Cavoukian takes cops to court over suicide data

WATCH ABOVE: 16X9’s “Suicide Profiling”

Ontario’s privacy commissioner is taking Toronto police to court. Anne Cavoukian wants the police to stop the indiscriminate reporting of suicide attempts to a national police database.

Cavoukian asked Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice to order the Toronto Police Service to use discretion when disclosing suicide information to the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database—a bank of information that is shared with American law enforcement.

READ MORE: Suicide profiling at US border investigated

“This privacy-invasive practice . . . has the potential to damage lives,” she said. “Discretion must be exercised before sharing sensitive mental health information.”

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The privacy commissioner took up the issue after a Toronto woman, Ellen Richardson, was stopped by US border agents at Pearson Airport because she had made a suicide attempt years earlier. The United States considers as a security risk anyone who has tried to take his or her life, and agents can require them to get medical clearance from a doctor approved by Homeland Security before allowing them across the border.

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READ MORE: US border suicide profiling must stop: Report

The story was explored in depth in a recent 16×9 investigation.

“I didn’t know what else to do.” Cavoukian told Global News today about her decision to take the matter to the courts. “We just reached a point where it was clear that (Toronto police) didn’t want to shift their position.

“All the other police services that we interviewed took a different position.”

Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash says that sharing information about suicide attempts is “vital for the safety” of policemen and the general public, and that’s why it goes on a database.

He also said police do exercise discretion when disclosing such information. And the decision to share that data with US authorities is made by the RCMP which administers CPIC, and not by municipal police.

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