Emails relating to B.C.'s Highway of Tears allegedly deleted
'Whatever it takes to win,' Liberal staffer allegedly said after deleting emails in FOI request
A former staffer at the B.C. Ministry of Transportation alleges that more than a dozen emails were deleted in November 2014 following a freedom of information request relating to the Highway of Tears, a stretch of road notorious for cases of missing and murdered women.
The NDP has made public a letter written by former executive assistant Tim Duncan to Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham. In the letter, Duncan says that when he protested an instruction to delete the emails, a ministerial assistant took hold of his keyboard and did it himself.
"When I hesitated, he took away my keyboard, deleted the emails and returned the keyboard, stating, 'It's done. Now you don't have to worry about it anymore,'" Duncan wrote in the letter.
When his concerns continued to be dismissed, Duncan writes, he was told, "It's like The West Wing. You do whatever it takes to win."
Duncan writes that he does not believe the incident was unusual.
"I want to stress that this is not an isolated incident. It is my belief that the abuse of the freedom of information process is widespread and most likely systemic within the [Premier Christy] Clark government. I would ask that you please look into this further."
As to the content of the deleted emails, Duncan says that he does not recall details, as many were messages he was cc'd on and had never read.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone told CBC News that he knew nothing of the allegations made by his former staffer until they were raised in Thursday's question period.
'Are there no records?'
Jennifer Rice, the NDP member of the legislature for the North Coast, spoke to CBC's Daybreak North in February about a freedom of information request she made last November while looking for information surrounding meetings that were supposed to have taken place about Highway 16 (the Highway of Tears)
Rice had specifically requested "records related to meetings held by the ministry on this issue. The time frame for my request is May 15, 2014, to November 19, 2014."
The government, she said, asked for an extension on the request, twice, in order to transcribe written notes.
When the government eventually responded in November, Rice was told, "No records were located in response to your request. Your file is now closed."
"Are there records that have been hidden?" Rice asked. "Or are there no records?"
'A symptom of sick government'
The privacy commissioner responded Thursday with a statement confirming the receipt of Duncan's letter.
"My office has been in touch with the individual who raised these allegations, and I am now determining next steps in an investigation," Denham's statement reads.
John Horgan, leader of the B.C. NDP says the accusations are "shocking," and a "symptom of sick government."
"The letter says it all about how Christy Clark's government approaches its responsibilities to the people of B.C.," Horgan said in a statement, "'You do whatever it takes to win.' Even when it involves missing and murdered women."
RCMP say the route along Highway 16 that winds between Prince George and Prince Rupert is where at least 18 women have gone missing or been murdered since 1969. Seventeen of those cases remain unsolved.
With files from Richard Zussman