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Feds Leaked Pot List Names

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Feb. 8, 00
Calgary Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2000, Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Kathleen Harris, Sun Media
FEDS LEAKED POT LIST NAMES Health Canada Probe Launched OTTAWA -- A confidential list of names of sick and dying Canadians who've inquired about using marijuana as medicine has leaked from the federal health department, the Sun has learned. Health Canada has launched an internal investigation to determine how the serious breach of confidentiality occurred in its controlled substances section, which normally operates under tight security. The department has also reported the matter to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, which has assigned an officer to the case. "Obviously, the government is very concerned about material getting into the wrong hands," said Dann Michols of Health Canada's therapeutic products program. "What makes this more concerning is that this is private information -- this is not even government information. It means that individuals' lives are potentially affected by this." Health Canada spent the weekend contacting more than 128 people -- including victims of AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain -- who have inquired about, applied for, or been granted an exemption from the Criminal Code to use the controlled narcotic. Department staff apologized for the breach of confidentiality, Michols said. Informing those affected has been the first priority, but now the focus will shift to finding out how the names were "improperly obtained" by a journalist. Michols said he would be "doubly appalled" if the investigation finds the information, which is covered by the Privacy Act, was deliberately released by a branch employee. The list of names does not contain other information such as telephone numbers or medical information. A lawyer has contacted the journalist's news organization and Michols is confident the names will not be used for publication. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner is reviewing the breach. It hasn't determined if a separate inquiry is needed. Rob Brown, a victim of Hepatitis C who lives near Cobden, Ont., was among those contacted by Health Canada this weekend. "They're absolutely inept," he said.