ONTARIO, July 17, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — A collection of human rights groups announced they are legally challenging the government of Ontario in provincial Superior Court to fight a decision to allow police access to information of residents who test positive for the coronavirus.
The group is made up of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), the Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS), the Black Legal Action Centre (BLAC), and the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO).
The collective made the announcement in a joint press release sent out yesterday.
“Individual Ontarians’ health information is among the most sensitive personal information the government holds,” Abby Deshman, Director of the Criminal Justice Program with the CCLA is quoted as saying in the news release.
“Given the patchy nature of COVID testing and the risk of asymptomatic spread, police — like the rest of the population — need to be taking universal precautions to prevent the spread of COVID. Sharing COVID test results with police is not necessary, and in fact undermines an effective public health approach to this pandemic.”
In April, the Ontario government passed an emergency order which allows the police the ability to obtain sensitive personal information, such as an address and birth date, from those who test positive for the coronavirus.
At the time, the Ontario government argued for the law, with officials saying they had to do “everything in our power to ensure the health and well-being of those working on the frontlines and provide them with the tools they need to do their jobs and keep Ontarians safe.”
The emergency order was passed under Ontario’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. Since becoming law, a shared database has been made available to police services across the province.
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The group is challenging the Ontario government because its members argue that the sharing of medical records with police “breaches provincial health privacy protections and violates individuals’ constitutional rights to privacy and equality.”
They also say Ontario’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act does not give the government the authority to enable the sharing of personal information with police, nor is the measure authorized by by Ontario’s emergency legislation.
“Police involvement in public health matters impedes effective public health responses,” said Khalid Janmohamed, who serves as a HALCO staff lawyer, in the news release.
“People are less likely to get tested or seek treatment because they are afraid of being targeted by police. We have seen this happen in relation to the criminalization of people living with HIV and people who use drugs. We are at dire risk of duplicating these harms with the sharing of COVID-19 diagnosis information with police. Like in relation to HIV and drug use, for COVID-19 we need a public health response, not a public policing response.”
The group’s news release also says they wrote to Ontario’s solicitor general in April to share their concerns regarding the “government’s decision to share sensitive personal health information with police.”
As of today, they have yet to receive a response.
Ontario is not the only Canadian province that has enacted laws to allow the police to access one’s personal medical information pertaining to the coronavirus.
In May, the health minister of Alberta utilized new coronavirus-related powers under Bill 10 to authorize health workers to give police confidential patient medical information.
The Alberta law is not as open as Ontario’s, however, as it applies only if an individual had purposefully put an officer at risk by sneezing or coughing on him