BCCLA welcomes BC Court of Appeal striking down unconstitutional intrusions on parental privacy

THE BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) on Tuesday welcomed the BC Court of Appeal’s decision that Section 96(1) of the Child Family and Community Service Act violates the Section 8 Charter right against unreasonable search and seizure.

The court granted the BC government a 12-month suspension to propose a new provision with constitutional safeguards.

The BCCLA said it intervened in the case to protect the intimate privacy of parental medical records and promote oversight in the child protection regime. At issue is the broad power which allows the Director of Child Protection and their social workers broad and unrestricted authority to obtain private medical information of parents – without their knowledge or consent.

The BCCLA argued that the analysis had to consider the use of the information obtained and the serious impacts on child and family relationships, which is protected under Section 7 of the Charter and the BC Court of Appeal agreed. Consistent with the BCCLA’s position, the court affirmed the need for better safeguards against the abuse of state power.

“This is a significant decision that recognizes this legislation goes too far in allowing the government to obtain highly personal intimate information about parents and families, without safeguards such as notice to the individual. Importantly, the Court of Appeal recognized that these intrusions are happening in the child protection context, where the information gets used by the state in decisions with far-reaching impacts on parents and families,” said Maegen Giltrow, pro bono counsel for the BCCLA.

“We are thrilled to see the Court recognizing the importance of these privacy interests in the lives of British Columbians accessing public medical and social services. The BCCLA looks forward to the government proposing a less intrusive regime with appropriate checks and balances to protect Charter interests. This not only protects individual privacy and encourages seeking medical care and social support, but promotes the protection of children and families,” said Ga Grant, Litigation Staff Counsel, BCCLA.

The BCCLA is represented by Lisa Glowacki and Maegen Giltrow, KC.