like a personal apology, of course I’d be happy to do that,” Clark said. “If it would bring Ms. Kayfish some closure, absolutely... I’d be quite happy to repeat the apologies the government made on behalf of the civil service in the legislature.”
Clark said the details of where and when would need to be worked out with Kayfish.
Kayfish earlier said all of Clark’s communications with her so far have been through the media and that the 2014 apology fell short of what was needed.
“She left a shadow, an innuendo suggesting that Roderick may have done something wrong and perhaps the government were a bit heavy handed about it.”
Joanna Gislason, a lawyer acting along with legal partner Gary Caroline for Kayfish and three of the fired employees, said Chalke’s report was like a verdict on the firings.
“It’s a verdict that surprises no one,” she said. “The government knew, the researchers knew, Linda knew, the firings were bogus, that the treatment of these individuals was egregious and that the government’s false allegations were harmful and unfounded.”
Caroline said that investigators were able to mistreat the accused employees with no control from higher levels of the government. “I can only think they just ate up what was being fed to them by the investigators,” he said. “It’s just not good enough to say you regret what happened. Why don’t you say what you did. Maybe that way an apology will be heartfelt.”
Asked if the firings should be an election issue, Kayfish said she hoped so.
“That will depend on the people of B.C.”