Stressed Kwantlen employee kept vomit bucket under desk, email to education minister Amrik Virk detailed

Amrik Virk

File: Minister of Advanced Education Amrik Virk during a break in Vancouver on June 20, 2013. Wayne Leidenfrost/ PNG

MICHAEL SMYTH
THE PROVINCE 

Explain or resign.

That’s the ultimatum from the NDP to Liberal Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk, after The Province obtained an email linking the minister to a workplace-bullying storm rocking Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

Sandra Kuzyk, 52, is suing the university for wrongful dismissal after she was sacked from her job as a long-serving executive assistant in the office of the university president.

Kuzyk alleges she and other Kwantlen staff were repeatedly bullied in 2011 and 2012 by then-interim-president John McKendry, claiming he “yelled, berated and otherwise terrorized, threatened, abused and harassed” her at work.

“He threw various objects, including but not limited to files, documents and binders at the plaintiff and others,” Kuzyk claims in a civil suit filed July 26 in B.C. Supreme Court.

Kuzyk also alleges McKendry pressured her to not co-operate with a 2011 RCMP investigation into a data breach of confidential student records.

None of the allegations has been proven in court and McKendry declined to comment on them, telling Province reporter Glenda Luymes: “I don’t feel I need to defend myself.”

Kuzyk, an executive assistant at the university for 15 years, says she complained about the bullying, but was pressured to keep quiet and was “terminated without cause” on March 27. She is seeking monetary damages.

Now The Province has obtained an email from Kwantlen board of governors chair Gordon Schoberg to current university president Alan Davis that suggests Virk, the rookie advanced-education minister, was aware of the possible harassment crisis.

The email says multiple people reported stories of alleged abuse, and that one worker was so stressed by the incidents that she ­apparently kept a bucket under her desk for vomiting after her interactions with the president. The email added that staff were fearful of addressing the alleged situation because of the potential harm it could cause their careers.

The email was written June 13, 2012, when McKendry’s interim appointment as Kwantlen president was nearing an end and Davis was preparing to take over.

At the time, Amrik Virk was the vice-chair of the university’s board of governors.

“Last night I had Amrik over to the house and we talked this out,” Schoberg wrote to Davis. “We need wisdom in knowing what to do.”

David Eby, the NDP’s advanced-­education critic, said Virk must explain his involvement.

“What did the advanced-education minister know?” Eby asked. “When did he know it? What did he do about it? What recommendations did he make? How did he conduct himself? He needs to clarify this so people can have confidence going forward.”

But Virk, a former RCMP inspector in Surrey first elected for the Liberals in May, is not talking.

“Given that this is a civil case between a former employee and Kwantlen Polytechnic University it would be absolutely inappropriate to offer further comment at this time,” Virk said. “There is a legal process in place that must be respected.”

Not good enough, counters the NDP’s Eby.

“I guess that would be adequate for a private citizen,” Eby said. “But when you’re talking about the advanced-education minister, who will be making decisions in relation to Kwantlen and is required to maintain a relationship with the president’s office there, I think the public is entitled to more of an explanation than that.”

Eby called the allegations in the lawsuit “extremely serious” and said if Virk can’t or won’t explain his involvement he should resign as advanced-education minister.

“There’s a huge risk of a perception of a conflict of interest,” Eby said. “For example, if he were to cut the Kwantlen budget, or give them a big new program, it would invite questions about why that was done.

“If there’s a threat that he could be called in to testify, I think he and the premier have to look seriously at his role as the minister responsible for Kwantlen.”

Schoberg told Province reporter Luymes the Kwantlen board was not involved in the decision to fire Sandra Kuzyk, insisting her harassment claims were properly investigated.

The university, which has yet to file a formal defence in court, did not respond to a request for further comment, while the Ministry of Advanced Education made clear Virk has no intention of quitting. But things could get uncomfortable for Virk if he gets dragged into what appears to be a very messy lawsuit.

msmyth@theprovince.com

twitter.com/mikesmythnews

Related Stories:

Tags: , , , , ,





Featured

Riders were left stranded after Expo and Millennium lines of the SkyTrain stopped running in Vancouver on Monday. Arlen Redekop/PNG

Expo and Millennium SkyTrain lines restart after 4.5 hour delay

VANCOUVER DESI UPDATE (5:05 p.m.): The Expo Line has been fixed and crews are conducting a safety sweep. The line is expected to open in segments…
Continue Reading »

A hangman's gallows sits idle at the Benghazi Central Prison on March 1, 2011 on the outskirts of Benghazi, Libya. Inmates broke free of the prison during the uprising a week ago in the city. John Moore/Getty Images

Indian state offers fat pay raise in attempt to attract applicants to jail hangman job

RAMESH BABU HINDUSTAN TIMES The Indian state of Kerala is offering a pay raise worth thousands of dollars in an attempt to attract more men…
Continue Reading »

Ukrainian emergency workers carry a stretcher with a victim's body in a bag through a field at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine Monday, July 21, 2014. AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky

Vancouver’s Malaysian Consulate General holding condolence signing for victims of downed Malaysian Airliner MH17

VANCOUVER DESI The Malaysian Consulate General in Vancouver is holding a condolence signing Monday through Wednesday for the victims and families of those who perished…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

Riders were left stranded after Expo and Millennium lines of the SkyTrain stopped running in Vancouver on Monday. Arlen Redekop/PNG

Expo and Millennium SkyTrain lines restart after 4.5 hour delay

VANCOUVER DESI UPDATE (5:05 p.m.): The Expo Line has been fixed and crews are conducting a safety sweep. The line is expected to open in segments…
Continue Reading »

Ukrainian emergency workers carry a stretcher with a victim's body in a bag through a field at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine Monday, July 21, 2014. AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky

Vancouver’s Malaysian Consulate General holding condolence signing for victims of downed Malaysian Airliner MH17

VANCOUVER DESI The Malaysian Consulate General in Vancouver is holding a condolence signing Monday through Wednesday for the victims and families of those who perished…
Continue Reading »

Narinder Kaur Kalsi, who has been on life support, since a domestic dispute at her Surrey home last week has died. Kalsi was pronounced dead just before 4:30 p.m. Sunday, said police. Her husband Beldev Singh Kalsi was arrested and charged in connection to her death. — Facebook Photo.

Surrey temple president charged with murder as wife dies in hospital after alleged domestic assault

CHERYL CHAN  VANCOUVER DESI The charge against a former Surrey temple president has again been upgraded after his wife, who suffered severe injuries in an…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

Shadab (L) and Sanjana's relationship has finally been accepted by their families and they will be  getting married soon. Gagan Nayar/Hindustan Times Photo

Man in India to marry transgendered woman with both families’ blessings

VANCOUVER DESI After a nine-year relationship filled with “emotional turmoil,” a gay man in India has finally been accepted by his family and allowed to…
Continue Reading »

File photo of a worker in a jungle in Quintana Roo State, Mexico. A baby girl was found abandoned in a jungle in India. Pedro PARDO/AFP/Getty Images

Abandoned eight-month-old in India makes incredible survival in remote jungle area

CEN NEWS A group of Indian lumberjacks were shocked to find a baby girl in a remote jungle area after she had apparently been abandoned…
Continue Reading »

A screen grab of Google Maps shows the northern Indian city of Bareilly, in which Bargauna village is located, where a mother was burnt alive when she confronted burglars in her home. Screengrab/Google Maps

Mom in India burnt alive by burglars in front of five-year-old daughter

CEN NEWS Indian woman Raaka Tamasi, 30, who apparently disturbed burglars that had broken into her house in the village of Bargauna in the northern…
Continue Reading »

courtroom drama

A different kind of courtroom drama: Woman gives birth to baby girl in witness room

IANS London – A heavily-pregnant woman gave birth to a baby girl in a court in Britain after going into labour in the witness room,…
Continue Reading »

Desi stylist and wedding planner

Vancouver woman aghast when only one man among 100 shoppers at Metrotown tried to help when her purse was stolen

SUSAN LAZARUK VANCOUVER DESI Is chivalry dead? A woman whose purse was snatched from the busy food court at Metrotown was dismayed that none of…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

basu

Bollywood stars outshine fashion at India Couture Week 2014 (w/ gallery)

NIVEDITA IANS New Delhi  – Design esthetics and creativity may have impressed fashion patrons at the just concluded Shree Raj Mahal Jewellers India Couture Week…
Continue Reading »

JEAN CHRISTOPHE MAGNENET/AFP/Getty Images

Sonam Kapoor unveils Khoobsurat trailer (w/ video)

IANS Mumbai — Actress Sonam Kapoor Monday unveiled the trailer of her upcoming film Khoobsurat, and said the film’s producer and director have “exposed me…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood actor and activist

Aamir Khan’s daughter organizes charity celebrity football match

IANS Mumbai  – Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan’s daughter Ira organized a celebrity football match to raise funds for an animal welfare shelter. The charity match…
Continue Reading »