07/20/2015 06:44 EDT | Updated 07/20/2016 05:59 EDT

B.C. amendment paves way for Ombudsperson to probe health firings

VICTORIA - B.C. Attorney General Suzanne Anton has introduced legislation Monday that gives the province's ombudsperson more powers to investigate the firings of eight health researchers, including one who committed suicide.

Ombudsperson Jay Chalke told a government committee he needs more powers to access data and interview witnesses if he does an investigation into the September 2012 firings.

The Ombudsperson Act amendment is expected to be passed by the legislature this week, providing the ingredients an all-party finance and governance committee requires to appoint Chalke to review the firings.

The Opposition New Democrats, the fired workers and their families have been calling for a public inquiry into the firings, but the government has refused, pushing instead for a review by the ombudsperson.

The Health Ministry announced the firings of the eight workers amid allegations of inappropriate and possible criminal conduct connected to drug research, but charges were never laid and the government later apologized to the workers and their families.

B.C. politicians were recalled to the legislature this month to deal with a multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas project, but the long-running health firings scandal has managed to share the political stage.