HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Feds Leaked Pot List Names
Pubdate: Tue, 08 Feb 2000
Source: Calgary Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2000, Canoe Limited Partnership
Contact:  2615 12 Street N.E., Calgary, Alberta T2E 7W9
Fax: (403) 250-4180
Author: Kathleen Harris, Sun Media


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

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

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.
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