Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C. Ombudsman Says Health Firings Were Wrong, Wants to Close 'Dark Chapter'

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

B.C. Ombudsman Says Health Firings Were Wrong, Wants to Close 'Dark Chapter'

Article excerpt

B.C. health firings 'dark chapter:' report

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VICTORIA - A former British Columbia health worker who took his own life after being caught up in a government drug policy investigation did nothing wrong and should never have lost his job, ombudsman Jay Chalke said in a report released Thursday.

He said in his report, called "Misfire," that seven government health workers and a contract employee who were fired five years ago because of a flawed and rushed investigation did not deserve the personal, financial and professional harm they suffered.

Roderick MacIsaac, a co-op research student working at the Health Ministry, died by suicide about four months after being fired on the grounds he jeopardized the privacy of British Columbians and the reputation of the ministry.

"Mr. MacIsaac's death was a tragedy that has cast a dark shadow over the entire affair," Chalke told a news conference.

MacIsaac and the other workers were part of a drug-research program in 2012 when they were fired amid allegations of inappropriate and potentially criminal conduct.

"Having carefully assessed each of the grounds the ministry relied on in terminating Mr. MacIsaac, we have concluded that most of the grounds relied on were unsupported by the evidence and not true," the report stated. "It is our conclusion that Mr. MacIsaac's employment dismissal was wrong."

Chalke's report stated the government's investigators lacked objectivity and were closed minded in their interviews of potential witnesses and subjects, including MacIsaac.

The report said MacIsaac told investigators nine times during a two-hour interview that he did not use ministry data for his PhD and he denied five times having a flash drive with ministry data.

"The interviewers' tones were sometimes condescending," the report stated. "They asked Mr. MacIsaac the same questions multiple times, and despite his consistent answers, they disbelieved him."

Chalke made 41 recommendations, including offering goodwill payments to those harmed, ranging from $15,000 to $125,000, and personal letters of apology for some of the workers.

He recommended the government honour MacIsaac's memory by funding a $500,000 scholarship endowment at the University of Victoria. …

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