Fort McMurray hero Darby Allen’s troubled past


A continuous news channel in the background, Liz, five months pregnant at the time, was busy in the kitchen. Before she could even see her face, Liz heard her voice and started to cry.

It brought me back to a time when I was very young, naive and destroyed.


Darby Allen helped evacuate the town of nearly 90,000 residents. For the months and years to come, he will be considered a hero by the media.

Justin Trudeau and Darby Allen amidst the rubble. Everything is burnt around them. They look at the carcass of a car.

Darby Allen was Regional Chief of the Wood Buffalo Fire Department during the 2016 wildfire that threatened Fort McMurray. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the photo pictured along with Darby Allen.

Photo: The Canadian Press

Even before events began in Fort McMurray, Darby Allen was a respected national figure, recognized as a calm, compassionate and courageous leader.

For Liz, this is the man who has tormented her for years.

Liz is a pseudonym given to the 38-year-old woman who alleges that she was sexually assaulted and, with the help of her lawyer, requests a publication ban from the court.

In the early 2000s, she was employed with the City of Calgary Fire Department and was a much older senior officer who sometimes supervised her directly.

In a statement filed in court in 2018, Liz alleges that Darby Allen frequently made sexually explicit comments to her at her workplace.

She also describes there the moments when he would have grabbed her buttocks and breasts, when he would have pressed his erection against her and secretly read his personal emails in a fit of jealousy.

Darby Allen admitted having had verbal and written exchanges unsuitable with Liz, from whom he apologized. However, he denied any physical contact.

No hearing date has yet been set for the trial.

Liz had already complained to Darby Allen, then possibly to other senior firefighters, but for a long time, she said, he seemed unreachable.

He even managed to get promoted despite being caught watching pornography during his shift.

In 2007, Darby Allen was fired for sexual harassment against Liz. Two years later, he was appointed Regional Deputy Chief of the Wood Buffalo Fire Department. He was later promoted to head of the department.

Darby Allen applauds. Behind him people are walking with a banner that says Thank You Alberta.

After the Fort McMurray fire, Darby Allen was hailed as a hero. Darby Allen is here with first responders during the Calgary Stampede parade on July 8, 2016.

Photo: The Canadian Press / Jeff McIntosh

A decade later, in 2017, Darby Allen retired. He now travels the country and is paid to give motivational lectures on the importance of leading with integrity, as well as teaching management at university.

In 2018, the status of hero of Darby Allen pushes Liz to act. She files a complaint against him and the City of Calgary, claiming that the City has failed to provide him with a safe work environment free from abuse and harassment.

I look at his face and while you see a hero, I see a predator.


City knew the problem according to the lawsuit

The prosecution claims that the City of Calgary was aware of Darby Allen’s sexually inappropriate behavior, including viewing pornography at work, but that it did not intervene.

Liz is in a radio studio. Her image is blurred so as not to reveal her identity.

Liz says spring and summer 2016 were tough. She felt like everywhere she looked, Darby Allen was glorified.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Meghan Grant

The conduct alleged against Darby Allen in the motion has not been proven in court, but CBC has corroborated several of the allegations through documents obtained by access to information law and through interviews with three of its former colleagues.

The dozens of documents include several emails, a handwritten note from the City of Calgary’s lawyer, internal communications from the Calgary Fire Department and notes written by former Fire Chief Bruce Burrell.

Although Darby Allen’s name was redacted from several of these documents, two uncensored e-mails written by city lawyer Kim Nutz confirm that he was investigated before being fired for sexually harassing Liz.

I strive to be a better person

In the presentation of his defense, Darby Allen denies all allegations and argues that the file should be rejected since the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta does not have the necessary jurisdiction to hear the case and / or because the prosecution is an abuse of process.

The defense also contends that Liz accepted compensation from the City under his allegations, which would have settled the matter. Liz is said to have signed a document renouncing any action against City employees, including Darby Allen.

Liz claims that she never signed such a document or received any financial or other compensation.

When asked by CBC, Darby Allen’s lawyer was unable to prove the existence of these documents.

Darby Allen is now 61 years old. If he did not accept the CBC interview request, he still sent a statement regarding his actions to the City of Calgary Fire Department.

At that time, I engaged in verbal and written communications that were not appropriate. I am embarrassed by this behavior, I apologize, it was wrong and I am sorry, he writes, noting that these events happened more than a decade ago.

This part of my life is not in line with my values. I have personally improved since that time, and I strive to be a better person.

Darby Allen
Darby Allen speaks into a microphone.

Darby Allen now lectures on how to lead a team with integrity. In this photo, he was speaking at the Farmtech conference in Edmonton on January 29.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Dave Bajer

Allegations of Explicit Commentary and Sexual Touching

In her application, Liz states that the harassment began in 2002 when she was hired by the training department of the City of Calgary fire department where Darby Allen was also employed.

She was a 20-year-old secretary and he was a training officer 25 years her senior. He befriended her and, almost from the start, says Liz, he diverted the conversation to sexual matters.

Liz claims that Darby Allen asked her frequently about her sex life, made sexual advances to her, and told her about her preferences and experiences. She says she felt trapped.

I liked going to work, but I feared my interactions with him.


If I refused to have dinner with him, I was reminded of his position and the fact that he was my superior, she says.

In March 2005, Darby Allen was promoted to the position of deputy chief operating officer, and within a few months Liz was promoted to secretary to the chief operating officer. This meant that she would have repeated contact with Darby Allen, who would become her direct supervisor when the chief operating officer, Gerald Fox, was absent.

The petition claims that the harassment would have increased from 2006, but that Liz was too scared to push Darby Allen or report it to her superiors for fear of losing her job.

According to the lawsuit, Darby Allen would have reserved meeting rooms to take Liz there and describe her in explicit details his alleged sexual experiences, including with other female firefighters.

Liz says he often discussed his sexual past and reportedly commented on his chest and legs.

The harassment alleged against Darby Allen is not just verbal.

On at least two occasions, according to the statement filed in court, Darby Allen came into his cubicle with an erection which he pointed to him and, on one occasion, while standing in front of a filing cabinet, he pressed his erection in his back.

Liz also claims that he touched her buttocks several times and her breasts on one occasion.

According to the lawsuit and emails exchanged between Darby Allen and Liz, he also had attacks of jealousy when she interacted with other male colleagues.

After Liz and a fellow firefighter exchanged emails, planning to go for a drink, Darby Allen allegedly entered her office without her knowledge and read the emails. Liz says he got mad at the idea that his subordinate could have a date with someone else.

We talked about the fact that you weren’t interested in this asshole, but you spend half an hour talking with him! Why would I find it pleasant ???, he wrote to her in an email.

In a subsequent message, on September 27, 2006, he apologized after admitting to having read Liz’s emails.

Email photo. You can read parts of the message there that say: be friends with whoever you want, go have a drink with whoever you want ... Sorry that we couldn't have discussed more. I was not allowed to read your emails.

In September 2006, Darby Allen sent an email to apologize to Liz for reading her emails and getting angry that she was planning to have a drink with a male colleague.

Photo: CBC

Drink beer with whom you like. You’re an adult and who the hell am I? … I have no right to read your emails. It was childish and mean on my part, he wrote.

Fearful of losing her job or being mistreated at work by Darby Allen, Liz canceled her plans.

Liz tried to fight back

Even though she was afraid of possible repercussions on her career, Liz claims to have tried several times to put an end to the harassment.

According to a statement she made to the fire chief in 2007, she confronted Darby Allen after he grabbed her breasts in a cubicle. He would then have defended himself by saying he had already done so without her protesting, but Liz would have had no memory of the incident and would therefore have asked that it not happen again, according to the report.

In April 2005, Liz would have asked him, during a dinner, to keep their relationship strictly friendly, according to his statement from 2007. Darby Allen would have said to him then finding it difficult to be only friends since he felt that he there was something more between them, she said.

In January 2006, Liz was fed up and turned in her resignation letter to chief operating officer Gerald Fox, partly for personal reasons, but also because she was fed up with the situation at work.

Although she didn’t mention Darby Allen’s name or the fact that she was harassed at work, she writes: I don’t feel strong enough to cope with what I know will be mentally and emotionally disabling if I continue to work here.

The operations manager convinces her to stay.

On January 2, 2007, Liz was fed up again and warned Darby Allen that he was acting inappropriately with her. Liz reportedly warned Darby Allen that she needed to cut everything in her life that made her feel like a sex object.

He then replied that friends can talk about sex with each other, she said. She would have reiterated not wanting to talk about sex with him.

In an email dated January 4, 2007, Liz allegedly explained to a friend and college get mad at DA for treating him like a piece of sexual meat.

An email where you can read in English: Tuesday I lost my temper against DA for treating me like a piece of meat. I wore a dress. Nothing of

In this email dated January 4, 2007, Liz tells a colleague that she lost her temper when Darby Allen pointed her fork to point out that he had an erection.

Photo: CBC

Liz wore a dress that day.

He came and made one of these faces, pointing his crotch so that I could see his erection. Nice isn’t it? I told him it was inappropriate and I didn’t like it and he got mad at meshe wrote in her email.

Then she explains that Darby Allen then took more subtle revenge.

So the work pisses off … Now he gives me other projects and I HAVE SO MUCH SO ** N DATA TO ENTERshe wrote.

When her friend is shocked by what she writes to him, Liz replies thatDA made me much worse.

Others threaten to leave if Darby Allen is promoted

On the same day, two employees of the City of Calgary Fire Department, a man and a woman, expressed to then chief Bruce Burrell their concern that Darby Allen would be promoted to chief operations, based on Bruce Burrell’s notes and the statement filed in court.

Employees reportedly mentioned to former chief harassment and assault committed against Liz, as per the statement.

Bruce Burrell, who had joined the City of Calgary fire departments only two years ago, begins to investigate complaints against Darby Allen.

On January 6, 2007, he met a third member of the fire department who told him that Darby Allen had already been disciplined a few years earlier for watching pornography on his shift.

At the same time, Bruce Burrell contacted former battalion chief Nick Maley as part of his investigation.

After the appeal, Nick Maley prepares a written statement for Bruce Burrell in which he explains that he served on the disciplinary council charged with issuing recommendations regarding the viewing of pornographic material by Darby Allen.

He adds that an in-depth examination of Darby Allen’s computer, carried out by the city’s security service, revealed pornographic websites visited by Darby at work “,” text “:” a list of over 100 pornographic websites visited by Darby at work “}}” lang = “en”>a list of over 100 pornographic websites visited by Darby at work, writes Nick Maley.

These events all occurred before Darby Allen was charged with harassing Liz and before he was promoted to the position of Deputy Chief Operating Officer.

The Disciplinary Council has made a number of recommendations for possible disciplinary action, said Nick Maley in an interview with CBC.

The board was divided, he said, between suspending Darby Allen for two weeks without pay or simply dismissing him. The City of Calgary confirms that the dismissal is one of the potential consequences for an employee caught watching pornography at work.

In the end, Darby Allen was suspended two weeks without pay and a letter was added to his file.

In a written statement, Darby Allen claims to have watched pictures at work hosted on private Yahoo member pages, on devices not belonging to it.

The images were not appropriate in the context of their viewing using the equipment of my employerDarby Allen wrote.

I admitted my behavior and did not request any union assistance. I apologized profusely at the time and still apologize today. My employer determined the severity of my behavior, I received a suspension and understood that the file was closed, he added.

Based on his understanding of the fire department’s regulations at the time, Nick Maley believes that disciplinary action should have prevented Darby Allen from being promoted for a minimum of one year.

But two months after being suspended, he was promoted to deputy chief operating officer by the now deceased chief Wayne Morris.

Nick Maley claims to have gone to see Wayne Morris. I asked him “why?”, It was not goodhe said, but got no response.

Instead, Darby Allen would have become untouchable, according to him.

A history of whistleblower on the black list

On January 6, 2007, Chief Burrell, who replaced former Chief Wayne Morris, heard for the first time of the fire service employee’s viewing of Darby Allen’s pornographic material.

The employee, whose name was redacted from the chef’s notes, confirmed to Bruce Burrell that he knew Darby Allen was harassing Liz.

[Allen] know that [Liz] is terrified. [Liz] warned him several times, but his actions continued , can we read in the notes of Bruce Burrell.

Bruce Burrell in uniform in front of a microphone.

In a documentary produced in 2015 by Fifth Estate, Bruce Burrell spoke of the “old boys club” culture he witnessed when he was the fire chief of Calgary. According to him, the women did not feel welcome.

Photo: CBC

Those who have worked in the training department with Liz and Darby Allen think the managers were aware of his actions, but preferred to ignore them, the employee told Chief Burrell.

The chief had already been warned in a meeting with department members that in previous cases of harassment, the story had often ended badly for whistleblowers.

times in the past “,” text “:” Whistleblowers were blacklisted and were no longer protected by the organization… verified that it happened at least 2 times in the past “}}” lang = “en “>Whistleblowers were blacklisted and were no longer protected by the organization … verified that it has happened at least twice in the past, is it written in the chef’s notes.

Surprise interrogation in a van

According to his notes, Bruce Burrell requested that Liz be interviewed by city counsel, Kim Nutz, and Burrell’s operations coordinator and right hand man, Gord Sweetnam.

On January 9, 2007, Liz received a request to find Kim Nutz and Gord Sweetnam in a fire truck. She claims to have been caught off guard by the interrogation and that she did not want to wave.

Liz was very upset and insisted that nothing like this was happeningsaid Bruce Burrell in his notes after getting the lawyer and his right arm report. She doesn’t want it to go any further – feels like a pawn, he adds.

Gord Sweetnam confirmed to the CBC that he was in the van and interviewed Liz.

Gord Sweetnam and his wife, Colleen Stewart, who worked in the human resources department, both confirmed to CBC that Liz had revealed to them that she was being harassed in an informal conversation at their home in December 2006 or January 2007.

As soon as her husband found out, he went to the chef, which explains the investigation that followed, said Colleen Stewart.

Bruce Burrell initially found a policy violation from both parties with Liz and Darby Allen since, even though he was not sexually intimate, they discussed personal matters and sometimes met outside of work.

The next day, however, Liz called Chief Burrell to tell her that she was ready to tell him everything.

She admitted to being harassed by Darby Allen for four and a half years, provided him with a statement and gave him a copy of the emails exchanged with Darby Allen.

It’s really difficult for me

Bruce Burrell confronts Darby Allen the same day, but he denies everything, he notes.

Two days later, still according to the chief’s notes, he met Darby Allen and suspended him with pay while he conducted an internal investigation into the allegations of harassment.

Darby Allen then returned her keys, phone, access card and laptop. It’s really difficult for mehe would have said to the chef after his notes.

Darby Allen in front of microphones.

Darby Allen joined the Wood Buffalo Regional Fire Department in 2009, two years after being fired from the City of Calgary fire department.

Photo: AP / Rachel La Corte

Kim Nutz’s email, dated January 27, confirms to Bruce Burrell that other employees have corroborated the fact that Darby Allen has been sexually harassing Liz since some time.

Be advised that the investigation into the allegations against the Deputy Chief Operating Officer Allen is complete and that Chief Burrell has determined that he has enough evidence to support a dismissal, the lawyer wrote to Liz, copying the chief and chief operating officer.

The email sent to employees on February 28, however, does not reveal whether Darby Allen was fired or if he left the department.

700hours starting today [Allen] will no longer be employed by the fire department. All media inquiries will be handled by the public information department. This is an internal staffing issue and no details will be discussed “,” text “:” Be advised that in 1700 hours from today [Allen] will no longer be employed by the fire department. All media inquiries will be handled by the public information department. This is an internal staffing issue and no details will be discussed “}}” lang = “en”>Be advised that in 1,700 hours from today [Allen] will no longer be employed by the fire department. All media inquiries will be handled by the public information department. This is an internal staffing issue and no details will be discussed, can we read in an email from Chef Burrell.

Darby Allen left the fire department unequivocally and the media department never needed to be contacted. Soon he would have a new job with which he would reach the top of his profession.

New Alberta law gives Liz hope

In May 2017, the Government of Alberta passes Bill 2 which removes the time limit, previously set at two years, to file a civil action relating to sexual misconduct or domestic violence, including in the community of work.

Employers can now be held responsible for inappropriate conduct that may have taken place in the workplace.

After realizing these changes, coupled with the feeling that Darby Allen was back in her life through the media and her hero status, Liz decides to try a prosecution.

She claims to have post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and social phobia.

I dedicated my life to my careersays Liz, who now works for another city.

I loved what I did, it was rewarding and he took advantage of that. He took advantage of the fact that he was responsible for my career, and I felt … weak and manipulated, a bit desperate


Did Fort McMurray know?

CBC asked if the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Fire Department knew of Darby Allen’s past with the Calgary Fire Department when he was hired and what are his reference check practices.

The city spokeswoman declined to comment.

It is not in our practices to comment on matters concerning past or present employees of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, spokesperson Megan Langpap wrote in an email.

The City of Calgary and the Calgary Fire Department have both declined requests for interviews, but have each provided a written statement to CBC.

Fire chief Steve Dongworth answers questions from a reporter in front of a fire truck.

City of Calgary Fire Department chief Steve Dongworth says the department is dedicated to building a more respectful work environment.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Audrey Neveu

In recent years, the fire department has been working together to build a more respectful and inclusive work environment, wrote the chief of the City of Calgary’s fire department, Steve Dongworth.

We know this can be difficult work for any large organization and the Calgary Fire Department remains fully committed to this process.

Steve Dongworth, City of Calgary Fire Chief

City says it cannot comment on files before court or disciplinary action is taken, but says take any allegations of inappropriate behavior very seriously and neither harassment nor abuse will be tolerated.

The City also ensures that it offers its employees multiple possibilities to express their concerns or file their complaints, including an independent program for whistleblowers and human resources within the City’s departments.

I feel used

Colleen Stewart Says Liz Has Demonstrated incredible courage throughout the investigation and considers the dismissal of Darby Allen to be the right result.

Liz would have liked to have been strong enough to denounce Darby Allen from the start.

She was horrified, but not surprised to see that a senior firefighter can be fired for such behavior, then rehired elsewhere and promoted to an even higher position.

She also wonders about the motivations of her colleagues who knew that she was the victim of harassment, but who only decided to speak when he had to be promoted.

I think about the fact that people knew who he was, they knew the details and laughed behind the closed doors, she is sorry.

With information from Meghan Grant

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