The first recourse for a government that doesn't want to answer a question is to find a reason for the answer to be confidential.
In this space yesterday, we wrote about the situation surrounding the detention and deportation of a man who landed at Vancouver International Airport wanting to visit relatives. He was put on a plane back to Europe.
Details of why that happened are sketchy, and Canada Border Services isn't rushing to explain. When Robert Dziekanski died at the same airport, the truth probably never would have been released if it hadn't been for a video of the incident taken by a fellow traveller.
When Maher Arar was trying to get justice for being flown off to Syria and tortured, national security was invoked as a reason for failure to disclose. As a Parliamentary committee tried to get at the circumstances surrounding the torture of prisoners in Afghanistan, "national security" got in the way.
The use of confidentiality as a cloak over transparency isn't limited to national security matters or spectacular transgressions like torture. Freedom of Information requests on the activities of B.C. government and quasi government agencies are filed by the dozens on a daily basis, and obfuscation and delay have been honed to a fine art. In one recent celebrated case, the government took five years to provide the information.
Sometimes, of course, confidentiality is a good thing. For example, personal information has to be carefully safeguarded. That's why it's called the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
But at other times, common sense should prevail. A story in Thursday's Daily News told of Neil Bolton's objections to an 8:30 p.m. curfew placed on his wife Anna's outings from Ponderosa Lodge.
He and Anna like to go to the Legion in evenings, but now have only an hour to get there, sit down, have a short visit, and get her back to Ponderosa. Neil Bolton would like to know why.
Interior Health Authority spokesperson Darshan Lindsay cited "client privacy" as a reason for not explaining the decision. That would be fine under normal circumstances, but Neil and Anna Bolton have willingly relinquished privacy in order to publicize their concerns because they don't feel their getting answers.
With client privacy not in play, the IHA has no reason, and no grounds, to withhold an explanation. It would appear IHA would rather just not answer.