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Fired health worker says public inquiry is necessary to get closure

06/09/2015 12:48 EDT | Updated 06/08/2016 05:59 EDT
One of the seven Ministry of health researchers who was fired 2012 say he supports the idea of a public inquiry into why the B.C. government stonewalled the criminal investigation of their dismissal. 

The documents released last week show the RCMP were never given evidence by the government to investigate the wrongdoing which was used to justify the firings, despite the government telling the public an investigation was ongoing. 

Seven employees were fired and one of the researchers, UVic co-op student Harold Roderick MacIsaac, was found to have committed suicide.

Now, the NDP are pushing for a public inquiry — an idea Ron Mattson says is necessary for closure. 

He was the project manager for the Alzheimer Drug Therapy Initiative and sued the government over his dismissal. Last year, the two parties settled out of court. On Monday Mattson spoke to On the Coast host Kirk Williams about how these false accusations affected his life.

Take us back to 2012. Tell us what you did and what you believed you had done wrong at the time.
I never really was advised what I did that was wrong. I know when I was first suspended I got in touch with a lawyer and I spent a lot of time writing down everything I could have possibly done wrong, which we went through ... there was certainly nothing that was a dismissible offense.

Did any of your superiors explain what they thought you had done wrong?
No. When it first started there was a promise in terms of the whole review process, that I was to participate and before they made any determination I was to get a copy of the report of their decisions and recommendations to be able to provide comments. That never happened. I was just simply brought into a meeting, the associate deputy minister read a letter saying basically I was fired with cause. They passed me the letter and left the room.

Within a matter of days the government says there is a police investigation. What went through your mind at that point?
Sort of in a state of shock after being fired from a position that I worked really hard at for 28 years. We were doing good work, I thought, and certainly my boss thought that everything was going fine. Then to find that there was a press conference held by one of the most respected people in the province, the Minister of Health, advising of this horrible wrongdoing and that there was going to be a criminal investigation into the people who were fired ...

What was it like to have that exposure?
It was an amazing amount of pressure. First, the embarrassment of being fired, that's hard enough to take. But then for everyone to know and people looking at you askew wondering what you did because there is a basic perception by the public that the government of the province wouldn't undertake the actions they did unless there were good reasons because it is such an extreme action. 

How did you cope?
There were times I didn't cope that well. There were two occasions where my physician prescribed antidepressants. I was depressed and had a horrible amount of stress. I was fortunate enough to have a good support system behind me. Family, friends and an understanding wife so I was able to overcome that.

What did you take from Premier Clark's apology?
Initially the province announced my firing was a regrettable mistake. To be honest I probably thought that was the closest thing we'd get from a heartfelt apology from the government. In fact from discussions from others, they don't think they've received an apology at this point.

We now know there was never a criminal investigation. How do you come to terms with that?
There's a feeling of relief that it's been finally made public that there was never any wrongdoings or information sent to the RCMP and so that's a bit of a weight off [my] shoulders. Even though there was a settlement, telling the public there was a police investigation ... you are still tainted. It was done to support the firings and basically we all felt it was done to humiliate us and beat us down, otherwise why would you make up a story like that. We are angry.

What do you need to fix that anger?
We want to find out who is responsible and we want those responsible to have to pay some sort of consequence and probably the only way to do that is if there is a formal public inquiry. It is certainly something that that those who were directly involved need before there can be closure.

To hear the full interview, listen to the audio labelled Fired health worker speaks out.

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