B.C. health firings: province settles out of court with 2 researchers

The B.C. government has settled out of court with two doctors fired in 2012 as part of a scandal that involved whistle-blowing, multiple lawsuits, and a suicide.

'We have been exonerated and our reputations ... have been restored,' say the Warburtons

B.C. Premier Christy Clark has faced repeated questions about her office's involvement in the firing of eight Ministry of Health workers in 2012. (Darryl Dick/The Canadian Press)

The B.C. government has settled out of court with two doctors fired in 2012 as part of a scandal that involved whistle-blowing, multiple lawsuits, apologies, a call for a public inquiry and a suicide.

Rebecca and William Warburton were part of a group of eight health ministry workers fired by the province, which had claimed the employees inappropriately accessed sensitive medical records. 

It was later revealed RCMP officers were never given evidence by the government to investigate the wrongdoing which was used to justify the firings, despite the government telling the public an investigation was ongoing.

One of the researchers, University of Victoria co-op student Roderick MacIsaac, took his own life three months after he was fired. 

The province issued a joint statement on behalf of the Ministry of Justice and the Warburtons on Tuesday announcing the settlement. 

The Warburtons, who have been fighting the province in the courts for the past two years, also offered their own statement to the press. 

    "We have been exonerated and our reputations for acting honourably and in the public interest have been restored," they said.

    "It is clear from both the joint statement and the size of the cash settlement that the government shares our view."  

    The B.C. government hasn't revealed how large the settlement was, but in its own statement said the province recognizes there were flaws in its initial investigation.

    Ombudsperson reviewing firings

    The firing of the eight health care workers is now being reviewed by ombudsperson Jay Chalke.

    Ombudsperson Jay Chalke said his investigation would make findings similar to that of a public inquiry. (B.C. government)

    "The province is confident and the Warburtons are hopeful that the process being undertaken by the ombudsperson will provide the public with a thorough review of what occurred in relation to the health-research investigation and firings," said the Ministry of Justice in the joint statement statement.

    The province added that the Warburtons are welcome to apply for access to health data for research purposes.

    B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan said the settlement clearly indicates the province's mistakes. 

    "We now finally know that eight individuals were smeared inappropriately by their own government," said Horgan. "The Christy Clark Liberals took eight individual lives and turned them upside down." 

    With files from Richard Zussman


    To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

    By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.