Fired B.C. health researchers reject review by ombudsman

A group of B.C. health care researchers who were abruptly fired by the B.C. government several years ago has rejected the health minister's decision to have the B.C. ombudsman look into the incident.

Letter says only a public inquiry will have the power to fully investigate the incident

University of Victoria PhD candidate Roderick MacIsaac, committed suicide three months after he was fired by the B.C. government.

A group of B.C. health care researchers who were abruptly fired by the B.C. government several years ago has rejected the health minister's decision to have the B.C. ombudsman look into the incident.

The seven researchers and the widow of one have been calling for a public inquiry to get to the bottom of the incident, but the call has been rejected by the Health Minister Terry Lake.

In the group's most recent letter issued on Monday morning, the group said it was inappropriate for the Ombudsman's office to investigate the incident.

"The office suffers from an inadequate mandate, issues of perception of conflict and bias, and insufficient resources and experience for this type of investigation," said the letter.

According to the group, only a public inquiry with the power to require testimony under oath and demand documents and emails from political and government sources will be "free to follow the evidence wherever it leads."

"The scope of this inquiry should go beyond who authorized the firings and the terminations of contracts and data access, and who is responsible for the false claims about the RCMP investigation."

"A key question is why? Who benefited and was this against the public interest? Did the pharmaceutical industry have any interest in this case?"

Researchers fired in 2012

In September of 2012, the government fired eight staffers citing an alleged breach in the handling of confidential public health data.

One of those terminated, University of Victoria PhD candidate Roderick MacIsaac, killed himself three months later.

Several lawsuits were filed by the researchers against the government, and the RCMP conducted its own investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing.

But documents later revealed police were never given evidence by the government to investigate the wrongdoing which was used to justify the firings.

Since then, the government has backtracked from the firings and apologized, saying they were heavy-handed.

The seven remaining researchers and the sister of the deceased have since banded together to demand an inquiry into what happened.

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