RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson is admitting he approved a complaint against a B.C.-based psychologist that led to allegations that the force breached the medical privacy of five Mounties.
“When I heard of the complaint, I wanted to see the complaint before it went forward to the College. So in that respect I did oversee and approve the complaint,” he told Global News reporter Vassy Kapelos.
Paulson says the RCMP was “troubled” about clinical reports written by Dr. Mike Webster, so they discontinued his services to members and made a complaint to the BC College of Psychologists in 2012.
Paulson said the information he approved sending to the College had members’ personal information redacted. However, the RCMP did later provide the members’ names, with the information attached, at the request of the College. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada found the RCMP’s actions constituted a “serious privacy breach.”
“I think what we found is the review determined that it ought not to have been provided,” Paulson said.
Paulson says the RCMP can provide its members’ private medical information to outside organizations, but it didn’t go through the proper procedures to make sure the College had the proper authority.
As a result of this case, Paulson says changes have been made so that it doesn’t happen again.
“Changes to guarding private information, medical information, things like that. So that we are going to articulate, if another agency has the authority to receive that information, we are going to make sure the authority under which that information is being provided is cited.”
WATCH: Public Safety Minister addresses RCMP privacy breach accusations
But today, the Public Safety Minister told Global News “I will have a conversation with the Commissioner about that to see what the possible rationale or explanation could be but, the rules and the law are applicable to everyone, and I’ll insist that they be followed.”
The RCMP did not respond to interview requests before the original story aired on Feb. 20, but 16×9 did obtain an email sent to all members on Friday night.
In it, the RCMP’s chief human resources officer, Daniel Dubeau, said his message was intended to provide “context” to members on the forthcoming 16×9 story, but B.C. labour lawyer Sebastien Anderson said Dubeau’s email misrepresented the Privacy Commissioner’s findings.
Dubeau claimed the Privacy Commissioner found that “the internal disclosures of personal information constituted a consistent use, pursuant to the Privacy Act.”
But according to Anderson, “that is NOT what the Privacy Commissioner said.”
Anderson wrote that in fact, the Privacy Commissioner said disclosing Mounties’ personal information to commanding officers would be allowed if it could be shown that it was in the interest of the safety of the public and RCMP members. Instead, Anderson points out that the Privacy Commissioner stated:
“There is no evidence to suggest that the use was for the purpose of ensuring the safety and security of the public or of RCMP members.”
Read Anderson’s full response here.
The Privacy Commissioner also found that the RCMP did not ensure that the College had proper authority to collect its members’ information, nor did it ensure that the information was needed to investigate the complaint made by the RCMP against Webster.
The RCMP’s complaint against Webster was dismissed by the BC College of Psychologists with no further action warranted. But now, Anderson is representing five Mounties in a privacy breach lawsuit against the RCMP, and he says there is reason to believe the number of complainants will grow. He told 16×9 on Feb. 21 that more members contacted Anderson about alleged privacy breaches after the story aired.