CCLA supports today’s announcement that the Toronto Police Service (TPS) will restrict the entry of some suicide-related mental health flags into national databases, but cautions that more action on this front is needed to properly protect privacy.
The announcement today from the Information and Privacy Commissioner and the TPS confirms that many suicide-related police interactions will no longer be automatically shared with U.S. officials; it remains unclear, however, whether other mental health related police records, beyond alleged or actual suicide attempts, will receive similar protection. We recommended that this information not be shared with the United States, and will continue to engage with police services across the country to put in place procedures that will protect individuals from discrimination at the US border.
Frequently we are contacted by individuals who are concerned about travelling to the United States because of a mental health-related interaction they have had with Canadian police. In some cases, individuals have even been stopped mid-transit by border officials, completely unaware that private information has been shared. This is why we have consistently advocated for police to stop sharing mental health-related police records across the border, including via submissions to the Information and Privacy Commissioner in 2014 and through involvement in lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of these practices.
Since the release of our report, Presumption of Guilt? The Disclosure of Non-Conviction Records in Police Background Checks, in 2012, CCLA has been a leading voice urging police services to stop releasing information about police interactions that did not result in criminal charges or findings of guilt. As a result of the organization’s research and advocacy, the Government of Ontario has passed privacy protective legislation that will ensure such information is withheld from the vast majority of police background checks. CCLA also continues to raise the issue with other provinces and police services across Canada.