November 24, 2015 11:58 am
Updated: November 24, 2015 4:09 pm

Andrew Younger files complaint with Privacy Commissioner after personal health information revealed

Former Nova Scotia Environment Minister Andrew Younger.

The Canadian Press

HALIFAX – After personal health information was disclosed yesterday, Dartmouth East MLA Andrew Younger is filing a complaint against Kirby McVicar with the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

McVicar, chief of staff to Premier Stephen McNeil, told reporters on Monday that Younger was suffering from PTSD and had a possible brain tumour.

“Mr. Younger indicated to me back in December that he had PTSD and a brain tumour,” McVicar said.

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“I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder independently by two parties, it is not accurate that I have a brain tumour, in fact if this situation wasn’t so serious it would make me laugh,” Younger said Tuesday, in response to McVicar’s claims.

“Let me just say private health information was not for Mr. Mcvicar to disclose. There were members of my family who were unaware of it and obviously I’m now having to deal with that issue with them.”

Younger also said that though the recording of the private conversation was legal, the disclosure of his personal health information was illegal.

“I think all Nova Scotians should be concerned when their government or employer releases private health information without consent and in violation of the law,” Younger said.

The disclosure is a breach of the Personal Health Information Act and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy act, said Younger. In a letter addressed to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, Younger said McVicar disclosed the information without his consent.

“It is my view the disclosure is a violation of the Public Health Information Act and therefore carries a maximum penalty of both imprisonment for six months and a fine of ten thousand dollars,” the letter reads.

Major consequences unlikely for McVicar

Younger wouldn’t disclose if he was also going to file a lawsuit, but privacy lawyer David Fraser said it’s unlikely he would get awarded much in damages so it’s likely not worth it.

However, Fraser, a partner with McInnes Cooper, questioned the decision to disclose Younger’s private health information.

“We’re talking about mental health information, this is the more extreme, sensitive end of the spectrum,” said Fraser.

“So I thought it was pretty distasteful to disclose that. Certainly if you’re asked for that information you don’t have to provide an answer, I’m sure he’s used to not answering questions if he doesn’t want to.”

An investigation from the privacy commissioner is unlikely to result in major consequences for McVicar, said Fraser. The privacy commissioner would likely investigate the complaint and respond with a report and recommendations, but it’s unlikely to result in more than “a slap on the wrist” for McVicar.

Fraser also said it’s unlikely Younger’s case would apply under the Personal Health Information Act, because that pertains to people like doctors and other health care officials.

– More to come.

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