Ontario Places Some Limits on Sharing of Police Mental Health Records


The Canadian province of Ontario has moved to restrict the circumstances under which police can share mental health-related information when employers ask for record checks on potential employees, reported the Toronto Star. However, the mental health information will still be shared among law-enforcement agencies, border personnel and others.

The controversy about police sharing non-criminal information and sharing information about their mental health-related contacts with people, and subsequent investigations by the privacy commissioner of Ontario, have been previously reported on by Mad in America. Ontario is one of the few jurisdictions in North America where this increasingly common police practice has come to broader public attention and been investigated by an independent agency.

The Star quoted the provincial government Community Safety Minister: “We heard from hard-working Ontarians who lost their job or were unable to find employment because of past incidents involving mental health contact with police. We heard about folks being stopped from volunteering in their community because they witnessed a crime or were questioned by police.”

A Toronto criminal lawyer and provincial director of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association told the Star that the proposed legislation was a “good first step to reaffirming our belief as Canadians in the presumption of innocence.” He added that, “Too many lives have been ruined by a system we all hope will be more fair and balanced. In the internet age mere allegations have even more haunting consequences. We need to safeguard our freedoms with vigilance.”

The Star reported that the minister acknowledged that, “The proposed legislation does not restrict information sharing in police circles. That means a person, who has attempted suicide, can still be stopped at the border and turned back.”

Ontario moves to limit police sharing non-conviction information (Toronto Star, June 3, 2015)