Information and Privacy Commissioner’s re-appointment should prompt more action on transparency

Calgary, AB (February 2, 2017): Today Dr. David Swann praised the recent re-appointment of Jill Clayton as Information and Privacy Commissioner. The Order in Council was issued on January 31st, appointing Ms. Clayton for a term lasting to 2022.

“As Commissioner, Ms. Clayton has been a champion of accountability and strong voice for public access to information,” said Swann. “I am glad to see the office remaining under her capable direction.”

With many government departments much delayed in their obligations under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP), Ms. Clayton has a big job ahead of her.

The Ministry of Justice, despite being specifically singled out by Ms. Clayton in the past,  routinely fails to meet legally mandated deadlines. An example of this can be found in its reply to a recent FOIP request, in which they warned that, “due to a high volume of requests at this office,” their response time may exceed the 30 day requirement.

Swann is calling on the government to use Jill Clayton’s reappointment to reaffirm its commitment to openness and transparency. In particular, Service Alberta should restart the practice of posting FOIP statistics publicly, which it discontinued in 2013.

“I look forward to seeing the changes Ms. Clayton will effect – not only in the Ministry of Justice, but in the Government of Alberta as a whole,” said Swann.

Dr. David Swann challenges Albertans to break down stigma for Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Calgary, AB (February 1, 2017): Dr. David Swann released the following statement to mark Eating Disorder Awareness Week:

“Most of us take for granted the privilege of being able to enjoy a good meal without fear and anxiety. Eating is a universal human experience, and many of us value the simple pleasure of our favourite comfort food.

“For the many Albertans that suffer from an eating disorder, however, food is a source of angst and mental discomfort from which they cannot escape. Earlier identification and better counselling resources in our health system can help those afflicted recover; the most important thing we can do as citizens, however, is reach out with compassion and support.

“As with any mental illness, the greatest barrier to treatment of an eating disorder is fear of being dismissed or shunned. Only by breaking down the stigma surrounding eating disorders can we remove this barrier.”


Dr. David Swann celebrates Black History Month

Calgary, AB (February 1, 2017): Dr. David Swann released the following statement on the beginning of Black History Month:

“I am pleased that Black History Month will finally be officially recognized by the Government of Alberta. The black community in Alberta has contributed greatly to our province’s history, and Black History Month is an opportunity for us to educate ourselves on their stories.

“With xenophobia and discrimination on the rise in the world today, Black History Month reminds us that our diversity is our strength. The achievements of black Canadians throughout Alberta’s and Canada’s history, often in the face of pervasive racism, show that the colour of one’s skin is never – and should never – be a barrier to greatness.”

Dr. David Swann mourns the tragedy in Sainte-Foy

Calgary, AB (January 30, 2017): Dr. David Swann issued the following statement in reaction to last night’s shooting at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec in Sainte-Foy:

“Words too often fail us during tragedies like these. My heart goes out to the victims of this despicable and unthinkable act, and the loved ones they leave behind.

“It is heartbreaking to see such malice directed at innocent people in their time of prayer. I join with those across the country in standing in solidarity with our Muslim neighbours and friends, and condemn the hatred and bigotry which birthed this heinous attack.”

Dr. David Swann celebrates Chinese New Year

Calgary, AB (January 28, 2017): Dr. David Swann issued the following statement to mark the beginning of the Spring Festival, which celebrates the Chinese New Year:

“Today begins a week of celebration, as the Chinese community both here in Alberta and around the world ushers out the old year and welcomes a new one. According to the Chinese Zodiac, we are entering the year of the Fire Rooster; I hope that Chinese Albertans enter it with the confidence and leadership they share with their zodiac sign.

“On behalf of myself and the Alberta Liberals, I wish our Chinese neighbours and friends prosperity and good fortune in this new year. 恭喜发财, 萬事如意!”

Dr. David Swann urges Health Minister to reconsider injury prevention cuts

Calgary, AB (January 27, 2017): Dr. David Swann wrote to the Health Minister today to express his concerns over funding cuts to the University of Alberta’s Injury Prevention Centre.

Last year, the Centre’s funding was abruptly reduced from $1,585,500 to $1 million – a dramatic cut of nearly 37 per cent. Prior to that, funding had remained stagnant for almost ten years.

Dr. Swann is calling on the Health Minister to reinstate or at least boost funding for the Injury Prevention Centre in Budget 2017, given the effectiveness of prevention initiatives in promoting health and reducing health care and economic costs.


Dr. David Swann commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Calgary, AB (January 27, 2017): Dr. David Swann issued the following statement on International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust:

“Today we remember those deliberately and horrifically murdered by the Nazi state. Millions of people were relentlessly persecuted and killed for their religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation by Adolf Hitler and his government.

“This is a day where we remind ourselves that hatred and prejudice has a cost that is all too often paid in lives. When we look back on these atrocities, we must keep in mind that ‘never again’ is more than just a hope, it is a commitment – to standing up for the rights of those that are different and refusing to be divided by fear.”

Dr. David Swann welcomes US executive order advancing Keystone XL pipeline

Calgary, AB (January 24, 2017): Dr. David Swann welcomed today’s decision in the United States to advance Keystone XL.

“We have long been in support of pipelines to get the province’s energy resources to international markets, so long as the best environmental protections are included and First Nations communities are properly consulted.

“In light of the significant challenges Alberta has faced relative to the prolonged slump in oil prices, the importance of this project proceeding cannot be overstated. Today’s decision is a positive development for both our province and our country.”

Dr. David Swann calls for a public fatality inquiry into drug-related deaths in correctional facilities

Calgary, AB (January 23, 2017): Dr. David Swann wrote today to the Fatality Review Board to recommend that a public fatality inquiry be held regarding all deaths involving controlled substances in Alberta correctional facilities since January 1, 2012.

In the letter, Swann argues that an inquiry is urgently needed to identify present shortcomings and emerging best practices regarding preventing contraband from entering the province’s jails and remand centres; this issue has become considerably worse with the current opioid crisis, and puts inmates and staff at risk.

He also recommends that any inquiry should include a review of the staff training in mental health and addictions and medical resources available to incarcerated persons given their critical importance in reducing the demand for illegal drugs and, ultimately, death prevention.

Swann has also written to the Office of the Ombudsman to request an administrative review of the circumstances surrounding drug-related “near-deaths” in correctional facilities, since the Fatality Review Board has no mandate to investigate such cases.


Dr. David Swann reacts to today’s Government Cabinet shuffle

Calgary, AB (January 19, 2017): In reaction to the government’s Cabinet shuffle today, Dr. David Swann welcomed the dismantling of the Human Services ministry, but raised concerns about yet more upheaval and instability in the Municipal Affairs portfolio.

“I am thrilled to see the lumbering behemoth that was the Ministry of Human Services finally reduced to a manageable size,” said Swann. “This marks the end of a failed multi-year government experiment in cost cutting that has done little to improve the lives of our most vulnerable populations – especially children and families in distress.

“However, I am concerned that Minister Larivee was shifted from her position as head of Municipal Affairs as part of this change,” Swann continued. “Shaye Anderson will be the third Municipal Affairs Minister in less than two years of this government being in power. Even prior to that, the position was a veritable revolving door in the final years of the previous government. Given the importance of municipalities and the recently updated Municipal Government Act, this recurring upheaval is worrisome. So many MLAs have backgrounds in social work and would likely be capable of handling Children’s Services – why does the Municipal Affairs portfolio have to suffer to put out a political fire in Human Services?

“I congratulate Minister Anderson on his appointment to Cabinet nevertheless, and I know that Minister Larivee will do well in her new position,” Swann concluded.