Former University of Saskatchewan president Ilene Busch-Vishniac has filed a lawsuit in which she claims Premier Brad Wall, former advanced education minister Rob Norris and university board members all played roles in her termination last year.
In a statement of claim filed Wednesday at Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench, Busch-Vishniac’s lawyer alleges Wall and Norris unlawfully interfered with the decisions of the U of S board and that the board did not follow protocol when it called an emergency meeting last May during which members decided to fire her without cause.
Statements of claim contain allegations which have not been proven in court.
The claim further alleges that “Silence of the Deans,” a document criticizing the university’s controversial TransformUS cost-cutting plan that was publicly authored by ex-public health dean Robert Buckingham, was in fact orchestrated by former university president Peter MacKinnon and his wife, Janice MacKinnon, who is a professor at the university.
The claim says the couple instructed Buckingham on what to write, when to disseminate the document, and to whom he should send it.
When reached by phone Wednesday, both MacKinnons denied the allegations.
“I’m not a party to this lawsuit and I can simply say that the allegation that you refer to is not true,” Peter MacKinnon said.
“It is simply untrue, simply not factually accurate, untrue,” Janice MacKinnon said. “It’s before the courts and the documents will show that it’s simply untrue … it’s in the court, so I don’t really want to say more.”
Busch-Vishniac is seeking $8 million in damages, plus $250,000 for defamation and $250,000 for aggravated, punitive and exemplary damages.
The claim says the former president was “arbitrarily and unlawfully terminated from her position as president,” which has caused “irreparable damage” to her reputation.
Busch-Vishniac has made “extensive efforts” to find work similar to that of university president, but she has been unsuccessful, the claim states.
“She has become effectively unemployable as a senior executive in a university or other setting,” it reads.
Busch-Vishniac was fired by the U of S board of governors without cause on May 21, 2014, after a tumultuous week at the university.