Watch video above: Ann Cavoukian asks police to stop reporting suicide attempts. Jackson Proskow reports.
Stop sharing information on individuals’ suicide attempts with other police forces unless the people in question pose a danger to others, Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner is telling police.
Ann Cavoukian’s report, due out Monday morning and obtained by Global News, was sparked by stories of multiple Canadians being refused entry to the United States because U.S. border officials found information on their previous suicide attempts or threats of suicide – some from years earlier – and decided that made them unfit to enter the country.
READ MORE: Suicide profiling at the U.S. border
“Understandably,” Cavoukian writes, “the individuals involved were shocked that U.S. border officials were able to gain access to information about their mental health. Their stories … raised serious privacy issues regarding the sharing of one’s sensitive health information. On learning of these events, including hearing of the pain and embarrassment caused by the denials of entry, I decided to conduct an investigation to determine exactly how and why this was happening.
“I kept wondering – how could this be happening in my jurisdiction, where personal health information is so strongly protected?”
The report explores the kind of information police add to the Canadian Police Information Centre, why, and what happens to that information once it enters the database.
It found that each police force has its own rules when it comes to sharing the personal info of someone who tries to kill him- or herself: While several Ontario police forces do so at their own discretion, Toronto police automatically upload all suicide threats or attempts to the database, which is shared with multiple other forces – including those in the U.S.
That practice, Cavoukian writes, needs to cease “immediately.”
Police should only disclose a person’s threat or attempt at suicide to the info-sharing database, Cavoukian writes, if:
- “The suicide attempt involved the threat of serious violence or harm, or the actual use of serious violence or harm, directed at other individuals;
- The suicide attempt could reasonably be considered to be an intentional provocation of a lethal response by the police;
- The individual involved had a history of serious violence or harm to others; or
- The suicide attempt occurred while the individual was in police custody.”