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article imageCanadians' mental health records shared with FBI, border patrol

By Sean Fraser     Apr 15, 2014 in Health
Toronto - Canadian police departments have been sharing mental health information of Canadians by uploading it to a database that the FBI and U.S. Customs has access to, which has been used to deny entry by border control agents.
Ann Cavoukian, Ontario's privacy commissioner, has told the CBC that police departments routinely upload attempted suicide calls to the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC). The FBI and U.S. border guards have access to the database and have been using it to deny entry of Canadian citizens to the U.S.
Cavoukian's investigation of the practice began last year when a Canadian woman was denied access to the U.S. because of her mental health records.
Ellen Richardson claims she was turned away at the U.S. Customs line at Pearson International Airport in Toronto because she had been receiving mental health care after an attempted suicide, which left her a paraplegic.
"I was completely in shock," Richardson told CBC's Metro Morning. "I had no idea how that was relevant to my seeking entry into the U.S. for a holiday."
Richardson's case is not the only example. In 2010, Lois Kamenitz was not allowed on a flight to Los Angeles after customs agents discovered she had attempted suicide in 2006.
Kamenitz was asked to go through a second screening after showing her passport. She was told by a Border Control officer that the reason she was being denied entry was that they had information that police had entered her home in 2006.
"I was really perturbed," Kamenitz said. "I couldn’t figure out what he meant. And then it dawned on me that he was referring to the 911 call my partner made when I attempted suicide."
The U.S. Customs office has the legal right to deny entry to anyone who may threaten the property, safety, and welfare of themselves or those around them according to the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act.
Cavoukian said there is no law requiring police departments to upload the information to the CPIC. After talking to several police departments in Toronto, Hamilton, Waterloo, and Ottawa, she discovered the procedure is not policy in many individual departments.
“This is entirely at the discretion of the police service involved,” Cavoukian said.
Cavoukian claimed that the Toronto Police Department "automatically" uploads the records. However, Mark Pugash, the spokesperson for the TPD, says that the officers practice discretion about which cases are shared.
Pugash claims the department feels that having the information is vital for the officers to have, and if Cavoukian is concerned with the practice, she should consult the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to establish a policy about who has access to the data.
Cavoukian claims up to 19,000 cases of "mental health episodes" have been uploaded to the CPIC.
"The untenable practice of automatic or blanket sharing of police information related to suicide threats or attempts simply cannot continue," Cavoukian said.
More about Canada, US Customs, FBI, Mental health, Medical records
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