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Sister of wrongly fired health worker slams B.C.’s Clark over report response

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark speaks in Vancouver on April 10, 2017.

JIMMY JEONG/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The sister of a British Columbia government health worker who took his own life after being falsely accused of wrongdoing says she hopes Premier Christy Clark's "callous and cynical" response becomes a key issue in the provincial election campaign.

Linda Kayfish commented on Tuesday after last week's release of a report by British Columbia's Office of the Ombudsman that found eight health workers, including her brother Roderick MacIsaac, were wrongly fired in 2012 after allegations of inappropriate conduct involving government drug research.

Ms. Kayfish held a news conference about two hours before Ms. Clark officially launched the election campaign, where the Premier repeated she plays no role in hiring or firing government employees.

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Ms. Kayfish said Ms. Clark's apology to the legislature in 2012 failed to completely clear her brother's name, even though the government was aware the firings were inappropriate.

"You are darn right there was political interference," she said. "Maybe not at the beginning, but it certainly started while Roderick was still alive."

Her brother took his own life about four months after he was fired.

Ms. Kayfish said the handling of the matter has been entirely political from the point in 2012 when the health minister at the time alleged in the legislature that criminal activity was involved and implied the possibility of an RCMP investigation.

"This whole business was just riddled with stink," Ms. Kayfish said.

"The Premier would have us believe this all falls on the head of the Public Service Agency."

Ombudsman Jay Chalke's report said the eight workers were dismissed after a flawed and rushed investigation and didn't deserve the personal, financial and professional harm they suffered. He said the Premier and other officials did not direct the dismissals, but were aware of them.

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Ms. Clark said on Tuesday she sympathized with Ms. Kayfish's grief and is ready to offer an apology in person, but stands by the position of her government and the Ombudsperson that there was no political interference.

"If it would bring Ms. Kayfish some closure, absolutely, I'd be quite happy to repeat the apologies [to her] that the government made on behalf of the civil service in the legislature," Ms. Clark said minutes after calling the election.

A statement from Kayfish's lawyers alleged the government "knowingly subjected [Ms. Kayfish] and the others to needlessly hurtful and alienating treatment."

"It's just not good enough to say that you regret what happened, why don't you say what you did," lawyer Gary Caroline said. "Maybe that way an apology would be heartfelt."

A retired Supreme Court of Canada judge has been appointed by the B.C. government to oversee reparation payments that were recommended in Mr. Chalke's report.

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