VICTORIA – Goodwill payments of more than $1 million and a university scholarship in the name of a student who died by suicide are among key actions taken by British Columbia’s government after a report on the firings of eight Health Ministry workers, says the province’s ombudsperson.
The report, called “Misfire,” found that seven workers and a contract employee involved in drug policy research were fired in 2012 due to a flawed and rushed investigation. It said they did not deserve the personal, financial and professional harm they suffered.
The government committed to implementing the report’s 41 recommendations following its release in April last year. Ombudsperson Jay Chalke, in an interim progress report Tuesday, said there are four outstanding recommendations and his office is reviewing four others.
“When we look at the degree of implementation, including comparing it to how quickly public bodies have implemented the recommendations from some of our other reports, this level of implementation is very good,” Chalke said in a conference call with reporters.
He said the major completed recommendations include: apologies and goodwill payments to people impacted by the firings, whistleblower protection legislation, a new policy regarding conflict of interest and an independent review of government dismissal policy.
The government contributed $500,000 to create a scholarship in memory of deceased former employee Roderick MacIsaac, who killed himself about four months after he was fired by the Health Ministry, Chalke said.
Chalke said in the “Misfire” report that most of the grounds cited for MacIsaac’s dismissal “were unsupported by the evidence and not true.”
MacIsaac, a university co-op research student, had been accused of jeopardizing privacy and the reputation of the ministry as he and others worked on a drug research program in 2012.
The total amount of payments to affected individuals amounts to $1.16 million, Chalke said.
“In relation to individuals, ex gratia, also known as goodwill payments, were made and both public and private apologies were made,” he said. “These amounts range from $15,000 to $125,000, depending upon the individual involved.”
The remaining outstanding recommendations involve financial impact assessments on disciplined employees who were not fired, union grievances for fired employees, payments to impacted contractors and reconciliation efforts to create a more positive work culture at the ministry, Chalke said.
He said his office will publish a further assessment of the implementation of its recommendations after the government releases its next progress report in April.