British Columbia

Health minister Terry Lake rejects NDP's call for a public inquiry into 2012 firings

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake says the NDP's demand for a public inquiry into why the provincial government fired seven health researchers is unnecessary.

One of the researchers, Harold Roderick MacIsaac, was found to have committed suicide

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake says the government has already apologized for its heavy-handed response to the 2012 firings of seven health researchers. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake says the NDP's demand for a public inquiry into why the provincial government fired seven health researchers and then misled the public about a police investigation that never happened is unnecessary.

"At the time I think the government made a mistake and we have apologized for being so heavy-handed in the response and indicating the seriousness of the RCMP investigation," said Lake. 

Lake said the government has already accepted accountability for all the findings of inappropriate conduct by an independent reviewer last year.

"The McNeil report that we've done shows there were mistakes made in terms of personnel issues and the way people were managed from an HR point of view," he says. 

Recommendations will be followed to correct that and we have put in a different system in terms of making sure we are not putting people in a position where the best data stewardship practices are not followed."

Review highly limited says NDP

However, the NDP says the review was highly limited.

"The reviewer — because they were all pointing fingers at one another — couldn't determine who was responsible for the decision," says NDP MLA and former party leader Adrian Dix.

"They need to be brought under oath to determine who was accountable."

Seven employees were fired in 2012, in what the government has since admitted was a "regrettable mistake." It has already settled out of court with most of them. One of the researchers, UVic co-op student Harold Roderick MacIsaac, was found to have committed suicide.

Documents released last week show the RCMP 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. 

"As far as the Ministry of Health was concerned in the use of data, there was no criminal intent there," said Lake. 

"However in terms of contracts and procurement, that was up to the Office of the Comptroller General to review. I understand that review has been completed and handed over to the RCMP and it would now be up to the RCMP to determine if further action is warranted or not."

No intention to mislead: Lake

Lake is adamant that there was no intention to mislead the public.

"In all of the information that I've seen, I can tell you that in my opinion no one is trying to malign or do anything willful."

But Dix says the government's response to this problem has not been sufficient and there are still many unanswered questions.

"The way [the health workers] were treated here is beneath contempt and we need answers and it's time that those officials that were responsible were questioned under oath about what they did and didn't do."

To hear the full interviews, listen to the audio labelled Adrian Dix on health firings and Terry Lake responds to NDP call for public inquiry.


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