US border suicide profiling must stop: Report

WATCH ABOVE: 16×9’s Jackson Proskow reports on suicide profiling

For years, US border officials have had the right to forbid entry into the United States to Canadians known to have attempted suicide. That’s happened to a number of traveling Canadians, including two Toronto women featured in a 16×9 investigation earlier this year.

That practice was condemned by Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner, Ann Cavoukian, who issued a series of recommendations designed to end the practice, and protect the privacy of Canadian citizens.

Cavoukian’s report singles out Toronto police who, she says, report suicide attempts to Canada’s national police database, called CPIC, without discretion—information that is then automatically forwarded to the FBI and US Homeland Security.

READ MORE: Suicide profiling at US border investigated

She based her report on the “deeply disturbing stories” of four Canadians, including Ellen Richardson and Lois Kamenitz, who were stopped by US Customs officials at Toronto International Airport when they were red-flagged in a security check. Both women have had past suicide attempts that were reported to Toronto police, and they were told they could not cross the border until they had a special clearance from Homeland Security-approved doctors.

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Cavoukian says this kind of sensitive health information should only be shared in special circumstances: if the suicide attempt involved the threat of serious violence to others, if it was meant to provoke a lethal response by police, if the individual has a history of violence or harm to others, or if the suicide attempt happened in police custody.

READ MORE: Stop automatically disclosing suicide attempts: privacy czar to cops

In all other cases, suicide attempts should not be brought to the attention of US authorities.

Cavoukian concluded: “The untenable practice of automatic, default sharing of police information related to suicide attempts cannot continue. Full stop.”

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