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Why did police access personal health information? MPP Lindo has questions

Police access to a COVID-19 database was shut down after a legal challenge by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association
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New Democrat MPP for Kitchener Centre Laura Mae Lindo has a some questions she wants answered, following police access to a COVID-19 testing results database being discontinued.

Earlier this week, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) won a legal challenge to stop police across the province from peering into private health information. They also released data detailing the usage of the database up to that point by various police services.

Locally, Waterloo Regional Police had accessed the COVID-19 database 1,180 times between April 17 and July 20. In that same period, Guelph Police had used it 4,057 times. 

"So, there's so many unanswered questions: we don't know what they received, we don't know if they're still holding on to that information, and we aren't sure why they were accessing it at such high rates in certain areas," Lindo said.

According to the CCLA data, Ontario police had searched the database over 95,000 times, with 40 per cent of those searches being done by Thunder Bay Police Service (14,831 times) and Durham Regional Police Service (24,624 times). Both areas had relatively low case counts. For comparison, the data shows Toronto Police Service did not access the database once.

As part of the emergency order early on in the pandemic, access was given to first-responders in order to properly prepare for calls, including police. That said, Lindo noted these issues of over-protection and privacy could have been avoided with proper funding for PPE. She was relieved to see the government closed down the portal.

"Yes, we need to make sure that first responders are safe. We all agree with that. We also have to make sure our private health information is secured and that we are not disclosing a bunch of private information without a real process, and I don't know what the process was for people to access, and it seems---given that some numbers are so high in certain areas---it doesn't look like the process was particularly onerous."

For now, Lindo is waiting on the Ontario Privacy Commissioner to report back on with their findings.

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