RCMP violates privacy laws, discloses mental health information

July 30th, 2013 Uncategorized

MPPAC calls for full investigation by Privacy Commissioner of Canada

The sensitive and confidential mental health information of several current and former RCMP members in British Columbia’s “E” Division were unlawfully disclosed by the RCMP Occupational Health and Safety group in their dispute against a practicing psychologist and outspoken advocate on the topics of workplace stress, conflict and post-traumatic stress. The psychologist, Dr. Michael Webster, remains “blacklisted” by the RCMP. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada has been contacted to request a full investigation into the unlawful disclosure of this confidential information, in violation of the Privacy Act.

The medical records unlawfully disclosed by the RCMP were created and subsequently collected by the RCMP solely for the purposes of providing clinical care to the members, in establishing eligibility for disability claims and to facilitate the reintroduction of the members to productive employment with the RCMP. The medical information was disclosed by the RCMP to the College of Psychologists of British Columbia without the knowledge or consent of any of the affected members. The College has since dismissed the complaint made by the RCMP against Dr. Webster.

Rae Banwarie, president of the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, is gravely concerned that RCMP management would have trolled a much larger volume of members’ psychological records in order to find the select few that could be used in its complaint against the doctor. “This exemplifies a crass and cynical disregard for the confidentiality of RCMP members’ most sensitive personal health information,” Banwarie stated. “MPPAC is concerned that it may have been done to intimidate those RCMP members in the doctor’s care. These members were already affected by workplace stress, conflict and post-traumatic stress. To have this happen to these particular members is adding insult to injury.”

Not only were the RCMP’s actions in this case unlawful, they were also an unethical use of sensitive personal information for political purposes. MPPAC expects that the Privacy Commissioner’s investigation will reveal other systemic abuses of RCMP members’ privacy and that an audit of the personal information handling policies and practices of the RCMP Occupational Health and Safety group will be called for.

Any current or former members who believe their privacy may have been violated or whose sensitive records have been misused are encouraged to contact the association at national@mppac.ca.

The Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada was established in 2010 and is fighting for the right to engage in collective bargaining through an independent association on behalf of RCMP regular and civilian members across Canada. The Association does not seek or support the right to strike. To learn more about our national association, visit www.mppac.ca.