Over one year after filing several requests last summer for Health Canada emails on the outbreak of H1N1 (swine flu) in two Manitoba First Nations communities, I’ve finally received records – but not the ones I initially asked for. I recently received an email from a HC access-to-information coordinator. He explained he was trying to clear unfilled 2009 requests -including mine – before an upcoming departmental deadline.
He hit me with the hard sell, explaining that there was really no chance HC would be able to fill my requests for emails from nursing stations in the First Nations communities of St. Theresa Point and Garden Hill, where Canadian H1N1 first emerged – so, would I please abandon my requests in exchange for already-released records? With a shrug, I accepted his offer. (In the last of the now-discontinued Information Commissioner annual report cards grading the performance of 10 government institutions, HC was given a lowly “below average” two-star rating.)
Here’s the first batch of Health Canada H1N1 files I received: Briefing notes from May, 2009 prepping Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq for planned and anticipated H1N1-related meetings with the Mexican health secretary, US health secretary, Chinese minister of health, Brazilian minister of health, Caribbean health ministers, UK secretary of state for health and – surely the funnest meet of the bunch – a dinner with the Australian ambassador.