B.C.’s privacy boss hails ruling barring big tobacco from getting info

Court’s unanimous decision comes 17 years after B.C. launched legal action against tobacco industry

British Columbia’s privacy commissioner says a ruling by Canada’s top court barring access to personal health records is a reflection of greater awareness about how such information could be wrongly used.

Michael McEvoy said even providing a tobacco company with data that excludes names and health numbers would have been problematic because the use of various databases could easily identify individuals.

Philip Morris International wanted patients’ records in a bid to fight British Columbia’s efforts to recover smoking-related health-care costs but the Supreme Court of Canada issued a ruling Friday saying the province doesn’t have to provide the documents.

McEvoy said the information the company requested shouldn’t be in the hands of anyone outside of the health-care system.

The precedent-setting decision will provide greater privacy protection in the province and have wider implications for all Canadians, he said.

McEvoy said recent privacy issues surrounding British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, which mined Facebook users’ information, have drawn the attention of citizens around the world about what can go wrong when sensitive data is used for unintended purposes.

British Columbia introduced legislation in 2000 to protect citizens’ privacy as it worked to recoup health-care costs related to tobacco use.

“That’s the reason we intervened in the case to support the province’s position,” McEvoy said of his office’s involvement about two years ago, when Philip Morris asked for patients’ information despite decades of mounting evidence about addictive nicotine links to cancer from smoking.

“It’s a precedent-setting case that will provide greater privacy protection for sensitive health information of citizens in this province and hopefully have wider applications for all Canadians,” he said.

The top court’s unanimous decision came 17 years after B.C. launched legal action against the tobacco industry, and it’s been followed by similar cases by every other province.

Last year, the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld a lower court’s decision requiring the government to hand over the patient data.

The Health Ministry said in a statement that holding tobacco companies accountable is a priority for the province.

“The security and confidentiality of health data was one of our primary considerations in pursuing this appeal.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Raccoons making themselves at home on Saanich property

Resident blames neighbour for attracting pests to area

Peace Walk fundraiser for hospice runs on Sunday

Take a walk, have a snack, and help donate to a local charity

Thousands attend 31st TD Art Gallery Paint-In

Artists display their work along 20 blocks of Moss Street

City of Victoria joins national food waste reduction program

The City is partnering in the Love Food, Hate Waste Program

Details scarce as union confirms probe underway involving Victoria care homes

Island Health, VicPD offer no comment on report of investigation into alleged sexual assaults

BC Games: Day 2 comes to an end

Hundreds of medals have been handed out at the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

Saanich welcomes feedback on development charges

Info sessions set for July 25 on update to Saanich DCC bylaw

Gold medals for Victoria rowers at BC Games

Both girls row out of the Victora City Rowing Club at Elk Lake

Recovery high schools could help teens before addiction takes hold: B.C. parents

Schools could provide mental health supports and let parents discuss their children’s drug use openly

Haida Gwaii village faces housing crisis, targets short-term rentals

Housing is tight and the village is pretty close to zero vacancy

Evacuation numbers remain at nearly 1,000 as B.C. wildfires rage on

200 firefighters and 18 helicopters were working to increase the containment of the fires

B.C. VIEWS: Unions regain control of public construction

B.C.’s 40-year battle swings back to international big labour

Plans for Saanich’s Nigel Valley to step out of shadow

Plans for a major housing development in Saanich’s urban core are becoming… Continue reading

Five fun things to do this weekend

From a paint in to festivals, there are lots of fun events taking place this weekend

Most Read