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Family of fired health worker who committed suicide renew call for public inquiry

06/15/2015 11:23 EDT | Updated 06/15/2016 05:59 EDT
The family of fired B.C. health worker Roderick MacIsaac, who committed suicide in January 2013, is renewing their call for a public inquiry into why he and seven health workers were fired by the provincial government.

In September 2012 MacIsaac was a PhD student working on a review of the province's smoking-cessation program, but was fired three days before finishing his term for allegedly improperly accessing government data.

A coroner's report said that he had been experiencing significant stress related to occupational and academic matters in his life. It ruled his death a suicide. 

Documents released earlier this month 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. 

The government has since admitted it was a "regrettable mistake," but MacIsaac's sister, Linda Kayfish, wants answers.

On the Coast host Kirk Williams spoke to Kayfish on Monday.

What was your reaction when you first heard there was no RCMP investigation?

It's disappointing. It's a slap in the face, like I should have done more to see if I could get more answers, to find out what was going on, what had caused my brother so much stress. It leaves me dumbfounded that two-and-a-half years later we can find out there was no RCMP investigation. [Then-Health Minister] Margaret MacDiarmid got up and said there had been one started. Then they got up in January when they found my brother's body and they said there was a police investigation going on then. When I came last October to Victoria they could have said there was no police investigation at the time because it had already been cancelled by the RCMP themselves. They didn't come forward with that information.

What answers are you still looking to find?

Why? Who? How come? Nothing has been answered. I have more questions today. How  could they have said there was an RCMP investigation when there wasn't?  Frankly, the people of B.C. have already paid a lot of money for this and they got nothing.

Did your brother tell you why he was fired?

I would have to say yes. My brother was a number and facts person. When we talked, he had little doubt that this was something to do with them trying to get rid of or cripple the therapeutics initiative. These are just researchers trying to do their work and they had hoops and loops to go through to gain access, to use data. That's what researchers do and they are going to look at each other's work and scrutinize it. 

What impact did the firing have on your brother?

It destroyed him because he couldn't continue with his PhD subject. He actually went to the university and withdrew from the program because he knew he would not be able to focus on that. And I'm pretty sure he had expected there to be an RCMP investigation, that he would at least be able to get to tell his side.

Health Minister Terry Lake says the B.C. government has already apologized to your family and people should be careful to draw lines between your brother's suicide and his firing...

I have to accept that yes, they apologized. But I don't think there has been answers as to why this happened. Yes, this devastated my brother. It was frustrating. The people were told they couldn't talk to one another ... which was not really a legal obligation, it was more of an intimidation tactic.

What would you like to see next?

I would like to see some honest answers. We need to find out why this happened, why it was done like this. I don't see why they needed to do this so publicly. For instance, my brother's firing letter was handed to him in the moment that they were making the press release. These people weren't given a chance to rebut the charges brought against them and they had been told they'd be able to come back and talk about this once they were suspended and that was not facilitated.

I got no explanation. I guess it comes down to 'Well we made a mistake, we're sorry, here's your money, now it's over and done with, goodbye.'

To hear the full inteview with Linda Kayfish, listen to the audio labelled Harold Roderick MacIsaac family speaks out.

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