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Ontario ends police access to coronavirus database after legal challenge

Bicycle police officers keep an eye on Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto on Sunday, May 24, 2020.
Bicycle police officers keep an eye on Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto on Sunday, May 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO — Ontario has ended police access to a COVID-19 database after a legal challenge was filed by a group of human rights organizations.

Aboriginal Legal Services, the Black Legal Action Centre, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario were all parties to the lawsuit.

The groups argued that allowing police to access personal health records violates individuals’ constitutional rights to privacy and equality.

Read more: Rights groups fight sharing of COVID-19 status with Ontario police forces in court

A statement from the CCLA says that the lawsuit against the province has been dropped with the news that the government has ended police access to the database.

The human rights organizations say they are now calling on local police services to destroy the personal health information that has already been accessed.

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They also ask that local police conduct audits to ensure the data access to date complied with policy and legal requirements.

Read more: Coronavirus: Civil liberties group concerned as Ontario cops get IDs of those who test positive

In early April, the Ontario government passed an emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act that allowed police to obtain the names, addresses and dates of birth of Ontarians who had tested positive for COVID-19.

The human rights organizations said they wrote to the government expressing concerns about the utility and legality of sharing sensitive personal health information.

When they didn’t hear back, the groups said they filed an urgent court application challenging Ontario’s decision to release this information to police because they argued it breached provincial health privacy protections and violated individuals’ constitutional rights to privacy and equality.

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