Former government staffer accuses Liberals of deleting emails related to Highway of Tears

The B.C. NDP is calling for an investigation of missing records they have been seeking on community meetings along Highway 16.

The B.C. NDP is calling for an investigation of missing records they have been seeking on community meetings along Highway 16 in northern B.C.

NDP MLAs produced letters from a former assistant to Transportation Minister Todd Stone, who says a supervisor deleted emails from his computer to keep them from being considered for a freedom of information (FOI) request.

A history of missing and murdered women along the remote highway from Prince George to Prince Rupert led to a series of community meetings last year. Opposition critics have been demanding records from the meetings, and calling for additional bus service along the highway to keep vulnerable people from hitch-hiking.

Former executive assistant Tim Duncan wrote to B.C. Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Dunham Thursday, saying his supervisor told him to delete a dozen of his emails in November 2014 after an FOI request came to the ministry.

“When I hesitated, he took away my keyboard, deleted the emails and returned the keyboard stating, ‘It’s done. Now you don’t have to worry about it any more’,” Duncan wrote to Denham.

Confronted with the letter in question period Thursday, Premier Christy Clark said records should not be deleted once an FOI request is made. Citizens’ Services Minister Amrik Virk said not every email is considered a government record.

Stone said he intends to have a “frank” discussion with his ministerial assistant George Gretes about the accusation that Gretes deleted the emails.

In an email to NDP leader John Horgan’s office, Duncan acknowledged he had no evidence of the incident or the content of the deleted messages. He said he blew the whistle on the Highway 16 incident because his own father was murdered in a domestic incident in 2010, and he believes the families of missing and murdered people “deserve better.”

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice said she was “appalled” when she heard about the allegations.

“I am utterly appalled that the BC Liberals would go to such lengths to hide information about the Highway of Tears. This has huge implications as to the government’s failure to address the real life safety issues for women who are traveling on Highway 16,” Rice stated after question period.

“This blatantly shows how the BC Liberals are disrespecting the memory of each woman who has gone missing or been murdered along the Highway of Tears.”

Duncan was appointed to his job in October 2014. He told the NDP he left “the cesspool that is the B.C. government in March” and reported to Denham that he believes abuse of the FOI process is “widespread and most likely systemic within the Clark government.”

~ With files from Shaun Thomas