Ms. Chantal Bernier
Interim Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
30 Victoria Street
March 19, 2014
Dear Ms. Bernier,
I am writing you about a serious threat to the privacy of Canadians participating in the Marijuana Medical Access Program, which is executed and overseen by Health Canada.
On March 14, 2014, Health Canada announced that “Recently, the Government of Canada amended the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations to require participants of the Marihuana Medical Access Program to provide written notice to Health Canada by April 30, 2014, stating that they no longer possess marijuana (dried marijuana, plants or seeds) obtained under the old program. Those that were authorized to grow marijuana must also attest that they have discontinued production. Participants are also required to confirm the amount of marijuana and number of plants destroyed, if any. If participants do not comply with the requirement to notify Health Canada, the Department will notify law enforcement. The Department will also continue to cooperate with police and provide information needed to protect public safety, as appropriate.”
This means that Health Canada will be sharing confidential personal and medical information, collected for the sole purpose of licensing persons to obtain medical marijuana, to law enforcement, an entity outside the program. This is contradictory to earlier statements made by Health Canada, who in a briefing note to BC Attorney General and Minister of Justice in September 2013, stated that ‘due to privacy concerns, [Health Canada] does not intend to disclose the addresses of former licensed grow operations once they are no longer permitted to legally grown marijuana’.
I would also draw your attention to the recent ruling by federal court Justice Michael Manson in the case of Allard et al. v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, who granted an injunction against the provisions in the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations which would force medical marijuana users to buy marijuana from commercial growers. Justice Manson wrote that ‘this group will be irreparably harmed by the effects of the (new regulations)’ and ruled that they could continue to grow their own marijuana at home until a trial on the matter can be held.
I would ask that you look into this possible breach of privacy, so that the issue is investigated before Health Canada starts giving away confidential information to law enforcement on April 30, 2014. If you find that Health Canada is in breach of the Privacy Act, I would ask that you immediately inform them of their error.
Thank you for your attention to my letter, I look forward to your reply.
Libby Davies, MP