Health researchers fired and shamed by Liberals deserve answers

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VICTORIA – B.C.’s New Democrats challenged Premier Clark and the B.C. Liberals to explain why the government went to such extraordinary lengths to embarrass, humiliate and shame eight dedicated health researchers.

“These researchers and their families deserve far better than a quiet apology and a three-week investigation with a limited scope. They deserve to know exactly how things went so very wrong, and who will be held accountable for the tragic results,” said New Democrat leader John Horgan.

“This is a shameful episode. On Premier Christy Clark’s watch, and with current house leader Mike de Jong serving as health minister at the time, the lives of eight people were ruined with baseless allegations.

“Now it appears clear from government documents that in the weeks before the mass firings and government’s leaks to the media alleging criminal activity, two of Premier Clark’s most senior advisors were meeting to approve the firing plan and the shameful communications strategy that went with it. Today, we asked the government to admit that the subject of these meetings was a plan that would destroy the public reputation of these researchers, but Minister of Health Terry Lake failed to answer the question.”

The B.C. Liberals suspended then fired the researchers, and leaked allegations against them to media, then staged a press conference emphasizing that the incident required calling the RCMP. Four months after he was fired, researcher Roderick MacIsaac took his own life.

Documents showed that Athana Mentzelopoulos, who was working as the premier’s chief spin doctor; John Dyble, then the premier’s hand-picked head of the public service; and Lynda Tarras, B.C. Public Service Agency deputy who will now be part of the investigation of this incident, met with deputy health minister Graham Whitmarsh in the weeks leading up to the suspensions, firings and leaked allegations.

“Last week, a brave plea made by Linda Kayfish forced the B.C. Liberals to apologize and announce a review. But the parameters of this review will not allow for justice to be done for these researchers and their families,” said Horgan.

“They contain no mention of accountability and no mention of possible consequences for anyone, and they specifically instruct investigators to not look at what happened in the 24 months after the firings.”

In the legislature, New Democrats demanded that investigators be given each and every document that was before cabinet that discusses the firings, either before or after the firings occurred.