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Alberta's Former Medical Examiner Sues Province

February 8, 2015 permalink

Doctor Anny Sauvageau left the office of Alberta's chief medical examiner in January when her contract was not renewed. She has just filed suit against the province for wrongful dismissal. She makes several claims alleging that political interference prevented her from functioning in her job. So far the press has mentioned no connection with foster deaths. This article is posted here just in case that issue comes up in the future.



Alleging political interference, former chief medical examiner files $5.15-million lawsuit against Alberta’s justice minister

Four civil servants also named

Anny Sauvageau
Dr. Anny Sauvageau, Alberta’s former chief medical examiner, has filed a lawsuit that accuses the province of widespread political interference in her duties.
Photograph by: Shaughn Butts , Edmonton Journal File

EDMONTON - 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 top forensic pathologist.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Sauvageau 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.

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

Prentice said Thursday Sauvageau outlined her concerns in writing shortly after he became premier. He then forwarded those concerns to Denis for review.

“I did not think it was appropriate for me to be involved in that. I asked the Attorney General to look at it, examine it closely and make sure that it was handled in an appropriate manner, and my understanding is that is exactly what has been happening,” Prentice said by phone from New York.

Sauvageau 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 she was under “intense pressure” to approve amended body transportation contracts to appease the Alberta Funeral Services Association and “the rural vote.” In the lawsuit she says she was intentionally excluded from discussions about body transportation services — which had a direct impact on her office — and was opposed to the changes because it would mean 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; and funeral homes sending the bill for body transportation to both the family of the deceased and the office of the chief medical examiner.

Source: Edmonton Journal

Addendum: Here is the statement of claim (pdf).

Source: David Swann