Ontario takes 'extraordinary step' to give police list of all COVID-19 patients
A person is seen typing on a computer in this undated file photo.
TORONTO -- A civil liberties group is raising concerns after the Ontario government took the "extraordinary step" to release a database to police with a list of everyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the province.
On April 6, the province announced they would provide first responders with the names, date of birth and address of all patients who tested positive for the virus.
"First responders put their lives on the line every day to protect Ontarians and they are at great risk of being directly exposed to COVID-19 as they fulfill their frontline duties,” the province said in a news release earlier this month.
“We must do everything in our power to ensure the health and well-being of those working on the frontlines and provide them with the tools they need to do their jobs and keep Ontarians safe."
According to the government, patient data has been shared with police, firefighters and paramedics across the province.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) told CTV News Toronto on Friday the province needs to be "extremely clear" on how the personal information is being used during the pandemic.
“Last week, we started to see the first indications that police had actually been given access to this information but we don’t know exactly how it is working,” Abby Deshman, the director of the criminal justice program at CCLA, said.
“Sharing personal health information with first responders is an extraordinary step. It needs to be extremely clear what the use for the information is, why it’s necessary and how this is legal.”
"Based on what we know about Ontario's testing, the information that police officers are going to get is going to be incomplete, because testing is limited and perhaps out of date."
"It's hard for us to see how police will use this information to protect themselves or the public."
Deshman said Ontarians should get clear answers on how exactly the information is being used.
"Most people would be very surprised this information is being shared with police," she said. "Usually health information is tightly controlled and disclosed only to health providers. It’s exceptional for health information to be shared with law enforcement."
"We have a bunch of questions. With a lot of this, we are in new territory."
The province said the information will be inaccessible to first responders once the declaration of emergency is over.
CTV News Toronto contacted the Ministry of Health on Friday for further comment but has not yet received a response.
The Toronto Police Service said Friday that they have not accessed the database thus far.
It is not immediately clear exactly which police forces are using the personal data.