Compliance Management, Privacy

Suicide attempt leak sparks controversy

Ann Cavoukian, the province of Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner, has pledged to determine how the personal information of a disabled Toronto woman reached the hands of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

On Nov. 25, Ellen Richardson was stopped by a CBP officer as she tried to board a flight to New York City, en route to a Caribbean cruise. The border guard cited Richardson's 2012 suicide attempt, which led to her hospitalization for clinical depression.

“I am appalled by this,” Cavoukian told CBC Radio, saying that the province's Ministry of Health had sworn an affidavit that it did not provide access to Richardson's medical records.

Cavoukian said she assumes that the information was collected by the RCMP, following a 911 call placed by Richardson's mother, and subsequently shared with the CBP. She announced plans to form a committee comprised of police representatives and mental health advocates to “ensure it is not the default position that information like (calls for medical assistance) reach the hands of the RCMP.”

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