Ontario police services conducted over 95,000 personal health Covid database searches

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Muskoka Post Staff

Ontario has ended police access to a COVID-19 database after a legal challenge was filed by a group of human rights organizations and subsequently dropped.

Aboriginal Legal Services, the Black Legal Action Centre, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario were all parties to the lawsuit.

The groups argued that allowing police to access personal health records violates individuals’ constitutional rights to privacy and equality.

A statement from the CCLA said that the lawsuit against the province has been dropped with the news that the government has ended police access to the database.

Data released in the context of the legal action showed that Ontario police services conducted over 95,000 searches of the database while it was active. Over 40% of these searches were conducted by either the Thunder Bay Police Service or Durham Region Police Service.

Thunder Bay police accessed the personal health information in the database over 14,800 times — a rate of access that is ten times higher than the provincial average — even though the area has reported only 100 COVID-19 cases since the outset of the pandemic.

The human rights organizations said they are calling on local police services to destroy the personal health information that has already been accessed. They also ask that local police conduct audits to ensure the data access to date complied with policy and legal requirement.

In early April, the Ontario government passed an emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act that allowed police to obtain the names, addresses and dates of birth of Ontarians who had tested positive for COVID-19.

Abby Deshman, director of the Criminal Justice Program for the CCLA, said she’s pleased Ontario “backed away from this intrusive and discriminatory measure. We remain deeply concerned, however, about the information that police services across the province have already amassed.”

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