The sister of one of eight workers fired by the provincial health ministry is accusing the B.C. Coroners Service of deleting her brother's suicide note from his computer and refusing to provide the family with a copy.
In a letter to Premier Christy Clark released Tuesday, Linda Kayfish alleged the service erased Roderick MacIsaac's suicide note before returning the laptop to his family after its investigation. Mr. MacIsaac wrote the suicide note and took his own life in his Saanich apartment in December of 2012, three months after the PhD student was publicly dismissed in relation to an alleged privacy breach.
Ms. Kayfish says in the letter that the family managed to recover the note from the computer's deleted files.
The coroners service refuted the claims Tuesday evening. In an e-mailed statement, it said investigators never accessed Mr. MacIsaac's computer and only received a printed version of the note from the RCMP, which was responsible for storing and analyzing the laptop after it was seized by authorities. The coroners' statement added "police have confirmed they deleted nothing from the laptop."
Ms. Kayfish's letter was released as part of an effort by the families of those dismissed to push for a public inquiry into the firings. The government has repeatedly said a public inquiry would be too costly and slow. Instead, the province said last week it would hand the matter to B.C.'s Ombudsman for review.
Neither Health Minister Terry Lake nor the Premier were available for an interview Tuesday regarding Ms. Kayfish's allegations. But Mr. Lake's spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement that the minister is confident the Ombudsman would complete a "thorough" investigation in "a timely and cost-effective way."
Mr. MacIsaac, a doctoral candidate, had only three days left in his research placement when he and seven other health-ministry workers and contractors were fired in late 2012.
At the time, the B.C. government said the workers were dismissed due to inappropriate conduct related to the private medical information of millions of British Columbians. The minister at the time suggested the RCMP were investigating, but access-to-information documents uncovered last month showed the RCMP never began a probe.
The province has apologized for firing Mr. MacIsaac and rehired or settled out of court with most of the employees. Lawsuits involving two others are ongoing.
Ms. Kayfish's letter says the family found out about the suicide note shortly after Mr. MacIsaac's death, but the B.C. Coroners Service refused to release it until their investigation was complete. After months of asking, Ms. Kayfish's letter says the coroners service agreed to read the note to the family over the telephone, while keeping any names mentioned in the document anonymous.
Ms. Kayfish's letter says the coroners service responded to the family's request for the note with links to the province's access-to-information laws. By October of 2013, the coroners' final report into the death had been completed and Mr. MacIsaac's computer was released to his family. Ms. Kayfish maintains someone had deleted the document from his computer.
The coroners service said in its statement that a police officer uncovered the note and forwarded the printed version to their investigators several days after the computer was recovered from Mr. MacIsaac's home. The service said it never had an electronic version of the note.
Mr. MacIsaac's note does not mention his work or have any personal messages for his family, but it is "clear and concise" and "reflects his frustration with the public dismissals at the Ministry of Health," Ms. Kayfish says in her letter. She said later she would release the note to a public inquiry or the Ombudsman.
"It is part of a continuing pattern to cover up mistakes and actions by the powerful, while exposing those, such as Roderick, to the full force of government power," Ms. Kayfish wrote. "Rod had rights, they were not respected and continue to be disrespected after his death."