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Everyone has a right to confidentiality

A committee set up by Erit is working on a policy of “confidentiality for all” in health system institutions, particularly for persons without status.

The importance of confidentiality safeguards for people without status

People without status often hesitate to go to the hospital or a public clinic for fear of being reported to immigration authorities. For similar reasons, people without status are also very reluctant to report cases of domestic violence or sexual aggression. Even asylum-seekers, who enjoy legal status, are often apprehensive because they are unaware of their rights. Consequently, it is important to safeguard their confidentiality so that they will not be afraid to consult a physician, a social worker or another practitioner in a timely fashion. This is crucial for the individual and for public health.

Safeguarding confidentiality does not mean granting people without status free access to healthcare services. A “confidentiality for all” policy merely guarantees that when they visit an institution in the health system, they will not be reported to authorities. Policies guaranteeing confidentiality for persons without status have been adopted by the City of Toronto (February 2013), three American states (Maine, Oregon and Vermont) and 36 American cities, including Los Angeles, Denver, New York City, Miami, Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and Seattle.

The obligation to protect the confidentiality of personal information

The golden rule regarding confidentiality is that all personal information is confidential and may not be disclosed to a third party without the consent of the person concerned except as authorized by law. Personal information is anything that makes it possible to identify the person.

This rule applies to everyone residing in Québec, regardless of his or her status. People without status who visit a health institution for consultation have the same right to confidentiality as any other user in the system.

This rule is set out in several laws, including Québec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Civil Code, the Act Respecting Access to Documents Held by Public Bodies and the Protection of Personal Information, the Act Respecting Health Services and Social Services and the Professional Code.