Nearly 50 Mission Institution prisoners are suing the Attorney General of Canada over an alleged privacy breach which could have allowed other inmates to target them.
The 47 plaintiffs in the civil suit claim that from April until the end of July, 2020, Correctional Service Canada (CSC) staff posted notices on one or more food service carts which detailed their names next to private medical information, such as what prescriptions they were taking.
“The CSC staff responsible for posting the notices acted intentionally and/or recklessly,” the suit says. “The said staff knew or ought to have known that the posting of the notices would violate the privacy of the inmates whose names and other sensitive information appeared.”
The information reportedly included fingerprint serial numbers, cell numbers, what medications they were on (including prescriptions for methadone or suboxone), dietary and allergy restrictions, if they were on a 14-day induction period, unemployed or suspended from work, and any scheduled court dates.
Twelve plaintiffs allege their confidential information was plainly visible to read by all CSC and inmate kitchen staff, correctional officers and inmates across all living units; 35 others claim it was accessible across their unit.
All plaintiffs say they never consented to share the information.
Prescription drugs have significant value and are in high demand among the prisoner populations for recreational use and trade, the suit says.
“The Plaintiffs suffered, inter alia, significant embarrassment, stress, anxiety and concern for their personal safety,” the suit says. “Other inmates who read the notices might attempt to obtain their medication, whether through theft, violence, or the threat of violence.”
When a number of the plaintiffs became aware their names and other sensitive information had leaked, they say they filed complaints to the prison’s management.
They claim that in mid-August, the privacy co-ordinator for the medium-security institution provided a letter admitting to the privacy breach, and stating immediate corrective action was taken by removing and replacing the lists.
“The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) considers the protection of the personal information to be of the upmost importance and regrets any concerns or inconvenience this incident may cause you,” the letter allegedly says. “We acknowledge that CSC has a responsibility to protect personal information from unauthorized disclosure and will ensure appropriate measures are taken to prevent a reoccurrence.”
The plaintiffs are seeking damages and costs, and other relief in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
The Record has reached out to CSC for comment.