Disclosure to police

Under MFIPPA, school boards may disclose personal information to a law enforcement agency in Canada, such as a police service, in certain situations.106

Generally, school boards should disclose personal information to a law enforcement agency only when required by law, such as in response to a court order, rather than a simple request.

However, they have discretion to disclose personal information to law enforcement agencies:

  • to aid a law enforcement investigation
  • for health or safety reasons

MFIPPA does not permit ongoing or informal arrangements for the automatic disclosure of personal information to law enforcement agencies.107 In all cases, school boards should make their own assessment of the circumstances before deciding whether to disclose personal information to a law enforcement agency. If uncertain, the board should seek legal advice.

 

When legally required

In some situations, a school board may be required by law to disclose personal information to a law enforcement agency, such as on receipt of a court order (e.g., a search warrant or production order).108 The institution must comply with the court order unless it successfully challenges it in court.

 

To aid a law enforcement investigation

A school board has the discretion to disclose personal information to a law enforcement agency in Canada, without a court order, to aid a law enforcement investigation.109

After receiving a request from law enforcement, the board must ensure that the request is for specific information made in the context of a specific law enforcement investigation. The institution should not disclose without a court order if this condition is not met.

A school board may also choose to disclose personal information to a law enforcement agency on its own initiative to aid an investigation, where the board has a reasonable basis to believe an offence has occurred. It should disclose only the information that appears to be relevant and necessary for a potential investigation. For example, if an assault is captured on a school’s video surveillance system, the board may disclose the video capturing the event.

 

For health or safety reasons

A school board may also disclose personal information to law enforcement in “compelling circumstances affecting the health or safety of an individual” (see What information may be disclosed in an emergency), either on its own initiative, or in response to a request from a law enforcement agency.110 For example, if a student is lost or missing from a school trip, a board may exercise its discretion to disclose personal information to the police after considering the relevant factors, including any compelling concerns about the student’s health or safety.

 

Managing law enforcement requests

School boards should:

  • develop and publish clear policies addressing how decisions about disclosure to law enforcement agencies are made and documented
    • such policies and procedures could be developed in conjunction with local police/school board protocols
    • the Ministry of Education requires each school board to have such a protocol in place, and requires that it address information sharing and disclosure
  • document all disclosure requests by requiring law enforcement agencies to complete a request form before information is released
  • make reasonable efforts to notify individuals in writing that their information was disclosed due to circumstances affecting their health or safety
    • In all other cases, such as where disclosure is made in response to a court order, the board should consider notifying the individual of the disclosure after consulting with the law enforcement agency to determine whether the notice would interfere with an investigation or otherwise cause significant harm
  • annually publish statistics about disclosure to law enforcement

 


106. MFIPPA, ss. 2(1) and 32(g)
107. See Ontario Court of Appeal, R. v. Orlandis-Habsburgo,2017 ONCA 649
108. MFIPPA, s. 32(e)
109. MFIPPA, s. 32(g)
110. MFIPPA, , s. 32(h)