The closest thing to an apology the B.C. government has offered the family of a co-op student who killed himself after being wrongfully dismissed was a cheque, for the sum of $482.53, sent to Roderick MacIsaac's estate.
Mr. MacIsaac was one of eight health ministry workers and contractors fired in 2012 for what the B.C. government said at the time was inappropriate conduct related to the private medical information of millions of British Columbians.
He had only three days left of his work term before he was set to return to the University of Victoria to complete his PhD in public administration. The cheque, forwarded to his sister Linda Kayfish seven months after his death, amounted to three days' pay.
"All I want is an apology, and an explanation," a tearful Ms. Kayfish told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday. "There has been a gross injustice."
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.
Mr. MacIsaac was grilled by government officials, but he was never interviewed by the RCMP. Ms. Kayfish said her brother played down the matter when she talked to him, and she only learned of his acute distress after his body was discovered in his suite in January of 2013. The coroner's report noted he had experienced significant personal stress over his dismissal and its impact on his academic future, chronicled in a document found on his home computer.
Ms. Kayfish described her brother, 46, as a shy, single bookworm, "a man of learning" who put his life on hold for six years to care for their mother when she was dying of lung cancer after a lifetime of smoking. He was passionate about the research he was conducting at the ministry, she added, because it involved evaluating smoking-cessation drugs. "He was excited for the project, he thought maybe it could save lives," she said.
She said she does not want to pursue a lawsuit against the government. "That's not what my brother would have wanted," she said. "But when somebody makes a mistake and ruins someone's life, you have to stand up and recognize that mistake."
In a written statement on Tuesday, Health Minister Terry Lake said: "We continue to express our sympathies and condolences to Mr. MacIsaac's family and friends." However, no government official has contacted the family directly to offer an apology.
Ms. MacDiarmid expressed her sympathies in the Victoria Times-Colonist newspaper, saying she was saddened to hear of his death.
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 on 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.
In speaking notes produced for the minister of health in January, 2013, Ms. MacDiarmid acknowledged that there was no evidence that any medical data was accessed or used for purposes other than health research.
NDP Leader John Horgan, who sat at Ms. Kayfish's side at the news conference, said officials within the provincial government conducted a "witch hunt" that has proved to be without foundation.
"We are calling for a full and unequivocal apology," he said. "These were eight individuals who were passionate about the work they did and their reputations were besmirched and destroyed."
In June, 2013, the B.C. privacy commissioner published a report that blamed the government for allowing personal health information to be shared for research purposes without clear guidelines.
"The primary deficiency at the ministry was a lack of effective governance, management and controls over access to personal health information," the report concluded.