ALBERTA JUSTICE: Taxed and Frac’d to death in the Wild Wild West? Dr. Anny Sauvageau, Alberta’s former chief medical examiner, launches $5-million lawsuit against Justice Minister Jonathan Denis, other senior officials

Former chief medical examiner fires back at Alberta Justice in latest lawsuit filing by Mariam Ibahim, March 8, 2015, Edmonton Journal

Former chief medical examiner’s lawsuit ‘groundless, vexatious’: Alberta Justice

The province’s former chief medical examiner fired back at the Alberta government Monday with stunning new allegations in her wrongful-dismissal lawsuit claiming autopsy reports could be changed without her knowledge and firearms that went missing from the office’s evidence room.

In her claim filed Monday in response to the government’s statement of defence, Dr. Anny Sauvageau alleged the case management system used by the chief medical examiner’s office — known as MEDIC — allowed any employee of the office to make changes to case files without tracking who or when the changes were made. She also alleged autopsy reports could be changed without the medical examiner ever knowing, adding both flaws were discovered by the auditing firm Deloitte and have not been changed.

The flaws “had a potentially significant impact on death investigations and the administration of justice,” the filing says. She claims she repeatedly requested funding to update the system, but was told by a senior official in the justice department to “keep it secret.”

She also claimed firearms went missing from the office’s evidence room because of a lack of chain of custody policies and that an employee who worked under her predecessor took a firearm home “for personal use.”

Her latest filing also claims that despite repeatedly raising concerns, a new body-transportation contract signed in March 2014 with the Alberta Funeral Services Association didn’t require criminal record checks. “As a result, several homicide cases had been transported by persons who had criminal records,” her lawsuit states.

She alleges she was told to renegotiate the contract at the minister’s insistence after the Alberta Funeral Services Association objected.

None of the allegations in Sauvageau’s lawsuit has been proven in court.

Sauvageau’s initial lawsuit claimed the province signed the new contract, despite her objections it would cost an additional $3 million over three years, to “appease the rural vote.”

The allegations are the latest in a legal fight between the Alberta government and Sauvageau, who filed last month filed a $5.15-million lawsuit alleging routine political interference in the office of the chief medical examiner. In her lawsuit, naming Justice Minister Jonathan Denis and four of his senior officials, Sauvageau claims her contract wasn’t renewed as punishment for standing up to the political meddling of her office, despite repeated reassurances her job was safe.

Her lawsuit alleges direct interference in the office’s case-of-death procedures, body-viewing policies and her role as Alberta’s chief forensic pathologist.

In its statement of defence filed in response, Alberta Justice called Sauvageau’s claims “groundless and vexatious.”

It says Sauvageau’s contract wasn’t renewed to protect the integrity of the chief medical examiner’s office and alleges she was “obstructionist, confrontational and disrespectful” with members of her staff and the justice department.

It further alleges she was unaccountable, refused to work with other members of her department and “failed to demonstrate the qualities of sound, rational decision-making and responsible leadership” required of the chief medical examiner.

The claims in the statement of defence have not been proven in court.

Sauvageau Reply to Alberta Justice Statement of Defence

Dr. Anny Sauvageau, former chief medical examiner, sues Alberta Justice, Complaints include: dead body put in the open box of a pickup truck by Jennie Russell and Charles Rusnell, February 5, 2015, CBC News
Alberta’s former chief medical examiner has launched a $5-million wrongful dismissal lawsuit against Justice Minister Jonathan Denis and four senior government bureaucrats.

In a statement of claim filed Tuesday, Dr. Anny Sauvageau makes sensational allegations of political interference in the operations of her office.

The most controversial allegation is that Alberta Justice negotiated a costly new body transportation contract without her approval in order to appease the province’s funeral services association and curry political favour in rural ridings.

Sauvageau alleges that Justice officials ignored financial analysis, which found the new contract was not cost effective, as well as a litany of documented complaints about the existing body transportation services.

The complaints included:

A body of a deceased being placed for transportation in the open box of a pickup truck;

Funeral services staff taking pictures of crime scenes for personal collections;

Funeral services staff misrepresenting themselves at scenes as being from the chief medical examiner’s office;

Funeral homes charging both the medical examiner’s office and the deceased’s family for transportation of the same body;

Funeral homes overcharging the medical examiner’s office for body transportation.

Sauvageau also claims in the lawsuit she was told not to fire a member of her staff because the employee might be a relative of then-premier Dave Hancock’s deputy chief of staff.

In September, CBC News obtained documents that showed Sauvageau had repeatedly complained to Alberta Justice deputy minister Tim Grant about what she called “regular political and bureaucratic interference in all aspects of the death investigation system.”

Denis has publicly denied there was evidence to support an investigation into her allegations.

Sauvageau alleges in her lawsuit that senior Alberta Justice officials retaliated by reneging on a promise to renew her contract, then fabricated performance issues to justify their decision. The lawsuit details several promises, both written and verbal, Sauvageau claims were made to her about renewing her contract for a five-year term.

​Sauvageau is seeking a total of $5.15 million in the lawsuit. It names Denis, Justice deputy ministers Tim Grant and Kim Armstrong, and assistant deputy ministers Maryann Everett and Donavon Young.

No statement of defence has been filed and none of the allegations contained in the lawsuit has been proven in court.

Political interference alleged

The lawsuit alleges Sauvageau was under “intense pressure” in 2014 to approve amendments to the body transportation contract, “in order to appease the Alberta Funeral Services Association and ‘the rural vote.’”

Sauvageau says in the lawsuit she opposed the new contract because it was too costly. She claims she pointed out that the chief medical examiner’s office would need to spend an additional $3 million over three years to meet requests made by the funeral services association. 

The lawsuit claims that when Sauvageau objected, Everett told her, “You think too much of the taxpayers.” [Is this why Alberta Health Services, Alberta Environment including when Peter Watson was Deputy Minister, the AER (previously EUB, ERCB), Dept of Energy, Dept of Environment ignore the endless, proven frac harms to air, water, land, health and community? And is this why Alberta Justice intervened against Ernst in her Charter Claim against the AER at Court of Appeals?]

The lawsuit alleges Sauvageau’s concerns were overruled and Alberta Justice prepared the new contract after meetings, from which she was excluded, between the department and the funeral services association.

Sauvageau says in the lawsuit she sent Premier Jim Prentice a briefing note that described her objections to the new contract, laid out the documented problems with the body transportation service, and detailed political interference in the operations of her office. ​ She claims Prentice told her in a Sept. 25, 2014, letter that he would not intervene or meet with her because she had already complained to Alberta’s public interest commissioner about political interference. The next day, the lawsuit claims, Justice deputy minister Tim Grant told Sauvageau her contract would not be renewed. Sauvageau alleges Grant did not provide a reason for the decision.

Staffing decision quashed

The lawsuit alleges Sauvageau was directed not to fire an employee of her office, even though human resources had recommended the employee be fired.

The lawsuit alleges the employee had reported a colleague was going to come into the office with a gun and kill everyone. A subsequent human resources investigation determined the first employee should be fired because the complaint was “malicious.” [Like Mr. Glenn Solomon’s defaming Ernst in his 2012 legal filing in the Ernst vs Encana lawsuit, naming her a terrorist without filing any evidence to prove it?  Justice Wittmann ruled in Sept 2013 that there was no evidence Ernst is a terrorist, but did not punish Mr. Solomon for lying in his legal filing. Ernst’s lawyers believe Mr. Solomon defamed Ernst intentionally to bias the courts and Justices against her and asked for the court to order costs against the AER.  Instead, Justice Wittmann ordered costs against Ernst]

2013 09 19 Justice Neil C Wittmann ERCB AER judged Ernst a terrorist in total absence of evidence still gave ERCB complete immunity even for Charter violation

Slide from Ernst presentations

But the lawsuit claims Everett told Sauvageau that Justice deputy minister Tim Grant “was forbidding the firing of the employee because it was feared she might be a family relative of the deputy chief of staff, operations, for then-premier Hancock, and now Premier Prentice.” 

George Samoil served as Hancock’s deputy chief of staff and holds the same position under Prentice. It is not clear from the lawsuit whether Samoil would have had any knowledge of this alleged interference.

Pressure to view body

As CBC News reported in September, internal documents from the chief medical examiner’s office show that last May, former deputy ministers Peter Watson [Appointed in 2014 as Chair and CEO of the NEB] and Steve MacDonald asked for special treatment by the chief medical examiner’s office in relation to a specific case.

Sauvageau’s lawsuit alleges Watson, “pressured the death investigator to modify the policies and procedures with respect to body viewing,” which she alleges is a violation of the Fatality Inquiries Act.

At the time, Watson was the deputy minister of executive council, the most powerful bureaucrat in the provincial government. He is now chairman of the federal National Energy Board.

The lawsuit alleges Watson called the chief medical examiner’s office on behalf of a close relative of a former cabinet minister.

Sauvageau claims MacDonald, then the deputy minister of advanced education, called to request information on the autopsy findings and to ensure the same body would soon be released to the family.

CBC News has confirmed the deceased was Shazim Khan, a 19-year-old relative of current Service Alberta Minister Stephen Khan. Khan was previously the minister of advanced education. [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

2014: Who will Help Canada? Peter Watson named as new National Energy Board chair and chief executive ]

Alleging political interference, former chief medical examiner files $5.15-million lawsuit against Alberta’s justice minister
by Mariam Ibrahim, February 4, 2015, Edmonton Journal

Dr. Anny Sauvageau, Alberta’s former chief medical examiner, has filed a lawsuit that accuses the province of widespread political interference in her duties.

Alberta’s former chief medical examiner has named Justice Minister Jonathan Denis and four senior civil servants in a $5-million wrongful dismissal lawsuit that makes explosive allegations of political interference.

In a statement of claim filed Tuesday in Edmonton, Dr. Anny Sauvageau alleges she was intimidated and the independence of her office compromised during her tenure as the province’s chief medical examiner.

The 24-page lawsuit claims direct interference with the office’s body-viewing policies, review of cause of death procedures, staffing decisions, and Sauvageau’s role as the province’s senior forensic pathologist. None of the allegations has been proven in court.

She claims in the lawsuit her concerns about the political interference resulted in intimidation and her requests for meetings with both Denis and Premier Jim Prentice went unanswered.

Sauvageau’s contract expired in June 2014, but was extended to January 1, 2015, until new contracts could be finalized. In the lawsuit, she says she was given assurances her contract would be renewed for a five-year term. She claims in the lawsuit the province’s decision not to renew her term “was in direct retaliation and retribution for the concerns (Sauvageau) raised about political interference.”

She is seeking $5.15 million in lost wages and damages in the lawsuit naming Denis, deputy minister of Justice Tim Grant, associate deputy minister and deputy Attorney General Kim Armstrong and assistant deputy ministers Maryann Everett and Donavon Young.

In an email, a spokeswoman for Denis said Sauvageau “was not dismissed.”

“Her contract expired Dec 31, 2014, and no government contractor is entitled to an automatic renewal,” spokeswoman Jessica Jacobs-Mino said. “These are unproven allegations. As they begin a legal action, it is inappropriate to comment further as in general for matters before the courts.”

Sauvageau claims in the lawsuit she was under “intense pressure” to approve amended body transportation contracts to appease the Alberta Funeral Services Association and “the rural vote.” Sauvageau claims she opposed the changes because it would result in the province spending an extra $3 million over a three-year term.

The statement of claim says Sauvageau expressed her concerns in a letter to Prentice on Sept. 23, 2014, in which she outlined complaints her office had received about body transportation services handled by funeral homes.

Among the complaints included in her letter were:

A body transported in the bed of a pickup truck.
Funeral home staff taking photos of crime scenes for personal collections.
Funeral homes sending the bill for body transportation to both the family of the deceased and the office of the chief medical examiner.

The statement of claim says Prentice wrote back to Sauvageau Sept. 25, 2014, saying he wouldn’t meet with her because she had already outlined her concerns to the province’s Public Interest Commissioner.

Sauvageau says in the lawsuit she was informed the following day her contract wouldn’t be renewed.

The lawsuits claims that while the province made public pronouncements of her office’s independence from government, that independence was undermined in private correspondence.

The statement of claim cites several other specific cases of interference in the role of her office, including cases where political staff improperly intervened cases in which they had no direct interest. The lawsuit also claims she was intentionally excluded from discussions that directly involved her office. Statements of defence have not yet been filed. [Emphasis added]

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