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Privacy 101 for Children’s Aid Societies

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In January, the child welfare sector, including children’s aid societies, will become subject to new privacy rules. Part X of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act will come into force and will create a harmonized privacy environment for the sector for the first time.

I was recently interviewed by Advocate Daily on this topic.

Whenever there is a significant change in legislation, there is a need for leaders to guide their staff through a philosophical and practice transition.

It is important for CAS leaders, lawyers and privacy officers to explain the changes in philosophy and practices in ways staff can understand, do and remember.

Here are some of the elements of change that are coming:

  1. Privacy is more than confidentiality. Part X of the CYFSA does not introduce confidentiality to the child welfare sector. The sector has a rich history and respect for understanding how important it is to protect personal information, maintain its secrecy and not wrongfully disclose it.  The duty of confidentiality is not new. But, privacy is more than confidentiality.  Privacy focuses our attention on individual service recipients – not providers.  Privacy relates to rights of access to information, being able to make choices about how information is collected, used and shared, and the freedom from unauthorized intrusion. Part X rules will require Society staff to think about their own “need to know” information.
  2. Regulation introduces an overseer of rights and responsibility in the office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. That office has oversight over privacy rules for Ontario and Municipal governments, universities, publicly funded institutions and health care providers.
  3. Part X introduces expectations of safeguards and security and there will overtime be more consistency of expectation of digital and physical protections for service records.  Issues like transporting records, digital protections, and ransomware will become top of mind.
  4. Consent and Capacity: Additional rules will promote robust conversations about consent and capacity. They will clarify under what situations a child can make their own information decisions and when parents and other substitute decision-makers have rights and responsibilities.
  5. Access: Part X gives service recipients a right of access to their own records of personal information relating to services. There will be harmonizing of practice.

What Part X does not change is the paramount purpose of the CYFSA to promote the best interests protection and well-being of children. Protecting children and creating environments that support them, their voice and their heritage – continue to be the focus of the legislation.

Action: Are you a CAS that needs privacy training this Fall?  I’d love to help you move through your initial privacy training phase.  Training is my absolute favourite thing to do – and I promise you it will be educational and fun! Let me know how I can support you. 

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Kate Dewhirst Health Law

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