A lawsuit by a former Kwantlen Polytechnic University employee alleging harassment and bullying at her past workplace has the NDP wondering what current advanced-education minister Amrik Virk might have known during his time at the institution.
The suit was filed by former employee Sandra Kuzyk, who claims that she was wrongfully terminated after being on the receiving end of numerous harassment and bullying incidents perpetrated by then-interim president John McKendry.
In her suit, Kuzyk alleges that McKendry "yelled, berated, and otherwise terrorized, threatened, abused and harassed" Kuzyk and other university employees during his time at the helm, and attempts to have any remediation were rebuffed by the school.
Virk, the MLA for Surrey-Tynehead, sat on the board of governors during the time of the alleged harassment period and The Province recently obtained an email indicating Virk may have been involved in talks regarding the matter during his time at the University.
Following this information, the NDP's advanced education critic, David Eby, is calling on Virk to detail what he was aware of at the time, or step away from his ministry position.
"Obviously there is a lot of uncertainty right now because all there is are the court proceedings and this email so we don't know exactly what happened," said Eby. "So what we're asking is that the minister explain what his involvement was with this case, if any, and whether or not...he's going to be involved with this litigation. If he is, he's going to be in a perceived conflict of interest with his role as minister of (advanced) education."
When reached fo a comment, Virk said, "Given that this is a civil case between a former employee and Kwantlen Polytechnic University, it would be absolutely inappropriate to offer comment at this time. There is a legal process in place that must be respected."
Eby, on the other hand, doesn't buy Virk's excuse.
"Just saying 'I don't want to say anything about whether or not I may be involved,' leaves all kinds of speculation open and all kinds of problems," said Eby. "For example, if he decides to cut the budget for Kwantlen, or decides to give them a new program, people might ask if this has something to do with the litigation. So he needs to end the speculation about being clear about what, if any, involvement in this case he might have had.
"That's all we're asking for him to do and if he can't or won't do that then both he and the premier need to look at if he can continue in his role of being responsible for Kwantlen."
-With a file from Michael Smyth
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