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St. Anthony mayor doubles down on comments over doctor’s dismissal

St. Anthony Mayor Ernest Simms said he won't apologize for comments he made in the wake of Labrador-Grenfell Health's termination without cause of Dr. Alexis Caro-Guzman.
St. Anthony Mayor Ernest Simms said he won't apologize for comments he made in the wake of Labrador-Grenfell Health's termination without cause of Dr. Alexis Caro-Guzman.

St. Anthony, NL - St. Anthony Mayor Ernest Simms is unapologetic about comments he made regarding Dr. Alexis Caro-Guzman’s termination of employment with Labrador-Grenfell Health (LGH).

During St. Anthony council’s meeting on Tuesday, Simms addressed a letter sent to him by David E. Newman, a doctor who works locums with LGH.

The letter criticized Simms’ decision to speak with the media regarding Caro-Guzman’s dismissal earlier this month. Simms had been critical of the decision to terminate the doctor without any cause provided.

“It is surprising, and unfortunate, that you have chosen to publicly weigh in on a personnel issue involving an individual and a business in the community you represent, siding with one party against the other when you can know at most only half the story,” Newman’s letter states.

“As a public servant, part of your job is to fairly and impartially support your constituency, businesses and individuals alike.”

Newman called the mayor’s public statements “irresponsible” before requesting a public apology from Simms to the administration of LGH.

The letter was printed under the LGH logo.

Discussing the letter and Caro-Guzman’s termination with council, Simms quickly made it clear that no such apology was on the way.

“I don’t know why he wrote this letter telling me what my job is because I don’t need him to do that,” said Simms.

“I’ve been around here long enough to know what my job is and my job is to represent the community … We have had over the years a very difficult time getting doctors here. We’ve had instances where we’ve had two or three general practitioners here at the most. Based on that, I felt that I should say something to try to protect the positions that were here.

“I don’t apologize for doing something right.”

Instead, Simms doubled down on his criticism.

He noted that any worker contracted by the provincial government has a clause built into their contract stating they can be dismissed without cause. He understands that this is a recent development.

Simms sees this type of contract as an infringement of a worker’s rights.

“I could not believe that,” said Simms. “I don’t believe we should be looking at and even allowing in our society this type of contract – if that’s what you can call it – to even exist.”

Caro-Guzman believes he was dismissed for speaking his mind and being vocal and critical on certain issues regarding LGH.

According to Simms, this type of contract gives the employer the discretion to dismiss an employee like Caro-Guzman for any reason, including exercising his right to freedom of speech.

Simms feels that limits the freedom of employees to speak their minds and advocate for change.

“We’re to the point where if you speak your mind, you can forget it,” he said. “If you speak for change, you can forget that too. If you speak to try to improve things, you can forget that too. Because, basically, you’re not allowed to speak.”

Given that freedom of speech is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Simms sees this type of contract as an infringement of the Charter.

“There’s no way you can sign away your Charter of Rights, and I don’t care how people try to interpret it. That’s what’s happening,” he said.

Stephen.Roberts@saltwire.com

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