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Offender given caregiver's personal information

A woman complained that Correctional Service Canada (CSC) gave extensive personal information about her to an offender for whom she was caring.

The woman provides palliative care in her home to the elderly and those with special needs. CSC assessed the complainant to determine whether the home would be an appropriate facility in which to place offenders with special needs. CSC visited her home, conducted a full interview, prepared a Private Home Placement Report and approved the facility. The individual subsequently agreed to take in an offender whom the National Parole Board (NPB) had granted day parole. The offender needed placement in a facility capable of handling his extensive physical and mental conditions while also meeting the conditions of his parole. CSC considered him an unrepentant child molester and at danger of re-offending.

Once the offender was approved to move into the woman’s care, he wrote to her saying that he had seen “your report from NPB” and that he understood her problems. The day after he moved into her home, he produced his address book in which he had written the names and telephone numbers of two of the woman’s references to CSC. He also produced an entire copy of the Private Home Placement Report – a document the woman had never seen. The report included information about the woman’s family members including information about her childhood, her marital history and current status, and educational and employment history.

The complainant was shaken by the offender’s revelations and got in touch with local CSC parole officials. They agreed to her removing the report from the offender’s room and blacking out her references’ names and telephone numbers from his address book.

The investigation revealed that CSC officials originally intended releasing the offender to another facility but had to change plans. They then had to seek the NPB’s approval to change the release destination. The offender’s particular situation and his required level of care prompted Parole Board members to ask for more information about the private home placement. CSC provided the Placement Report to the Parole Board; it was then given to the board members who subsequently approved the change of destination. The investigator was satisfied that the offender had not disclosed the information to anyone else.

At issue was whether CSC contravened the Privacy Act by giving the report to the offender. The Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) requires the Parole Board to share with the offender the information it uses to reach a decision about him or her. However, the information can be in the form of a summary or the “gist” of the information. The CCRA also allows the Parole Board to withhold “as much information as strictly necessary” (Section 144(4)) if the disclosure could jeopardize someone’s safety, the security of a correctional institution, or the conduct of a lawful investigation.

It was evident from the investigation that only the Parole Board members who were deciding on the application had actually read the Placement Report. No-one else at the NPB had read the full report and so none knew the extent of the personal details it contained. The NPB contended that CSC was responsible for ensuring that information was lawfully shared with the offender. NPB officials were also adamant that the law’s requirements would have been fully met had CSC given the offender only the “‘gist” of the report. Unfortunately no one at CSC had read the report before giving it to the offender so they too were unaware of its contents.

The OPC found the case extremely disturbing, given the offender’s history, the nature of the information in the report, and the fact that he was residing in her home. We understood that NPB and CSC officials were under time constraints to place the offender as quickly as possible and there was no malicious motive for the disclosure. Nevertheless, we found it disconcerting that the woman’s personal information was disclosed simply because no one took the time to read the report. The disclosure should never have happened. The Privacy Act has been in force since 1983 and federal government employees are constantly reminded of their obligations to protect personal information.

Our Office concluded that CSC had seriously contravened the woman’s confidentiality rights and that the complaint was well-founded. Unfortunately the Privacy Act provides no remedies or grounds for court review in the case of an improper disclosure of personal information.

The case has led to an agreement that CSC will no longer provide Placement Reports to the NPB.

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