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 Victoria, British Columbia-based freelance journalist who has been writing on mental health issues for fifteen years. His research has particularly focused on the interfaces between psychiatry, the justice system, and civil rights. His articles have been nominated for three Canadian National Magazine Awards, six Western Magazine Awards, and four Jack Webster Awards for journalism. He can be contacted through his website.