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First Nations Push for Sharing of COVID-19 Case Locations

Three First Nations in BC want to force the government to provide information about confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 near their communities.

BC’s privacy commissioner is investigating a complaint by the Heiltsuk Tribal Council, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and Tsilhqot’in National Government.

They want to use the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to get around the provincial policy of not revealing the locations of COVID-19 cases.

Commissioner Michael McEvoy confirms he’s looking into the complaint that the Ministry of Health and other public bodies are failing to comply with section 25 of the Act by withholding information about presumptive or confirmed COVID-19 cases near the Nations’ rural Indigenous communities.

Section 25 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act provides for the mandatory disclosure of information by a public body where there is an imminent risk of significant harm to the environment or the health and safety of the public.

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Marilyn Slett, Chief Councillor of the Heiltsuk Nation says the idea that they need “an outbreak in their community before BC will share information is reckless.”

She says withholding the information goes against the province’s own laws and the promise of reconciliation.

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council president Judith Sayers says they need access to the same datasets the BC government, “on a government-to-government basis if we are going to get through this pandemic together.”

McEvoy says his office has notified the Ministry of Health of the complaint and is in the process of clarifying certain matters with the complainant.

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