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Fired B.C. health researcher Roderick MacIssac's family claims coroners service deleted his suicide note

07/07/2015 09:07 EDT | Updated 07/07/2016 05:59 EDT
The sister of a health researcher who died by suicide after he was fired by the B.C. government is accusing the province's coroners service of deleting what is believed to be his suicide note.

Roderick MacIsaac took his own life in January 2013. He was one of eight workers who were fired in September 2012 for allegedly improperly accessing government data.

Since then, the government has apologized for the firings. It has admitted that most of them were a mistake, and that a government review into the allegations against the workers was flawed.

MacIsaac's sister, Linda Kayfish, as well as the seven health workers, have been calling for a public inquiry into the firings.

In a letter to Premier Christy Clark, Kayfish claims the B.C. Coroners Service took her dead brother's laptop as part of their investigation, and then returned it nine months later with a document deleted from it.

"I had hoped, you know, it was some explanation to me, his family, for his actions, but I was not privy to that information for several months in any form," Kayfish told On the Coast's Stephen Quinn.

Final words were deleted

In her letter, Kayfish says she was made aware of "the final note" when the laptop was taken by the B.C. Coroners Service. But when she asked about it, she was told the contents of the document couldn't be revealed until the investigation was over.

Kayfish persisted, and at one point, someone at the coroners service read the document to her over the phone. However, pseudonyms were used in lieu of real names when the note was read to her, she said.  

In October 2013, the laptop was finally released back to the family and Kayfish says the note was deleted from the computer.

"Imagine our disappointment," Kayfish wrote. "A man's last words, meant to be read by family and friends regarding his abrupt departure were no longer available."

Kayfish says she and her family managed to recover the document, though she refused to disclose its full contents.

"He was talking about the investigation, that he didn't feel that it was followed," she told On the Coast.

"He didn't feel it was right."

Public inquiry needed

In her letter, Kayfish says she does not dispute the coroner's right to access the laptop as part of the investigation.

However, once the probe was finished, "the private writings, thoughts and ideas of my brother, whether or not they concerned his associates or government officials belonged to his estate," she wrote.

Kayfish is once again calling for a public inquiry. However, Health Minister Terry Lake and Premier Christy Clark have so far refused the call.

Instead, they have called for a bipartisan committee to meet to refer the issue to the ombudsman so that he can do an investigation.

We deleted nothing: coroner

The B.C. Coroners Service refutes any suggestion that it deleted any material from MacIsaac's laptop.

"At no time did anyone from the B.C. Coroners Service have access to the contents of Mr. MacIsaac's laptop in electronic format," said regional coroner Matt Brown in a written statement on Tuesday.

Brown says the coroners service took MacIsaac's laptop the day after his death was reported in January 2013. However, the computer was password protected, so the laptop was handed over to the police.

The police found a document written by MacIsaac and gave the coroners service a printed version only, said Brown. 

In October 2013, the coroners service said it retrieved the laptop from the police after it had completed their examination and gave the laptop back to MacIsaac's family.

"The coroner did not access the laptop once it was received back from the police," Brown said. "Checks with the police have confirmed they deleted nothing from the laptop."

Read Kayfish's letter to Premier Christy Clark

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