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CA: Ont. Privacy Act a Model for Feds: Watchdog
Source: cbc.ca
Source Date: Tuesday, November 09, 2010
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Country: Canada
Created: Nov 11, 2010

The federal government should look to Ontario's privacy legislation when devising better ways to safeguard Canadians' health information, the province's information and privacy commissioner said Tuesday.

Ann Cavoukian was responding to an editorial in Monday's issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal outlining recent privacy violations at Veterans Affairs.

The editors expressed concern that the federal Privacy Act does not sufficiently protect the health information of people like Sean Buryea, the Gulf War veteran whose personal medical information was included in the briefing notes of Veterans Affairs officials without regard for his privacy.

They suggested looking to countries such as the U.K. for examples of stronger privacy safeguards.

But Cavoukian says a better solution can be found closer to home, saying Ontario's Personal Health Information Protection Act, or PHIPA, could serve as the blueprint for the changes.

Cavoukian said that unlike the federal act, the province's privacy act:

  • Provides individuals with the right to place restrictions on who may access his or her personal health information.
  • Requires individuals to be notified when their personal health information is accessed by unauthorized persons.
  • Provides the commissioner's office with the authority to investigate privacy breaches and issue binding orders that may be used to seek damages.

Other jurisdictions, including the U.S., Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick, have already used Ontario's act as a model for changing their health privacy legislation, the commissioner noted.

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