Premier Christy Clark says she expects an internal probe into the firing of eight Health Ministry workers will conclude her government was heavy-handed and unfair to many of the people involved.
Two years after the eight were suspended and then fired amid allegations of breach of privacy and conflict of interest involving 30,000 personal health records, most have been reinstated or have settled claims for wrongful dismissal. However, Roderick MacIsaac, a university student with just three days left in his government contract, killed himself before his name could be cleared.
For the first time in the legislature, Ms. Clark on Wednesday expressed condolences for Mr. MacIsaac's death. The 46-year-old doctorate student killed himself after what opposition NDP MLAs describe as a lengthy interrogation by government officials.
Speaking to reporters, Ms. Clark acknowledged that it wasn't just Mr. MacIsaac whose reputation was stained in the way her government handled the matter. She said an internal review by the Public Service Agency, launched last Friday, will provide more detail.
"The report is really going to tell us whether people were dealt with fairly and why they weren't in cases where they weren't. I don't want to speculate, but I'm certain in my own heart that many people were not dealt with fairly. It was a heavy-handed answer to the mistakes that were made."
The workers were fired in an unusually public manner. In September of 2012, then-health minister Margaret MacDiarmid held a news conference to announce that she had called in the RCMP's corporate crimes division to investigate inappropriate access of medical information, leading to allegations of breach of privacy and conflict of interest. The workers were involved in prescription drug research projects for government.
Two years after the firings, no charges have been laid, there is no evidence of an active RCMP investigation and the government has mostly retreated from its allegations. Pharmaceutical research contracts have been restored. Five of the individuals have either settled out of court or have been rehired, although two continue to pursue wrongful dismissal claims in the courts.
But it was only after a tearful plea last week from Mr. MacIsaac's sister, Linda Kayfish, that the province offered a formal apology to her family.
NDP MLA Adrian Dix challenged Ms. Clark to ensure that the RCMP can close the file on the matter "so that that the people who have been smeared can somehow be unsmeared." The government's internal investigation concluded late in 2013, but the NDP says the RCMP cannot close the file until it hears from the province.
Health Minister Terry Lake said he won't take that initiative. "There was a breach of confidential health information. The RCMP were made aware of the investigation that the ministry was doing at the time. It is up to the RCMP to decide whether or not to take that up with a criminal investigation."