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The Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC) says that the Ministry of Health is withholding information without regard for the public’s right to know. In a report released today, citing The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP), the IPC dismisses a litany of Ministry claims that information allegedly supporting privatized surgical and diagnostic imaging services is too sensitive to be made publicly available.

For example, the IPC points out on numerous occasions that “mere assertion” does not constitute proof that records can legally be withheld, a tactic to which the Ministry often resorts. If the Ministry accepts the IPC’s recommendations, the report will represent the last chapter in a fourteen month saga of the Ministry blocking the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ (CUPE) access to the information.

“We are certainly pleased the Commissioner found that the government has to release more information,” said Will Bauer, CUPE’s Health Care Coordinator. “However, we’re really concerned that it has taken more than a year to get to this point. We’re even more concerned about the Ministry’s reluctance to being transparent or accountable in what it plans to do with the public’s money. We trust the Ministry will act quickly on the IPC’s recommendations.”

On April 17, 2014, a CUPE researcher submitted a freedom of information (FOI) request to the Ministry of Health for documents pertaining to delivery of surgical and diagnostic imaging services in the year prior. Receiving no response from the Ministry, in September 2014 the applicant appealed to the Privacy Commissioner for a review of the file.

“It has taken fourteen months for us to arrive at this point,” said Tom Graham, President of CUPE Saskatchewan. “Saskatchewan people cannot feel that their government is open and transparent when getting simple information requires multiple applications, a formal review, and months of waiting. We believe that the Commissioner’s report today helps to shine a light on a larger issue: the government’s reluctance to disclose information of interest to the people of the province.”

The full report (091-2014) can be accessed online from the IPC website.