In emergency situations, privacy laws in Ontario and British Columbia1 do not prohibit universities, colleges or other educational institutions from responsibly disclosing a student’s
personal information, including information about their mental, emotional or other health conditions, to parents or others who may be able to help in a crisis. Ontario’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act permit the disclosure of personal information “in compelling circumstances affecting the health or safety of an individual.”
They also allow for disclosure “in compassionate circumstances, to facilitate contact with the spouse, a close relative or a friend of an individual who is injured, ill or deceased.”2
Ontario’s Personal Health Information Protection Act also allows for the disclosure of personal health information if the health information custodian “believes on reasonable grounds that the disclosure is necessary for the purpose of eliminating or reducing a significant risk of serious bodily harm to a person or group of persons.” Ontario PHIPA also permits disclosure “for the purpose of contacting a relative, friend or potential substitute decision-maker of the individual, if the individual is injured, incapacitated or ill and unable to give consent personally.”
Similarly, BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act allows for the disclosure of personal information if “compelling circumstances exist that affect anyone’s health
or safety.” BC’s FIPPA also allows disclosure “so that the next of kin or a friend of an injured, ill or deceased individual may be contacted.” BC’s Personal Information Protection Act, which applies to the private sector, contains similar provisions.