Question Period: George Heyman asks about US access to health info of BC residents

G. Heyman: It’s like listening to a tape recording from a year ago by the Health Minister. British Columbia has robust privacy laws because they were introduced by an NDP government, and they’re weaker today because this government consistently undermines them.

It’s a matter of record from both the Auditor General and the Privacy Commissioner, who informed the Ministry of Citizens’ Services, that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is authorized to order a U.S.-owned company to produce records that are under its control even when the information is located in Canada. Those U.S. court orders are made in secret, so we would never be told.

Yet the Liberal government failed to share this important information with British Columbians, despite having assured us that our records are secure. That’s not surprising, because this government has a history of hiding information from British Columbians until they’re forced to disclose i

Imagine. Our health information can be seized and used by the U.S. government without us even knowing it. Why isn’t the minister responsible for privacy protection enforcing his own laws to protect British Columbians’ private, personal and sensitive medical information?

Hon. A. Virk: This issue has been canvassed quite extensively in standing legislative committees. There have been updates to legislation. The assertion from the member is simply incorrect. The suggestion somehow that the members opposite are defenders of privacy legislation…. We determined right in this House just several weeks ago…. The members right across here were working, were mentoring, the suggestion that privacy legislation was far too open. That was determined right in this Legislative Assembly just several weeks ago.

Madame Speaker: Recognizing Vancouver-Fairview on a supplemental.


Madame Speaker: Members. Members will come to order.

Please proceed.

G. Heyman: The minister is simply unaware of communications made to his own officials within his own ministry that concern protecting important, sensitive information of British Columbians, or he’s just hiding his head in the sand.

In November 2013 a paraplegic Canadian woman was denied entry into the United States because she had been hospitalized for clinical depression in 2012 and had attempted suicide a decade earlier. It was a mystery and remains unknown how the U.S. government accessed her personal and private medical information.

Cases like this one show that there are serious consequences when personal medical information gets into the hands of foreign governments. That’s why our law says that information has to stay in Canada and be accessed only by Canadians. Why won’t this minister ensure that the government follows its own laws?


Madame Speaker: Members.

Hon. A. Virk: Well, the members opposite certainly want to spin a number of conspiracy theories. The privacy data of British Columbians is very important, and this government takes that responsibility….


Madame Speaker: Just wait. Please proceed.

Hon. A. Virk: The data security and privacy of British Columbians is indeed a serious matter. The suggestion, to spin these conspiracy theories…. Data collected about British Columbians by British Columbian institutions is safeguarded in the best manner possible, and it’s going to continue to be done so.

[End of question period.]