Whistleblower files privacy complaint against Sask. premier

REGINA – A complaint has been filed with the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner after the provincial government leaked information about a health care aide’s personnel file.

Peter Bowden confirmed Thursday he reported a privacy breach by Premier Brad Wall, whose office told reporters earlier in the week that Bowden was under investigation by the Saskatoon Health Region (SHR).

In an e-mail, the government said Bowden had been disciplined incidents related to patient care and “harassment of other staff and residents.”

“When I started this journey, all I wanted to do was ensure elder care was done properly,” Bowden said. “What the premier has done is drive my name through the mud and I don’t understand why.”

Bowden, who has been suspended with pay from his job as a care aide at Oliver Lodge in Saskatoon, came forward in late March with concerns about conditions at the seniors’ home.

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READ MORE: Health care ‘whistleblowers’ scared to speak out: NDP

He’s one of the first health care workers to go on record about conditions in Saskatchewan care homes, saying understaffing at Oliver Lodge often put residents at risk of skin infections because they are left in soiled diapers and bedding for up to 10 hours.

According to an SHR e-mail to Bowden, six of the eight complaints against him appear to have come after he went public with concerns about working conditions.

Public interest

For the second day in a row, Wall insisted the information provided about Bowden’s suspension was “in the public interest” and he’s “completely comfortable” with the e-mail’s accuracy.

“Folks need to know what has happened with this gentleman has nothing to do with the fact he came forward,” Wall said. “We wanted to make sure health care workers know they can come forward without fear.”

Wall said he hadn’t seen Bowden’s personnel file and doesn’t know specifics. “Frankly I don’t know them and I shouldn’t,” the premier said.

Premier Brad Wall insisted Thursday the information provided about Bowden’s suspension was in the public interest. Kael Donnelly / Global News

Opposition NDP leader Cam Broten used Thursday’s question period to ask the government how it received information about Bowden and why.

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“You have the premier of the province … taking a personal interest in a care aide. In the (organizational) chart, those two people couldn’t be further apart,” Broten said.

Broten said he has only seen a forwarded e-mail, outlining SHR complaints against Bowden.

Privacy laws

Several times Thursday, Wall referenced section 29 of Saskatchewan’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

According to the act, personal information may be disclosed by the government if the “head” (in this case, Premier Wall) decided public interest “clearly outweighs” the invasion of privacy that come as a result.

Lawyers told Global News the wording of the legislation is “vague” and may be up to interpretation.

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In an investigation by the privacy commissioner, the government would only need to prove it did not abuse authority.

With files from The Canadian Press

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