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Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

Disclosure of Information FIPPA Section 25

Statement from the Chair of TRU’s Board of Governors Marilyn McLean regarding public interest disclosure of full report into the investigation of allegations of wrongdoing against two senior administrators

March 25, 2024

With the approval of the chair of the Board of Governors, TRU is releasing the complete findings of a report prepared by independent investigators into allegations of misconduct against two senior administrators, based on the conclusion this disclosure is now clearly in the public interest and will help preserve confidence in the university’s governance processes. This disclosure is made under Section 25(1)(b) of B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

In February 2021, TRU’s board received a complaint from several anonymous parties about the workplace conduct of two senior university administrators. In consultation with the complainants, TRU committed to conducting a comprehensive investigation.

In undertaking a lengthy and expensive arms-length investigation, the board aimed to demonstrate that public institutions, and universities in particular, can be trusted to resolve allegations of toxic culture, harassment, and bullying.

The independent investigation, which took over a year to complete, examined 55 allegations. Many existing and former employees were interviewed, and each allegation was carefully considered and addressed in an investigation report over 500 pages long. The cost of this investigation exceeded $1 million. The investigators submitted a final report in December 2022. It cleared one of the administrators of wrongdoing and found 10 instances of misconduct against the other.

Throughout the investigation, the allegations and investigation were the subject of widespread local public and media commentary and debate, including concerns about the objectivity and legitimacy of the investigation and whether the complaints and allegations indicate systemic workplace issues with bullying, harassment, and discrimination at TRU.

Before the investigation began, TRU committed to the community to remain transparent throughout the process. Board Chair Marilyn McLean promised the board would release all it could legally share about the investigation and the report's findings.

In January 2023, TRU shared portions of the investigation’s final report with the parties involved and the community. Based on statutory obligations to protect personal privacy under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, TRU determined that it could not disclose the entirety of the report but shared as much as was deemed possible at the time to ensure that the public could be satisfied that the investigation was objective, thorough and fair.

Despite this release of information, which included news releases, written and verbal statements, FAQs, and a website detailing the history and breadth of the investigatory process, public apprehension about the investigation, the report, and the findings remains.

Questions, speculation, discussions and cynicism about the complaints and the investigation continue to surface within the local community. It has created a persistent atmosphere that has affected interpersonal dynamics (including incidents leading to the filing of complaints) and driven discussion about internal culture, suggesting many people continue to mistrust the investigation, the final report, and its findings.

Also, it appears that the results of the independent investigation have not been entirely accepted or understood, as information that is circulating publicly does not accurately describe the allegations or reveal the outcomes of the investigation process.

For example, a business case study published in February 2024 and currently being shared at TRU contains significant omissions in this regard. This business case study, written by three faculty members (two of whom teach at TRU) and marketed by Western University as part of its Ivey School of Business’s library of case studies, is sharing the original allegations made in the media without mention of the investigation’s outcome and findings.

While the writing and teaching of this case are matters of academic freedom, academic freedom does not restrict TRU’s obligation to ensure that a complete account of the investigation and its outcomes are also on the public record. It is clear that TRU’s prior release of the extensively redacted report was insufficient to answer suspicions created by the allegations or to generate the trust in governance processes required to operate a public institution effectively in the public interest.

Media reporting regarding the investigation's aftermath remains consistent, with stories published via traditional and digital channels at every new opportunity. Lastly, a TRU Faculty of Law member has initiated a complaint with B.C.’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, asking that TRU release the full report to assist the public in understanding the findings.

TRU takes seriously its commitment to provide faculty, staff, administrators, and students access to a safe, healthy, and discrimination-free environment. TRU also takes its responsibility to protect individuals’ privacy seriously.

However, the lack of full transparency about the report and investigation makes it difficult to engage in community discourse about these events and pathways forward. TRU believes these issues can be mitigated if the full report and findings are on the public record. This would lead to a more thorough, lasting understanding of the investigation and a better appreciation of the allegations and the findings made in relation to them. This public understanding would help build and maintain public confidence in TRU’s governance processes.

Section 25(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act directs public bodies, including universities, to disclose to the public or an affected group of people “without delay” any information that is “clearly in the public interest.” Matters clearly in the public interest include public finance and financial issues and matters relating to proper public administration and governance. General factors that are relevant to this decision-making include whether the disclosure would:

  • serve to educate the public;
  • contribute in a substantive way to the body of information that is already available;
  • enable or facilitate the expression of public opinion or enable the public to make informed political decisions; and
  • contribute to holding a public body accountable for its actions and decisions.

In this case, specific factors that TRU must also carefully consider when assessing whether any further disclosure meets the threshold under Section 25(1)(b) include:

  • the fact that the allegations (on their face) suggest possible systemic issues;
  • the importance of the university’s duty to provide a workplace free of bullying, harassment and discrimination;
  • the university’s accountability to the community and allegations that the investigation was not objective or trustworthy;
  • whether the public interest remains compelling given the passage of time;
  • the extent to which disclosure would contribute anything new to public understanding, given the extent of the disclosures that have already taken place; and
  • the privacy interests at stake and the impact of disclosure on affected third parties, which again must be viewed in relation to the public disclosures that have already taken place.

Considering all these factors, TRU has decided it is now clearly in the public interest that the university cease withholding the full report and make it available to the public. TRU has directed that the names and identifiers (such as role titles) of complainants and witnesses be redacted unless individuals have provided prior consent for the release of their personal information. This represents the degree of confidentiality that is reasonably practical under today’s circumstances and consistent with the public interest.

The report's full findings are now available to the public to enable members of the public to assess for themselves the board’s management of the whistle-blow complaint and investigation and the investigation itself.

TRU has been mindful of the importance of confidentiality from the beginning. Workplace investigations and whistle-blow investigations (of which this was one) are usually confidential. At the investigation's outset, the board committed to complainants “to maintain confidentiality to the extent reasonably possible.”

The investigators advised all participants, including complainants, respondents, and administrators, of the importance of confidentiality. Following this, one or more of the complainants took the complaints to the media in November 2021, where they were widely reported, creating an atmosphere in which the maintenance of confidentiality became much more difficult.

The fact that the allegations were so widely shared and continue to be even in 2024 is an important factor in the determination that the full report, including discussion of confidential matters, must now be released in the public interest.

TRU is not making this disclosure to protect or enhance the institution’s reputation. If that were the motivation, the full report would have been released more than a year ago when there was considerable public and media commentary.

TRU is disclosing this report now because circumstances have changed, and it is clearly in the public interest, as defined by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, for all interested individuals to access the most detailed information about what was investigated and what was found.

Download the report

The report can be downloaded here.

NOTE — Individuals are advised that this report contains language, allegations, and descriptions of events that some may find offensive or disturbing. The report is a record of the entire investigation, including incidents and experiences shared by the individuals involved. Some content or language is graphic or explicit and could be insulting or demeaning to specific individuals or groups. The board believes in the importance of sharing this information for transparency; however, reader discretion is advised.

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