HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Applicants fume over pot plan privacy
Pubdate: Wed, 09 Feb 2000
Source: Ottawa Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2000, Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Kathleen Harris


Health Canada is under threat of legal action from sick, angry
citizens after a confidential list of names was leaked from its
controlled substances branch.

More than 128 people who have corresponded with the federal department
about using marijuana as medicine were notified over the weekend that
their names could be in the hands of a print journalist. They were
sent letters by priority post yesterday which expressed "regret" for
the breach and advised that a security investigation is under way.

"I've been raped," said Steven Bacon of Oshawa, who suffers from
Hepatitis C. "They've taken the last sacred thing that I have -- my
own personal information that was, in my mind, in safe and caring hands."

Bacon is "mad as hell" and plans to explore his legal options. He
hopes to use the incident as leverage to make the federal government
step up its policies on medicinal marijuana, but fears the leak has
destroyed the program's credibility.

"Who the hell is going to apply now? How can you trust your
government? You can't," he said.

As of late yesterday, the Officer of the Privacy Commissioner had
received 11 formal complaints about the disclosure of confidential
information from Health Canada.

A Mississauga man whose wife uses cannabis to relieve the symptoms of
epilepsy was shocked to learn about the breach in yesterday's Sun. His
14-year-old daughter had received two calls from Health Canada on the
weekend, but the officer left no message about the reason for his call.

"We're scared," he said. "My wife just burst into tears. We feel just
sick about it -- I'm a professional and there's still a stigma about
using marijuana."

He and others say they may launch a class-action suit claiming

Rick Reimer, a Pembroke lawyer who uses marijuana to relieve symptoms
of multiple sclerosis, doesn't want the issue to be about financial

"Money is so unimportant compared to the real issue," he

Reimer is "appalled" by the bureaucratic breach of privacy, and is
anxiously awaiting an explanation from Health Canada.

"We hear so much about how doctors and lawyers have to be so careful,"
he said. "Here we have the people who are setting the rules and they
can't even abide by them themselves."

The letter mailed out yesterday said procedures for the control and
storage of classified and designated information are in place.


Health Minister Allan Rock said he's "concerned" that confidential
information was released by his department and pleaded with
journalists not to publish the list of names. But he said it would be
up to his deputy minister to decide if an independent inquiry is
needed to find out how this happened and prevent it from happening

"I'm sure the deputy will take whatever steps are required internally
at Health Canada to get to the bottom of this," he said.

A Hawkesbury victim of Hepatitis C and other chronic conditions was
reeling after the startling revelation from the health department.

"This is a terrible bureaucracy that has no place for sick people like
me," he said. 
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