What follows is the letter of complaint to the Office of the New Brunswick Ombudsman which was sent to the Ombudsman on August 15. We are meeting with the Ombudsman in Fredericton at 1 pm on Tuesday, August 23.
August 15, 2011
Office of the Ombudsman
P. O. Box 6000
548 York Street
Dear Mr. Levert:
RE: DREAM STREET PICTURES MOVIE "THE PHANTOMS"
We are writing to ask the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate our complaint against John McLaughlin, District 15 Superintendent and Hon. Jody Carr, Minister of Education, under Section 21(1)(a)(ii), (iv), (v), (vi) and 21(b)(ii) and (iii) of the Ombudsmans Act as found on http://www.gnb.ca/0062/PDF-acts/o-05.pdf
We believe that a decision by Mr. McLaughlin to allow Dream Street Pictures to film the made-for-television movie "The Phantoms" on the Bathurst High School is in contravention of the Act, particularly, Section 21 (1) (a) and (b) as noted below:
21(1)(a) a decision, recommendation, act or omission or procedure used that was the subject matter of the investigation
(ii) unreasonable, unjust, oppressive or improperly discriminatory,
(iv) based in whole or in part on a mistake of law or fact or on irrelevant grounds or considerations,
(v) related to the application of arbitrary, unreasonable or unfair procedures, or
(vi) otherwise wrong,
(b) in doing or omitting an act or in making or acting on a decision or recommendation, an authority (ii) failed to give adequate and appropriate reasons in relation to the nature of the matter, or (iii) was negligent or acted improperly
What follows are the reasons why we believe the decision to allow Dream Street Pictures to film at Bathurst High School is in violation of Section 21(a) and (b) of the Ombudsmans Act.
21(1)(a)(ii) unreasonable, unjust, oppressive or improperly discriminatory,
21(1)(a)(vi) otherwise wrong,
We believe that the decision to allow Dream Street Pictures to film on Bathurst High School property was unreasonable, unjust and oppressive and otherwise wrong because it amounts to forcing the victims' parents to relive the tragedy of their sons' deaths all over again as the film crew descends on our small city in November. This in spite of the fact that the majority of parents have made it clear that they are against this film and they do not want to see it made in Bathurst or anywhere, especially at tax-payer's expense.
21(1)(a)(iv) based in whole or in part on a mistake of law or fact or on irrelevant grounds or considerations,
We believe that the Superintendent and the Department of Education decided long in advance that the protests of parents were irrelevent and that the film was going to go forward no matter what the public outcry. The proof is that the feelings of victims' parents and families were not considered whatsoever in the negotiations leading up to the film's announcement to the media on July 22. The so-called "consultation" with parents was a farce, lasting only one week from the date Mr. McLaughlin received a letter (Click here to read letter) from Isabelle Hains, asking him to cancel the proposed filmming at Bathurst High, until the date a decision was made on August 5, 2011. We believe that if that letter of complaint had not been sent to Mr. McLaughlin, the roll out of the film would have proceeded as scheduled, with no consideration given to the victims' parents or families at all.
21(b) (iii) was negligent or acted improperly
We believe that the District Superintendent and the Department of Education acted improperly by permitting Dream Street Productions to film on Bathurst High School property knowing full well there would be an outcry from the parents of the victims of the Boys in Red Tragedy. We believe the evidence from our August 5, 2011 Right to Information request will show they did not care what the victims' parents or families thought because they were all motivated by the potential of the "feel good" story line of the movie.
We believe the script calls for actors to play the roles of several key characters in the Boys in Red story, possibly including Mr. McLaughlin as well as former BHS Principal Colleen Ramsay and former BHS Vice-Principal Don MacKay (who, coincidentally, were the President and Vice-President of Bathurst Van Inc. - the for-profit company which owned the 15- passenger van in which the Boys in Red were killed) and other government employees whose role in the Bathurst tragedy was revealed in the July 2008 Department of Transport Collision Investigation, the RCMP Report of November 2008, and the May 2009 Coroners' Inquest. Other government employees, including current teachers of District 15, may also have a role in this film.
We believe Mr. McLaughlin acted improperly because he is in a conflict of interest and should have been removed from the role of decision maker for this film. He is too deeply connected to every part of this story.
21(1)(a)(v) related to the application of arbitrary, unreasonable or unfair procedures, or
We believe Mr. McLaughlin and / or his representative Darren Oakes used arbitrary, unreasonable and unfair procedures in conducting a "consultation" that lasted eight days. We believe they used pressure tactics on parents who were against the film but who could not stand up to the rhetoric that "it was going to happen anyway" and "there is nothing we can do." Believing that they have no say in the matter, parents who are in mourning cannot stand up to this kind of manipulation and will give way rather than put up a struggle.
21(b)(ii) failed to give adequate and appropriate reasons in relation to the nature of the matter
We believe Mr. McLaughlin did not give adequate and appropriate reasons for his decision to allow Dream Street Pictures to film in Bathurst and that he mislead both the parents and the public when he said he consulted with all the stakeholders because he did not contact at least one parent that we know of and he made no attempt to contact other members of the victims' families who would have told him that they too are suffering because of the possibility that this film would be made in Bathurst.
We believe Mr. McLaughlin made no attempt to speak to experts in the field of mourning and social-psychology who would have confirmed that filmming this movie in Bathurst is too soon for the families who are still in mourning.
Since the decision to permit filming at Bathurst High School could not be made without the Minister of Education's approval, both Mr. McLaughlin and the Minister share responsibility for the the decision to allow Dream Street Pictures to film on Bathurst High School property. It should be cancelled according to 21(g), reasons should be given according to 21(h), and that a practice, procedure or course of conduct should be altered according to (i)....
Isabelle Hains and Ana Acevedo