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Ontario Public Service: Ontarians Health Care Information put at Risk

We the North
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Ontario’s health ministry has awarded an administrative services contract for the Ontario Drug Benefit Program (ODBP) to a U.S. based company, MAXIMUS INC.  Using a private U.S. based contractor potentially exposes the health care information of millions of Ontarians to provisions of the U.S.  Patriot Act

ODBP offers assistance with prescription drugs, nutrition products and diabetic testing agents to Ontario residents who are over the age of 65, in long-term care, have high drug costs and receive social assistance. 

The Patriot Act amended the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (among many other acts) allowing U.S. agencies to apply for and be granted access to records and personal information in total secrecy. The Patriot Act makes it an offence not to comply with or even disclose that an order for personal information was issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The Treasury Board of Canada warns on their web site’s Frequently Asked Questions section that with regard to personal information and their interpretation of the Patriot Act “If a company located in the United States or with U.S. connections is hired, then the USA PATRIOT Act may be applicable.”

The Treasury Board’s interpretation is consistent with a legal opinion obtained by OPSEU that any involvement of a U.S. company or Canadian subsidiary of a U.S. company makes it possible that Patriot Act provisions would apply.

The privacy concerns of Ontarians who have applied for hunting and fishing licences were raised in Ontario’s legislature when it was revealed that Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources awarded a multi-year contract to U.S. based, Active Outdoors to process applications for hunting and fishing licences starting in January.

Natural Resources Minister Michael Gravelle did little to quell the privacy concerns of Ontario’s hunters and fishers.  Mr. Gravelle claimed that the contract signed with the private contractor ensures that Ontario’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act will apply.

Ontario’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act  and Personal Health Information Protection Act are unlikely to offer much protection to Ontarians against the sweeping powers of the Patriot Act and do not stipulate that personal information of Ontarians be stored in Ontario. 

Please email the Premier and let him know that the best way to protect the personal information of Ontarians is by maintaining direct control and storing the information they collect in Ontarioundefined