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New guidance outlines responsible information-sharing practices to help prevent intimate partner violence

TORONTO, ON, May 29, 2024 – Today, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) released new guidance to help professionals better understand Ontario’s privacy laws when sharing personal information in situations involving intimate partner violence (IPV).

“Intimate partner violence is a devastating and pervasive reality in our society,” said Patricia Kosseim, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. “We know and respect how seriously professionals take their obligation of confidentiality, but injury or loss of life should never happen because of misunderstandings about privacy laws. Our guidance supports the many professionals responding to situations involving IPV and explains when Ontario’s privacy laws permit sharing personal information without consent, particularly when there’s a risk of serious harm.”

Sharing Information in Situations Involving Intimate Partner Violence: Guidance for Professionals is the result of a collaborative effort following recommendations from a 2022 inquest by the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario into the tragic deaths of three women at the hands of their former partner. The inquest jury recommended that the IPC develop guidance to empower IPV professionals to make informed decisions about privacy, confidentiality, and public safety. 

Acting on the jury’s recommendation, the IPC consulted extensively across the justice, health, and social services sectors, and with survivors of IPV. The result is guidance on responsible information sharing, tailored for professionals to support their decision-making in situations where there's a risk of serious harm to a person’s health or safety.

The guidance advocates for a trauma and violence-informed approach to increase the security, control, and resilience of victims, survivors, and their families. This includes taking a culturally sensitive approach that considers historical, cultural, and internal biases to prevent further victimization of vulnerable communities.

Organizations are encouraged to review and apply the guidance to enhance their understanding around sharing personal information to prevent IPV, lawfully and responsibly.

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