Gayle Duteil. (Black Press files)

BC Nurses Union calls former president’s lawsuit ‘improper’ and ‘inaccurate’

Gayle Duteil was ousted from the union in April

The former president of the B.C. Nurses Union is suing the group after she was ousted from her role.

In statement of claim filed Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court, Gayle Duteil alleges the union breached its own bylaws and the B.C. Human Rights Code when it removed her from her position and the union altogether back in April.

Duteil says her issues first started when she took a medical leave to seek breast cancer treatment in early 2017, shortly after she was re-elected as president.

By mid-2017, she says she was working remotely and looking to fully return to work, but was placed on administrative leave following allegations of misconduct.

At the time, Umar Sheikh, the union’s CEO and executive director, declined to comment on the nature of the allegations but called them “very serious.”

Duteil claims that over the course of the union’s investigation, she was never provided a hearing or a copy of any report and was told by independent investigators that the allegations against her were “largely unsubstantiated.”

She says the allegations are “utterly false, politically motivated and designed to drive me away from an organization I have faithfully served for nearly three decades.”

In a statement emailed to Black Press Media, Duteil’s lawyer, Carman J. Overholt, claims the union falsely accused Duteil of being addicted to alcohol and prescription medications and abusing staff and others in its letter of no confidence, sent last month.

In an interview Tuesday, Sheikh said the lawsuit’s are inaccurate and called it “nothing more than a stunt.”

“We haven’t been served with it. They haven’t even given us a copy,” he told Black Press Media. “We’re very disappointed that [Duteil] is going to the media and the courts.”

He said the union held a full-day hearing with its 500 delegates to present evidence that resulted in the dismissal back in April.

“There is an internal appeal process… she’s chosen not to take advantage of that process,” Sheikh said. Three nurses, picked at random, would conduct an independent review of the allegations.

The suit demands Duteil be reinstated as president, for the union to produce all documents relating to her termination, and damages and costs as the court deems appropriate.

A statement of defense has not been filed. None of the allegations have been proven in court.


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