Med Students Demand Stronger Privacy for Mental Health Records

Rob Wipond

Over 200 University of Toronto medical students have sent a letter to government, the Toronto Police Board and others demanding an end to the practice of Canadian police sharing confidential mental health information with U.S. law enforcement and border authorities. The Toronto Star has gathered dozens of examples of Canadians being denied entry into the U.S. on the basis of having a mental health-related police intervention in their history. Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian recently issued an investigative report about the practice and is now taking Toronto police to court to try to force police to obey Ontario privacy law.

In many cases – some of them decades old – these involved instances where someone was concerned that a friend or relative might commit suicide and contacted police, thereby generating a police record of the incident which was then entered into a Canadian national police information database and subsequently shared with U.S. authorities.

U of T med students petition cops to stop release of suicide attempt records (Toronto Star)

Commissioner Cavoukian Expects the Toronto Police Service to Follow the Law (Press Release, Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ontario, Canada)

Crossing the Line: The Indiscriminate Disclosure of Attempted Suicide Information to U.S. Border Officials via CPIC (Report, Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ontario, Canada)


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Rob Wipond
Rob Wipond is a freelance journalist who writes frequently on the interfaces between psychiatry, civil rights, the justice system, and social change. His articles have been nominated for three Canadian National Magazine Awards, nine Western Magazine Awards, and five Webster Awards for journalism. He is currently working on a book about people's experiences of forced psychiatric treatment, and can be contacted through his website.