RM of Meadow Lake appeals court ruling
by Phil Ambroziak
Gina Bernier can’t wait to get back to work.
And, if it weren’t for an appeal filed by the Rural Municipality of Meadow Lake, she would be doing just that right about now. The appeal, however, has resulted in the yearlong court process continuing, something Bernier thought would be all over July 11 when a ruling was made in her favour stating she was to be reinstated as RM administrator.
“I was let go last year,” Bernier said. “It was Aug. 15. How can you forget a day like that? It was quite unexpected and the first time in my life someone has ever treated me this way.”
Although she would not provide many details because of the sensitive nature of the case, as well as the fact it is still before the courts, Bernier said the entire issue stemmed from a harassment concern she voiced through an occupational health and safety claim.
“(The concern) resulted in me taking stress leave,” Bernier said. “When I returned, council told me I was fired. Occupational health and safety did investigate and determined it was not a legal firing. The RM had no just cause, so they were told they had to reinstate me.”
Andrea Dunkle, the provincial occupational health officer who investigated the matter, was unavailable to provide further insight into the original ruling, but because the RM has decided to appeal the decision, the entire matter remains up in the air.
Bernier served as administrator of the RM for close to 10 years and has worked in similar roles since 1992.
“I’ve been around long enough to have learned quite a bit,” she said. “The administrator job is not one you can just hire someone off the street to fill. You need someone with experience and with the proper knowledge.”
If the RM’s appeal is unsuccessful and Bernier is asked to return to the role of administrator (a job currently held by Claire Elliott), she said there would be no hesitation on her part.
“Yes, I would return,” she said. “I love my job.”
RM Reeve John Lawson was contacted, but said there was not much he could say about the issue right now because the appeal process is ongoing.
“I have no idea when it will finally be settled, but I’m told it will happen some time in the next year,” Lawson said. “It can be a lengthy process, just as this entire process has been quite lengthy from the beginning.”