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

Lake Babine Nation councillor resigns before being sworn in

Paul Joseph steps down before being sworn in

Kevin Kriese becomes chair of the Forest Practices Board

Smithers’ Kriese’s three-year appointment beings August 7.

Moricetown Mud Bog stuck in a rut for 2018

A busy personal life for organizers means there will be no Moricetown Mud Bog in Witset this year.

Smithers ‘way ahead’ on preparing for pot

Public consultation around town on pot use, dispensing and licensing this summer.

Update on contaminated mine sites program

The report details work done over the past two years to remediate contaminated sites.

BC Games: Dance, spoken-word highlights at Opening Ceremony in Cowichan

Hundreds of athletes and thousands of volunteers, coaches, parents and officials

Special Olympics athletes take on BC Games during Global Day of Inclusion

Twenty-five athletes and nine coaches are here in Cowichan Valley during the 50th anniversary

Scammers dressed as Mounties threaten to arrest senior if she doesn’t cough up cash

Pair of fraudulent officers threaten to arrest 90-year-old woman

Fundraiser launched to help mom of French jogger detained after accidentally crossing U.S border

Cedella Roman, 19, was detained in America after accidentally crossing the border

Trump slams Federal Reserve rate hikes

Fed raised benchmark rate for a second time this year in June, and projects two more hikes to come

Okanagan Wildfires: The latest on wildfires and evacuations

A Friday morning look at the major wildfires impact the Okanagan and Similkameen.

UPDATED: 1,500 residents on evacuation alert as Peachland under state of emergency

The Mount Eneas wildfire has forced an evacuation alert of 596 properties

Police to provide update on case against alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur

McArthur worked as a landscaper, allegedly concealed the remains of seven men in planters

Premiers to wrap up 2 days of meetings at New Brunswick seaside resort

Meetings held in the scenic seaside town of St. Andrews on Thursday focused on trade

Most Read