The province’s Information and Privacy Commissioner has a few words of advice for the Saskatchewan Health Authority in terms of releasing data during the COVID-19 pandemic – “more is better.”

The SHA has come under fire from a number of organizations during the pandemic, including the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, for refusing to release community specific locations of infections.

Ron Kruzeniski said if bodies like the SHA err too much on the side of caution in terms of releasing information, they run the risk of undermining public trust in government at a time when it is most needed.

“I think openness and transparency creates trust,” he said. “So, when the difficult messages have to be given, or the citizenry really needs to trust what they’re asked to do, being open and transparent creates that bank account of trust that can be relied upon in the future.”

Citing patient privacy concerns, in most cases the SHA will not release community specific location information of coronavirus infections.

However, Kruzeniski noted in other instances the health authority is releasing this information and it should do so in all cases.

“So, you can go as far as you wish in terms of identifying communities, identifying the type of meetings that might cause concern and we’ve had examples of that. The meeting of the snowmobilers (Christopher Lake), the name La Loche has come up frequently in information right now.”

In terms of releasing information during the pandemic, the health authority has lumped all of the Northern Administration District into one massive region called Far North.

At the beginning of the health crisis, the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority, which oversees many of the First Nations in northern Saskatchewan, was releasing community specific locations of COVID-19 infections.

However, in recent weeks, NITHA is now only willing to release general areas of the north where infections are located.

The FSIN and other First Nations have repeatedly called for this information, arguing communities will be better able to prepare for a potential COVID-19 outbreak if they know where infections are located.

(PHOTO: Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner Ron Kruzeniski. File photo.)