Ombudsperson calls for payment, apologies to fired public health researchers


WATCH: The provincial Government was wrong to fire eight health researchers five years ago.

That’s the conclusion of a sweeping and damning report released today by BC’s Ombudsperson.

Jay Chalke, BC’s Ombudsperson, says simply that the BC Government should not have fired those researchers in 2012.

They deserve an apology.

And the government owes them compensation.

For William Warburton, after so many years, it’s something of a vindication.

“It has been terrible. I have to say, when this first happened, we had trouble sleeping.”

Warburton is one of eight researchers, including his wife Rebecca, who were fired five years ago by the provincial government.

Today, he is mostly relieved.

“All the recommendations, the apology, the just the fact of airing what actually happened.

And how abusive the people at the Ministry of Health were.

I think that was awesome.”

BC’s Ombudsperson, Jay Chalke titled his review of those firings, “Misfire”.

And his conclusion it that was a flawed investigation from the beginning.

“These investigations were conducted unfairly, and disrespectfully. And resulted in decisions being made on the basis of unreliable, incorrect and incomplete conclusions.”

Several months after losing his job, Roderick MacIsaac, committed suicide.

His sister, Linda Kayfish says he was under incredible stress at the time of his death.

“Roderick did nothing to merit the treatment he received.

He was bullied, and accused without the bother of a decent explanation.”

In order to prevent anything like this from occurring again, Chalke’s recommendations include:

A formal government apology to the researchers.

Goodwill payments of $15,000 to $125,000

Allowing the union re-open settlements of grievances.

Establishing a $500,000 endowment for a UVic scholarship in the memory of Rodney MacIsaac.

Reforming the government’s internal investigation process.

Today the head of the public service, Kim Henderson, agreed to move forward on all the recommendations.

“I would like to offer my unqualified and comprehensive apology to all who were adversely affected by public service conduct.

This expansive and deep review has allowed the ombudsperson to come to findings

that show the failings of multiple departments.”

Warburton says he and his wife are now trying to get their lives and careers back.

“One of the things that I think the public don’t realize is how scary it is when something as big as the BC Government is attacking you.”

The couple are clear that they are disappointed with the report.

As are the other researchers who issued a joint statement this afternoon, including Roderick MacIsaac’s sister, Linda Kayfish.

They are upset that after so many years, there is no accountability from anyone in government.

No-one lost their job.

They are either still working in government or in the private sector.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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