Stiffer penalties now in place with new Ontario stunt driving legislation | Watch News Videos Online



In an effort to crack down on stunt driving and street racing, new rules across Ontario are now in effect. Under the Moving Ontarians More Safely Act, it also calls for stricter licence suspensions and increased vehicle impoundment periods. Frazer Snowdon reports.



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Doug Ford’s use of notwithstanding clause for third-party ads law may backfire: experts


TORONTO — Representatives have returned to Ontario’s legislature for an emergency weekend debate on election finance law with implications for free speech that experts warn may backfire on Premier Doug Ford’s government.

Debate was scheduled to start overnight into Saturday morning and continue over the next several days on the bill tabled this week using the notwithstanding clause — the rarely-used constitutional tool that allows legislatures to override portions of the charter of Rights and Freedoms for five years.

The bill in question restores rules on third-party ad spending which a provincial judge rejected as unconstitutional earlier this week. The law doubles the restricted third-party ad spending period to 12 months before an election campaign gets underway, but keeps the spending limit of $600,000 the same.

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Ontario government to invoke notwithstanding clause over campaign finance judgment

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Unions have said the rules infringe on their rights to free speech. The Progressive Conservative government has argued the changes are necessary to protect elections from outside influence, but critics have been quick to label the move a power play aimed at silencing opposition ahead of next June’s election.

Western University political science professor Cristine de Clercy said the term “third party” may sound vague, but the legislation has free speech implications for the majority of Ontarians.

“It basically affects all the rest of us, all the people and groups who are not actual political parties,” she said in an interview.

Jeffrey Dvorkin, a senior fellow at the University of Toronto’s Massey College, said there are also press freedom issues at stake.

Read more:
Ontario government set to introduce legislation to invoke notwithstanding clause

News outlets often rely on the excess revenue from advertisements during elections, he said, and the changes to the Election Finances Act threaten that income stream.

“It’s dangerous politically, and it’s dangerous for a free media,” Dvorkin said. “It actually really has a lot of damaging consequences for the state of a healthy and independent media landscape, and I don’t think the government has considered this.”

At the heart of this weekend’s debate is an effort to balance free speech and fair access to political expression, de Clercy said, describing them as complicated issues that Canadian governments and courts have grappled with before.

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It’s not usual for courts to find legislation unconstitutional and for governments to respond by re-drafting laws or appealing decisions, but de Clercy said Ford’s drastic methods — of using the notwithstanding clause and holding an emergency weekend debate to get it done quickly — stand out.

“It sort of underscores the concern that Mr. Ford is moving to expedite this legislation out of partisan self-interest, because he thinks that will help his party in the next election rather than because he thinks it’s good legislation that Ontarians need,” she said.


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Ford government uses notwithstanding clause


Ford government uses notwithstanding clause – Jun 10, 2021

Andrew McDougall, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said use of the notwithstanding clause is not a politically smart move because the baggage behind the measure often overpowers discussion about other issues.

“As soon as you use the nuclear option of the notwithstanding clause, it changes the entire tenor of the debate to one about civil liberties and how they can be limited, and that’s not a great message generally,” he said.

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Experts agree that using the notwithstanding clause to push the legislation through will be unpopular. But since Ford’s government holds a majority, it’s likely to pass after the weekend of debate unless public pushback grows too strong.

De Clercy noted that Ford appears genuinely worried about third party influence, to the point that he’s willing to face the public after using such an unpopular legislative tool to push through a law deemed unconstitutional. However, she said his methods might contribute to the very problem he hopes to avoid.


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Everyday Joe: What about the notwithstanding clause?


Everyday Joe: What about the notwithstanding clause? – May 7, 2021

“In the very act of trying to perhaps control third party voices against him, he may actually generate more opposition than he can squash,” she said.

McDougall said the government also runs the risk of drowning out news stories that might reflect well on them, such as improvements in COVID-19-related trends and the first stage of the province’s economic reopening plan, which took effect on Friday.

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“Instead of having that story, we’re going to have a discussion about civil liberties, which may not be the best political spin for them right now,” McDougall said. “It’ll be interesting to see how this debate plays out on their numbers.”

Opposition parties have acknowledged that they have limited options for fighting the bill. They began on Thursday by introducing motions on other issues to drag out the process, and have called on Ontarians to voice their concerns.

The vice president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, which was involved in the original court challenge, said on Friday that the union was looking into its legal options.

Karen Brown said at a news conference that no matter the outcome of the marathon weekend debate, voters can still mobilize against the government next June.

“Ford can pass legislation that tramples on our democratic Charter rights, but he will not silence us,” she said. “We can replace this government.”




© 2021 The Canadian Press





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London, Ont., MPP introduces bill to cover devices that help with mental health treatment


With the number of people struggling with mental health on the rise, a local MPP is proposing a new bill that would cover devices used to support mental health treatment.

NDP London North Centre MPP Terence Kernaghan says if approved, the bill would extend Ontario’s Assistive Devices Program to cover technological devices used to support mental health care treatments and the data costs associated with them.

“This would include coverage of devices which allow patients to virtually access medical and counselling appointments, relay heart rate, physical activity, and sleep data to health-care providers and automatically dispense medications,” said Kernaghan.

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Kernaghan says this is especially important with the ongoing issue of hallway health care.

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“We have to ensure Ontarians experiencing mental health crisis are not left stranded in hospital hallways or beds because our health-care system simply does not have space for them,” Kernaghan said.

“By providing mental health supports right at home with assistive devices, this bill can help people lead fuller more independent and safer lives and help people end the cycle of crisis and hospitalization.”

Research by the London Health Science Centre researchers showed Ontarians with mental health needs showed positive health outcomes once they had access to devices that support their treatment plan.

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A study by researcher Cheryl Forchuk of Lawson Health Research Institute found that Ontarians who use assistive devices for their mental health felt more empowered, less isolated and more integrated in their communities.

According to the study, nearly 80 per cent of participants found assistive devices for mental health improved their overall health and resulted in fewer visits to a social service provider or a hospital emergency department.

“The pandemic has reaffirmed that there can be no health without mental health. In the 21st century, we know new technologies are available to support mental as well as physical health,” Forchuk said.

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“We need legislation that does not discriminate based on the type of disability.”

Kernaghan’s private member’s bill, Bill 277, will be debated in the legislature and voted on Thursday.




© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.





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Ontario’s COVID-19 triage protocol ‘discriminates because of disability,’ advocates say


When Tracy Odell experienced bleeding in her stomach last summer during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, she went to hospital but vowed she would not return.

“I don’t feel safe in hospitals and a lot of people with disabilities similar to mine, where you need this much assistance, don’t feel safe in a hospital,” she said.

Odell was born with spinal muscular atrophy and requires assistance to complete many daily tasks.

Now, amid the third wave and with critical care units filling up, Odell said she fears if she ever needed the care, she would not be able to get it.

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Pushing Ontario’s ICUs to the brink — How some hospitals are preparing for the worst

“I, personally, wouldn’t go to a hospital. I would feel it would be a waste of time and I’d feel very unsafe to go thereIt’s a real indictment, I think, of our system, that people who have disabilities, have severe needs, don’t feel safe in a place where everyone’s supposed to be safe,” she said.

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Odell is most concerned about a “critical care triage protocol” that could be activated in Ontario.

It would essentially allow health-care providers to decide who gets potentially life-saving care and who doesn’t.

Under the guidelines, as set out in a draft protocol circulating among hospitals, patients would be ranked on their likelihood to survive one year after the onset of critical illness.

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“Patients who have a high likelihood of dying within twelve months from the onset of their episode of critical illness (based on an evaluation of their clinical presentation at the point of triage) would have a lower priority for critical care resources,” states the document.

Odell says it’s tough to predict who will survive an illness.

“They have to guess who’s going to last a year ... As a child with my disability, my projected life expectancy was like a kid … they didn’t think I’d live to be a teenager and here I am retired, so it’s a very hard thing to judge,” said Odell.

Disability advocates have been raising alarm bells over the triage protocol for months.

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David Lepofsky, of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, sent multiple letters to Minister of Health Christine Elliott demanding transparency, arguing “the Ontario government’s pervasive secrecy over its critical care triage plans has made many people with disabilities terrified, angry and distrustful.”

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“People with disabilities have disproportionately had to suffer for the past year from the most severe aspects of COVID … People with disabilities are disproportionately prone to end up in intensive care units and die from the disease,” said Lepofsky.

“Now we face the double cruelty that we are disproportionately prone to get told, ‘No, you can’t have that life-saving care.’”

Lepofsky said the document that is circulating, while not finalized, is problematic, unethical and discriminatory.

“The rules that have been given to intensive care units for deciding who gets critical care and who doesn’t, if they have to ration, may look fine because they’re full of medical jargon, but they actually explicitly discriminate because of disability,” he said.

“We agree there should be a protocol, but it can’t be one that discriminates because of disability. That’s illegal.”

John Mossa, who is living with muscular dystrophy, has been homebound for more than a year, afraid he would contract COVID-19 if he went outside and not survive it.

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“COVID is a very serious disease for me … if I do get COVID, I would probably become very ill and pass away because of my poor respiratory condition. I have about 30 per cent lung capacity due to my muscular dystrophy so COVID is very serious. It’s been a very scary time,” he said.

Never more frightening than right now, Mossa said, amid a surging third wave with a record number of patients in Ontario’s critical care units and the potential for triaging life-saving care.

“The people that would be affected the most are the least considered to get care … I’m afraid, I’m totally afraid to go to hospital right now,” he said.

A few weeks ago, Mossa said, he had a hip accident but he has avoided the hospital, even though he is suffering and should seek medical help.

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“I should be considering going to hospital, but I’m not going to go to hospital because I know that I won’t get the care I need and if it gets any worse. I know that I wouldn’t be given an ICU bed,” he said.

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On Wednesday, when asked about the triage protocol, Elliott said it has not yet been activated.

That was echoed by Dr. James Downar, a palliative and critical care physician in Ottawa who co-wrote Ontario’s ICU protocol.

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“I don’t think that there’s any plan to initiate a triage process in the next couple of days. I think a lot is going to depend on which way our ICU numbers go. They have been climbing at a fairly alarming rate,” he said.

On concerns by advocates that the protocol discriminates against people with disabilities, Downar said, “The only criterion in the triage plan is mortality risk.”

“We absolutely don’t want to make any judgments about whose life is more valuable, certainly nothing based on ability, disability or need for accommodations … If you value all lives equally, that, I think, is the strongest argument for using an approach that would save as many lives as you can,” he said.


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Ontario to allow hospitals to move patients to long-term care, retirement homes to create room for COVID-19 patients


Ontario to allow hospitals to move patients to long-term care, retirement homes to create room for COVID-19 patients





© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.





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Group urges province to open COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration to all Ontarians


A Toronto city councillor and a group of health-care professionals are calling on the province to open COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration to all Ontarians in a bid to improve the rollout of shots.

Coun. Josh Matlow and health-care professionals from the University Health Network and the University of Toronto, posted an open letter to Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott, and the co-chairs of the COVID-19 science advisory table on Wednesday.

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“While the vaccine rollout offers an end in sight to the COVID-19 pandemic, too many Ontarians who have yet to be eligible for the current phase of the vaccination plan are left feeling anxious about when, and how they’ll learn that their turn will finally come,” the letter said.

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“That is why we recommend the province offer a specific category on their call-in and online booking systems that gives Ontarians an opportunity to pre-register for the vaccine.”

The letter said residents should be able to enter their date of birth, postal code, and contact information and get onto a registration list.

“Once eligible, Ontarians could receive an email and/or text message outlining the next steps on how to officially book their vaccine appointment and applicable location(s),” the letter said.

They said this could improve the management of vaccine supply, offer insight into vaccine hesitancy, and give residents the feeling of being closer to overcoming the pandemic.





© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.





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Ontarians push back against companies denying them access to ‘non-essential’ goods


Ontario residents are pushing back against big box and discount stores cutting off access to in-store items the province has deemed ‘non-essential’ as part of the the new COVID-19 stay-at-home measures.

They argue that many of those items are essential, especially for low-income households who can’t afford to buy supplies online or at pricier retailers.

“There are a lot of things people think are everyday essentials that are roped off and I think that’s a mistake that the government overlooked,” said Sarah Colero, a person whose income relies on the Ontario Disability Support Program.

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She claims the ODSP only provides her with just under $1,200 a month and she depends on stores like Dollarama to get her supplies.

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Colero claims Dollarama has closed off access to aisles with many supplies she needs and can’t afford to purchase elsewhere.

“Cleaning supplies, menstrual products, paper towels, tissues, tin foil,” she said. “I love Dollarama because everything there is a good price and that’s really what we need, because on ODSP, we have to budget so carefully.”

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Dollaramas across Toronto have signs outside stores listing items that the province had deemed ‘non-essential’ and it could no longer sell in-store, including supplies related to school, office, kitchen, hair accessories and closet and bathroom.

Dollarama also doesn’t allow for curbside pickup.

Ulisse Aiello is a caregiver to his brother with autism and said he desperately needs art supplies to keep his sibling occupied.

“He has the mentality of a five-year-old so you have to do a lot of things with him to keep him busy,” Aiello said.

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Aiello adds that, with their budget, he can only afford art supplies at places like Dollarama and Walmart.

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“It’s not fair that you’re closing down sections of a store that are absolutely essential to many people,” he said. 

Meanwhile, many others took to Twitter to criticize Walmart for closing off areas of their stores, including some who claimed they were denied access to child supplies and diapers.

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Dr. Andrew Boozary suggests the government should be more flexible when it comes to what is deemed ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential,’ especially to those in marginalized and low-incomes communities.

“It’s a really tough line to draw between what is essential and non-essential,” said Boozary.

“We just have to listen to the community in things that they need, things that are essential through this stretch — because we really need to know that there’s that solidarity as to which kind of neighbourhoods are at risk and which neighbourhoods are going to have the least access to support and help.”

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In response to Global News’ request for a statement, Ontario’s ministry of health said the rules only allow big box and discount stores to sell certain items.

“These categories are limited to: grocery items, pet care supplies, household cleaning supplies, pharmaceutical items, health care items and personal care items,” said ministry of health spokesperson Alexandra Hilkene.

“Given the vast number of types of items that big box/discount retailers sell, the prescribed categories ensure that retailers have the flexibility needed to categorize all items sold,” she added.

“Should a big box/discount store wish to sell other items, they must comply with any applicable conditions that other retailers that sell those items comply with.”

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COVID-19: Ontario hospitals suspending non-emergency surgeries


COVID-19: Ontario hospitals suspending non-emergency surgeries

Meanwhile, a Dollarama spokesperson told Global News in a statement: “We are committed to maintaining this essential role while also adhering to evolving government orders in the face of a persistent virus.

“We moved quickly (Wednesday) following the announcement of new emergency measures effective (Thursday), and we sincerely thank all our customers for their patience and understanding in what continue to be extremely difficult circumstances for Canadians from all walks of life.”

“We thank our customers for their patience and understanding as we implement the new guidelines,” said Walmart Canada media relations representative, Adam Grachnik.

“In this case, diapers are permitted for sale in our stores.”





© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.





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‘Still far away’ from Ontarians being able to choose what COVID-19 vaccine they receive, Elliott says



Ontario Deputy Premier and Health Minister Christine Elliott said Thursday that the province is “still far away” from when Ontarians will be able to choose what vaccine they receive, because of limitations with with the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine and the number of accessible doses.



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‘People are being shown no mercy’: Online evictions raise alarm in Ontario


Tenant after tenant addressed the virtual meeting, describing how COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on their lives and finances over the last year.

A Toronto mother said she struggled to keep up with bills after losing work in the restaurant industry. A Hamilton man behind on rent payments said he was staying in touch with his landlord about his financial situation after being laid off.

“It’s COVID, people struggle,” he appealed to Landlord and Tenant Board member John Mazzilli during the Dec. 18 block of hearings — all of which involved non-payment of rent.

Similar scenes playing out over the last several weeks have raised concern among Ontario advocates who say the pickup of evictions in the pandemic’s second wave coincides with a shift to online-only hearings that stack the deck against tenants.

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“These people are being shown no mercy,” Kenn Hale with the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario said in a recent interview. “They’re expected to pay and pay now or get out.”

Hale, director of advocacy and legal services at ACTO, said it’s “absurd” to evict people during a health crisis that has left many unable to pay rent due to lost income.

“It’s bad enough in normal times for people to lose their homes and to be treated unfairly an administrative proceeding. But it can be life or death in the kind of situation we’re in now,” Hale said in a recent interview.

Evictions were suspended until late summer and the Landlord and Tenant Board is now working through a backlog of cases that observers say predated the pandemic, and has grown this year as more people lose income.


Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Federal government announces new rent subsidy support for small businesses'







Coronavirus: Federal government announces new rent subsidy support for small businesses


Coronavirus: Federal government announces new rent subsidy support for small businesses – Nov 23, 2020

Tribunals Ontario doesn’t keep track of evictions, but according to ACTO, the board heard more than 7,000 cases in November. Ninety-six per cent of those were filed by a landlord against a tenant, the ACTO said. As of Dec. 14, 4,597 hearings were scheduled for the month.

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Hale said the shift to an online-only hearing model has made it harder for tenants to present their circumstances or access legal advice, including through ACTO’s duty counsel program.

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Lawyers must now introduce themselves to tenants in the virtual session, in front of all other participants, and both need to exit the meeting to speak privately.

Hale said such introductions don’t always run smoothly, with lawyers are entering “chaotic” hearing situations where they struggle to make themselves heard.

There’s also concern about changes under Bill 184, which became law in the summer. It allows landlords to offer repayment agreements without appearing before the Landlord and Tenant Board, so some tenants are signing on to potentially unreasonable repayment terms without fully understanding their rights, Hale said.


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Calgary landlord offers tenants rent relief with new ‘COVID clause’ in leases


Calgary landlord offers tenants rent relief with new ‘COVID clause’ in leases – Dec 15, 2020

A group of Ontario legal clinics, including ACTO, wrote to Tribunals Ontario in October with proposed guidelines for adjudicators considering evictions cases during the pandemic — including the public health risk and pressures on people’s finances.

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Hale said the group had not received a response as of mid-December.

The Progressive Conservative government has not yet acted on an Opposition motion supporting a freeze on evictions that passed unanimously this month, days before the legislative assembly adjourned until February.

NDP MPP Suze Morrison, who introduced the motion, said the online hearing format isn’t accessible for people with visual impairments or those who don’t have stable internet access, among other challenges.

“I’m deeply concerned that there are human rights violations happening here,” Morrison said by phone.

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A statement from Ford’s office this month said the government “is continuing to explore ways to further support Ontarians during this difficult time.”

Tribunals Ontario, meanwhile, said it’s pursuing “a digital-first strategy to meet the diverse needs of Ontarians and enhance the quality of our dispute resolution services.”

It said requests for in-person hearings would be considered on a case-by-case basis to ensure people are accommodated under the Human Rights Code. As of mid-December, Tribunals Ontario had not confirmed if any in-person hearings had been approved.

Sam Nithiananthan, an organizer with People’s Defence Toronto, said the online hearings have been a “double-edged sword” in the evictions process, as allies can now tune in and support their neighbours.

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Nithiananthan said the crisis has exposed longstanding issues renters face in the city, and it’s motivated tenants to organize in larger numbers than he’d seen before.

“What has been shifting is tenants are now standing up,” he said.

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Tenant organizer Bryan Doherty with Keep Your Rent Toronto said his group and others have called for rent relief that goes beyond a moratorium on evictions, arguing that simply pausing evictions would leave cases to pile up.

“We knew that a moratorium at the beginning of the COVID crisis would actually just produce an eviction blitz midway through the crisis, which is what we’re seeing now,” he said by phone in a mid-December interview.

Rents have long been unaffordable in Ontario’s largest city and Doherty said “COVID kind of threw gasoline on that fire.”

He said pressure needs to be applied to landlords and governments to address the housing crisis affecting working-class tenants during the pandemic and beyond.

“I don’t think it’s going to be the same. The question is whether or not it will be worse or slightly better,” he said.





© 2020 The Canadian Press





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Ontario ends police access to coronavirus database after legal challenge


TORONTO — Ontario has ended police access to a COVID-19 database after a legal challenge was filed by a group of human rights organizations.

Aboriginal Legal Services, the Black Legal Action Centre, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario were all parties to the lawsuit.

The groups argued that allowing police to access personal health records violates individuals’ constitutional rights to privacy and equality.

Read more:
Rights groups fight sharing of COVID-19 status with Ontario police forces in court

A statement from the CCLA says that the lawsuit against the province has been dropped with the news that the government has ended police access to the database.

The human rights organizations say they are now calling on local police services to destroy the personal health information that has already been accessed.

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They also ask that local police conduct audits to ensure the data access to date complied with policy and legal requirements.

Read more:
Coronavirus: Civil liberties group concerned as Ontario cops get IDs of those who test positive

In early April, the Ontario government passed an emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act that allowed police to obtain the names, addresses and dates of birth of Ontarians who had tested positive for COVID-19.

The human rights organizations said they wrote to the government expressing concerns about the utility and legality of sharing sensitive personal health information.

When they didn’t hear back, the groups said they filed an urgent court application challenging Ontario’s decision to release this information to police because they argued it breached provincial health privacy protections and violated individuals’ constitutional rights to privacy and equality.


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© 2020 The Canadian Press






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