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HomeBusinessCOVID Exclusive: Face of B.C. government pandemic battle called herself a “private citizen”

COVID Exclusive: Face of B.C. government pandemic battle called herself a “private citizen”


Bob Mackin

Her face is on the cover. Her name gets top billing. The title is the slogan she repeats at the government press conferences that she is paid to give.

But Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry claimed in internal email that her March 9-published book about her job is separate from her job.

Dr. Bonnie Henry (Russell Books/Instagram)

How is that?

The book, Be Calm, Be Kind, Be Safe: Four Weeks That Shaped a Pandemic [with sister Lynn Henry] was announced in late 2020. Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix were immediately met with questions. Dix said he had “no issues” with her writing the book. Henry pledged to donate an undisclosed amount of the advance payment from her publisher, Allen Lane, to the charity First Book Canada.

In December, filed under the freedom of information law for a draft of the book, Henry’s contract with the publisher and correspondence with the relevant senior government officials who would have given her the green light.

Government staff were quick to claim the records sought were beyond the scope of the freedom of information law.

When they did not elaborate, filed another request.

(BC Gov/FOI)

That yielded copies of Henry’s correspondence with the freedom of information coordinator she manages in the PHO.

On Dec. 22, Michelle Sullivan wrote to Henry: “Please see most recent requests in yellow. Can you confirm whether they relate [to] your duties as an employee or as a private citizen?”

Two minutes later, Henry replied: “Private citizen. It was done entirely on my time off.”

Just over an hour later. “Sorry Bonnie, another one!,” Sullivan wrote.

“As your book was written as a private citizen, this would not be applicable and be outside of the scope of FOIPPA? Please advise.”

“Yes, that is correct,” Henry said.

Henry is officially considered a senior public office holder, at the level of a deputy minister. She is not a private citizen.

Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix (BC Gov)

The code of conduct for B.C.’s 30,000 provincial public servants prohibits the use of confidential information received through employment to gain personally or further any private interest. The same code of conduct states that a conflict of interest arises when an employee uses a position, office, or government affiliation to pursue personal interests or is reasonably perceived by the public to have benefited from information acquired solely from employment in the public service.

In the book, Henry acknowledged the help she received from Dix, her assistant Laurel Thompson, communications contractor Nicola Lambrechts, Ministry of Health strategic communications director Jean-Marc Prevost and staff in the health ministry, government communications office and health emergency management.

The book includes Prevost’s photo of the Henry sisters walking in he halls of the Legislature.

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