A New Brunswick woman is outraged after Immigration Canada shared sensitive personal information — including government identification and bank accounts — with a man who lives in another province.
Yvonne LeBlanc, who lives in Bouctouche, N.B., a roughly 50-minute drive from Moncton, said she was shocked when Global News contacted her to inform her that personal information she had shared as part of an immigration application to help sponsor a friend for temporary residency was accidentally sent to a man from Port Hope, Ont.
LeBlanc said she was especially upset that her bank accounts, that she had shared with the federal government, had been disclosed.
“Thankfully nothing happened with my information,” she said.
Global News reported Monday on the story of Nathan Mills, a 39-year-old father of two who had applied for permanent residency, who received the immigration application of a 60-year-old Brazilian woman living in Nova Scotia.
Christine Roth, Mills’ lawyer, said she made repeated attempts to contact Immigration Canada and the Minister’s office to inform them of the error but didn’t receive a response. Immigration Canada contacted the Roth shortly after Global News began asking questions.
“This is a breach of privacy at so many levels,” Roth told Global News. “Whether it is the visitor who is trying to stay here from Brazil, whether it is all of her sponsors with their direct phone numbers and all of their information or the main sponsor who has provided detailed banking information to the government.”
LeBlanc said she waited months to hear about her friend’s immigration application which she helped sponsor and has not yet been contacted by the government.
“Everyone can make a mistake, nobody’s perfect,” she said. “But I would like to have some feedback if possible.”
Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel called the report of the privacy breach “very concerning” and said Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen should investigate the incident.
Global News contacted Minister Hussen’s office but did not receive a response. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said it’s investigating and has contacted Mills for more information.
“The Government of Canada takes its privacy obligations very seriously and responds to privacy breaches as quickly as possible, by immediately containing a breach, sending letters of notification and apology and implementing measures to prevent the reoccurrence of a breach,” Beatrice Fenelon, a spokeswoman for the department, said in an email.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has confirmed it’s looking into LeBlanc and Mills’ case.
Ann Cavoukian, executive director of Ryerson University’s Privacy and Big Data Institute and former Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner, called the disclosure of information by immigration officials “outrageous.”
“If Immigration Canada doesn’t take this seriously when they did disclose very sensitive personal information in error to someone and they haven’t taken steps to rectify it, that doesn’t give you any comfort in terms of the protection of this kind of sensitive data,” Cavoukian said. “I would be very concerned about it.”