Canada

Lawyer says McQuigge's actions 'brave call'

The lawyer for Dr. Murray McQuigge, the medical health officer who blew the whistle on water contamination in Walkerton, described his client Wednesday as "an outspoken, in-your-face individual."

And that's exactly the sort of person you want running a health unit, lawyer Earl Cherniak said during closing submissions at the Walkerton inquiry. "Shrinking violets belong in the garden, not in public health," Cherniak said.

Doug Grace, a lawyer for the Walkerton health unit, praised McQuigge's action in the early stages of the crisis as "timely," citing McQuigge's quick boil-water advisory as a "brave call."

Health-unit lawyers cited the Ontario government as one of the parties responsible for the E. coli tragedy. They said after water-testing labs were privatized in 1996, the new Conservative government didn't change notification procedures to alert the public to contaminated water.

Under McQuigge's direction, the Walkerton health unit issued a boil-water advisory in May 2000, two days after reports of illness from the local water supply.

"Those who act in a crisis will always face criticism from those who sit in their arm chairs," Cherniak said.

More than 2,000 people became ill and seven died in what became the worst E. coli outbreak in Canadian history.

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