On June 16 a break and enter at the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority’s H.H. Williams Memorial Hospital took place. A second break and enter occurred less than a week later at the same location, but this time the HRHSSA said it included the theft of a motor vehicle and the potential breach of access of private patient information.
Thankfully, last week the Hay River RCMP announced that a 19-year-old woman faces a string of charges related to two incidents on the same dates at the same time of day at “a GNWT facility.” Rather than connecting the incidents with what has already been announced, the RCMP refused to specifically tie the arrest with the town’s old hospital nor even acknowledge the central question most residents ought to reasonably wonder: to what extent was my private information compromised?
Instead of clarity, we get responses like the following: “RCMP does not provide the name of a building or organization unless the investigation can be furthered by the release, and “we are also not at liberty to discuss what may or may not have been part of the incident regarding alleged removal of items.”
It would be one thing if NWT residents hadn’t already witnessed other privacy breaches by this territorial government, but unfortunately it is becoming all too commonplace. It is completely reasonable for the public to demand more information from the RCMP and the GNWT – the signatories of the territory’s policing contract.
In April, for example, an employee of the Department of Health and Social Services mistakenly shared names and emails of self-isolating travellers in a mass email.
This spring, too, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment released more than 1,000 full names and associated information including their addresses regarding interest paid on student loans in recent years to an individual.
Perhaps the most egregious of all, in 2018 private medical records were found in the Fort Simpson landfill.
While we commend the police for their work in apprehending the culprit – they also laid a charge of break and enter in relation to an incident at a gas bar and others related to mischief and thefts of under $5,000 – last week’s announcement showed a lack of acknowledgment of a critical issue in the NWT, which is how private information is handled by government.
It also showed a flagrant disconnect between what the RCMP thinks it owes the public in terms of information about crime in their community.