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

Duncan denies emergency shelter for women on Cairnsmore Street

Will look at a mobile shelter for women instead

Rob Douglas reveals 5-plank re-election campaign in bid for North Cowichan council seat

North Cowichan is making significant progress on a number of fronts.

Paul Fletcher announces candidacy for North Cowichan council

Sustainable economic development is what prodded Fletcher back into municipal affairs

Hurdles to bike-sharing program in North Cowichan, study continues

Will also consider adding electric bikes and scooters

Chemainus Theatre’s ‘Glorious!’ is, well, glorious

The tiny three-person cast of Glorious! deserve a huge standing ovation

U.S. congressman issues dire warning to Canada’s NAFTA team: time is running out

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is expected to resume talks with the U.S.

Coming up in Cowichan: Arts, charity and health events heading to Valley

Free fitness, self-defence for women begins this month Warmland Women’s Support Services… Continue reading

B.C. RCMP turn to Const. Scarecrow to shock speeders into slowing down

New addition will watch over drivers from a Coquitlam median for first-of-its-kind pilot in Canada

Cyclists finish North America trip to highlight Ukraine struggle

The 10,000 bike ride raised over $10,000 for victims of the war in Ukraine.

21 new paramedics promised for B.C. Interior

A total of 18 new full-time paramedics will be hired for Kamloops and three are being hired for Chase.

Federal stats show slight increase in irregular migrant claims in August

113 extra people tried to cross the Canadian border last month

Work begins to remove cargo from grounded Haida Gwaii barge and fishing lodge

Westcoast Resorts’ Hippa Lodge broke from its moorings and ran aground early this month

Tilray to export cannabis formulation to U.S. for clinical trial

Marijuana remains illegal in most of the U.S.

Most Read