Correctional officer breaches privacy to prove a point

An offender complained that a Correctional Service Canada officer used his canteen purchase records to prove a point about an unrelated matter.

An offender had asked CSC for information relating to the possible health risks associated with inhaling smoke from sweet grass. In a written response, CSC informed him there did not appear to be any health studies about exposure to sweet grass. One officer added a note at the bottom of the document: “If you are worked up about the effects of smoke, I would suggest you stop using tobacco products as these contain numerous carcinogens, cause emphysema and heart problems.” He also attached a two-page printout of the offender’s canteen purchases, highlighting all tobacco products.

The complaint was well-founded. The OPC determined that canteen purchase records were personal information collected for security and management purposes. It concluded that those records could only be used for those purposes – not to prove a point about an offender’s health query.

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