Two civil advocacy groups are accusing Ontario police officers of misusing a coronavirus database to conduct illegal searches in violation of Canadians’ privacy rights. 

Both the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and the Canadian Constitutional Foundation (CCF) raised the alarm after separately obtaining government documents they say reveal a constitutional breach. 

“People weren’t told that when they went for COVID tests that this information was being shared with police and they certainly weren’t asked for their consent,” CCLA criminal justice program director Abby Deshman told CTV News. 

“That should be a decision every person makes about what they want to do with their own personal medical information.”

The database was first implemented in April after Ontario’s provincial government used an emergency order to allow law enforcement to acquire information about those who have tested positive for the virus. 

Due to a legal challenge filed by human rights groups, police access to the data had to end by August 17.

Since then, a freedom of information request filed by the CCF revealed a gross mishandling of the data.

“This document reveals a shocking misuse of personal health information by police,” said CCF director of litigation Christine Van Geyn. 

“Police were caught using the COVID-19 database to look up names unrelated to active calls, to do wholesale postal code searches for COVID-19 cases, and to even do broad based searches outside officers’ own cities. There is no rationale for this abuse.” 

The CCF claims that they have filed a complaint with Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner related to violations of the Personal Health Information Protection Act. A complaint has also been filed with the Ontario Independent Police Review Director. 

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