VICTORIA – The last of eight health researchers who were wrongfully fired by British Columbia’s government have reached an out-of-court deal, clearing the way for a report that could shed light on the murky fiasco.
Rebecca and William Warburton were among the drug-research workers who were fired in September 2012 amid allegations of inappropriate access to medical records that included possible criminal conduct.
Then-health minister Margaret MacDiarmid said at the time she was “disappointed” and “troubled” and had called in the RCMP about the abuse of drug-research information, including improperly using British Columbians’ personal medical information for research.
Media reports later showed the RCMP never investigated the allegations.
READ MORE: New documents show RCMP never investigated fired health researchers
One of the eight people fired, Roderick MacIsaac, later took his own life. In October 2014, Health Minister Terry Lake admitted the government was “heavy -handed” in firing the University of Victoria co-op student and he apologized for the stress and sadness MacIsaac’s family had endured.
Attorney General and Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said Tuesday the Warburtons had reached an out-of-court settlement with MacDiarmid and the province that will allow for the release of a second report into the firings.
“Obviously anything that the ombudsperson finds, any recommendations he makes, the government will take extremely seriously,” said Anton, declining to further discuss the financial resolution.
It’s unclear when ombudsperson Jay Chalke would release his report. Neither Chalke nor the Warburtons were available for comment by publication.
In a separate statement issued Tuesday, B.C.’s deputy attorney general Richard Fyfe said the province recognizes the investigation into the original allegations was flawed.
Some of those flaws were outlined in a 2014 report written by labour lawyer Marcia McNeil who found the investigation and decision-making process did not follow the Public Service Agency’s model for best practices into allegations and serious misconduct.
She also found that the integrity of the investigation was compromised when members of the ministry participated in the probe. McNeil said the allegations required broader scrutiny and the government should have considered an outside investigator.
Yet, Fyfe also said the Warburtons acknowledged in the settlement that they had breached some rules and procedures.
“The province recognizes that such breaches were motivated by their intention to further the research goals of the Ministry of Health, and not for their own personal gain,” said Fyfe.
Opposition New Democrat Leader John Horgan accused the government in a statement of “misconduct and wrongdoing.”
“We’re a long way from getting any answers as to why this happened, what the total cost will be to taxpayers for all of the legal actions that the government has either initiated or has been brought against them,” he said in a separate interview.
“Three years, a loss of one life, the reputations of professionals besmirched and smeared by their own government and now finally we can say it’s no longer before the courts, but the public still is no further ahead in determining just what in the heck went wrong with the B.C. government and the B.C. Liberals in 2012.”
Horgan said the government must “come clean” and lay out what happened, why it happened, who made the decisions and what the final tab is going to be.
“I expect it’s going to be pretty high,” he said, referring to the undisclosed settlements and legal costs.
In a statement, Warburton said she was looking forward to resuming her work with the provincial government to protect people’s health.
“We have been exonerated and our reputations for acting honourably and in the public interest have been restored. It is clear from both the joint statement and the size of the cash settlement that the government shares our view,” she said.