Tale Of Two Privacy Breaches

In September we published an article on a report by Saskatchewan Privacy Commissioner Ron Kruzeniski related to the case of Saskatoon health care worker Peter Bowden. Bowden, you may recall, worked in long-term care in the Saskatoon Health Region, and last spring brought his concerns to the legislature about under-staffing and the generally poor conditions for seniors at the care home where he worked.

The concerns were hardly earth-shattering, as they’d been previously expressed by numerous families and health care workers in different locations throughout the province. Problems had even been identified in the government’s own CEO Tour report into long-term care facilities.

Nonetheless, Bowden soon found himself caught up in controversy after Premier Brad Wall’s Chief of Operations and Communications Kathy Young released details of allegations of workplace misconduct against Bowden that surfaced after he appeared at the legislature.

The privacy commissioner’s report found several instances where Bowden’s privacy rights had been violated. But because of the limited scope of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, he was unable to sanction Young and the premier’s office because they, along with MLAs and cabinet members, aren’t subject to the act.

The government promised to fix the loophole in FOIP, but no legislation was put forward during the fall session so when that will happen is anyone’s guess.

Wall apologized to Bowden afterwards, and repercussions as far as Young’s “lapse of judgement” (as the premier characterized it) were limited to him removing her from the file. The government’s relatively mild response stands in stark contrast to a recent situation in Nova Scotia where Premier Stephen McNeil’s chief of staff resigned after it was alleged he had improperly disclosed the personal health information of a Nova Scotia citizen.

The circumstances of the case, which you can read about here, are different than in Bowden’s case. But the principles at stake related to privacy are the same, and the non-response of the Wall government is just more evidence of how much work needs to be done in Saskatchewan to take the issue of privacy and freedom of information seriously. The original FOIP legislation was passed in 1991-92, and it hasn’t been updated since then. So it would seem that it should be a priority when a new government takes office after next April’s election.

Author: Gregory Beatty

Greg Beatty is a crime-fighting shapeshifter who hatched from a mutagenic egg many decades ago. He likes sunny days, puppies and antique shoes. His favourite colour is not visible to your inferior human eyes. He refuses to write a bio for this website and if that means Whitworth writes one for him, so be it.