Privacy watchdog rejects B.C. First Nation's bid to access location of COVID-19 cases

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VICTORIA — B.C.'s information and privacy commissioner says the province is releasing enough information to allow First Nations and the public to mitigate the risks of COVID-19.

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council, Tsilhqot’in National Government and Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council asked Michael McEvoy to determine whether the Health Ministry had a duty to disclose COVID-19 cases near their communities.

The Indigenous groups told the commissioner they can't effectively govern without knowing about the COVID-19 infections in order to make decisions on things like curfews and stay-at-home orders.

The Health Ministry said disclosing the locations of cases, especially in small communities, raised the risk of identifying a person and compromising patient confidentiality.

McEvoy ruled Thursday that the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act does not require the ministry to release the information requested by the First Nations.

He also agreed with the First Nations that the Public Health Act doesn't override the provincial government's duty to disclose information about COVID-19 infections.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 17, 2020.

The Canadian Press