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Supreme Court of Canada refuses to hear Dr. Kim Barker's appeal

Algoma Public Health's lawyer wants secret forensic report withheld from SooToday for another 30 days
Kim Barker Resignation
Dr. Kim Barker (seated, left) is shown surrounded by concerned staff at her last Algoma Public Health board meeting on January 21, 2015. She resigned as medical officer of health and chief executive officer a couple of hours later. Photo by David Helwig/SooToday.

A four-year fight by Dr. Kim Barker to keep secret a forensic review of her time at Algoma Public Health ended in disappointment today, as Canada's top court refused her final appeal bid.

In Ottawa this morning, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed Dr. Barker's application to appeal a lower court order that an unredacted copy of the KPMG forensic review be turned over to SooToday/Village Media.

Decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada are considered final and binding, but Algoma Public Health advises that its lawyers still want the document held back for another 30 days in case Barker takes the extremely rare step of asking the court to overrule its own decision.

SooToday has been seeking access to the confidential forensic review since May, 2015.

Both Algoma Public Heath and Ontario's information and privacy commissioner sided with SooToday in seeking release of the KPMG report.

Today's decision upholds an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling on Apr. 9 that found any personal privacy interests of Dr. Kim Barker are trumped by the "compelling public interest" in knowing whether a conflict of interest existed when Barker hired Shaun Rootenberg as the health unit's interim chief financial officer in 2013.

Daughter of Canadian cartoonist Ben Wicks, Barker moved to Sault Ste. Marie in August, 2013 to become APH's medical officer of health and chief executive officer.

Rootenberg had previously pleaded guilty to multiple counts of fraud involving more than $2 million and did time at Beaver Creek Institution in Gravenhurst.

Most appeal applications to the Supreme Court of Canada are rejected.

The high court's role is not so much to correct errors made in lower courts, but to consider emerging questions of public importance or significant issues of law.

"The court’s decision whether to grant leave to appeal is based on its assessment of the public importance of the legal issues raised in the case in question," says the Supreme Court of Canada website.

"Of the approximately 600 leave applications submitted each year, only about 80 are granted. The possibility of succeeding in getting an appeal heard is in general remote . . . The court never gives reasons for its decisions," the website states.

Algoma Public Health, Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Christian Provenzano, then-MPP David Orazietti and then-Minister of Health Dr. Eric Hoskins have all also called for the KPMG report, originally commissioned by APH, to be made public.

"Private actions can have tragic public consequences," SooToday said in a 2015 appeal heard by Brian Beamish, Ontario's information and privacy commissioner.

We pointed out that forensic audits were ordered by both the health unit and the Ontario government when Barker resigned in the wake of SooToday's initial reporting about Rootenberg's criminal past.  

 "Algoma Public Health's selection of a consulting company, the subsequent actions of its interim chief financial officer, and the devastating consequences of those actions on the broader community, have been of enormous, perhaps unprecedented, public interest here," we argued.

Those consequences included abandonment of a major redevelopment proposed for the former Gateway site and of a planned medical marijuana grow-op facility, both initiatives involving Rootenberg.

"Further consequences from the APH situation have occurred through the ongoing restructuring of the APH board after four members were asked by Ontario's health minister to resign . . . Please note that two of the four APH directors who were asked by Minister Hoskins to resign remain prominently active in political life," we stated.

When the KPMG report is finally turned over to SooToday, we will review the document with our legal counsel to determine how much of it can be made public on our website.

EDITOR'S NOTE: SooToday does not permit comments on court stories

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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