NEWS RELEASE: Support for the Heiltsuk First Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and Tsilhqot’in National Government’s requests for COVID case information

BC FIPA and BCCLA support the Heiltsuk First Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and Tsilhqot’in National Government’s requests for COVID case information 

VANCOUVER, September 15, 2020 – The BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) and the BC Civil Liberties Association’s (BCCLA) have signed a joint letter to express support for the Heiltsuk First Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and Tsilhqot’in National Government’s and their requests for information from the BC Ministry of Health on COVID case information. 

Despite repeated requests, the Ministry of Health refuses to disclose information relating to presumptive and confirmed COVID cases proximate to these rural Indigenous communities. This has prompted the nations to make a complaint to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The Ministry of Health should address these requests and provide information pursuant to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA). 

 “The complaint has a strong factual basis that is grounded in the risks experienced by specific rural Indigenous communities. We think that their ‘right to know’ is strongly supported by S.25 of FIPPA because the requested information pertains to the risk of significant harm to the health and safety of a group of people.” says Jason Woywada, FIPA’s Executive Director. “A crisis of this nature is precisely the time when transparency matters most, and these types of releases should be routine. If government doesn’t already have the necessary data sharing agreements with Indigenous communities in place to address these types of scenarios, they should be working quickly to address that gap.” 

“The Heiltsuk First Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and Tsilhqot’in National Government have rights to self-determination and self-government, and to be actively involved in developing and determining programs for maintaining the health and well-being of their people” says Meghan McDermott, Interim Policy Director at the BCCLA. “By refusing to share the requested health data (with appropriate confidentiality provisions), the Ministry of Health is essentially preventing these communities from exercising the very rights that the province recognized when it enacted DRIPA.” 

The history of colonization and the impacts of pandemics have disproportionately harmed Indigenous communities. The BC Government can work with Indigenous governments to disclose this information while also protecting privacy, but the Ministry’s failure to provide critical health information not only inhibits the Indigenous groups’ right to self-determination, it renders the province’s repeated commitments to “reconciliation” questionable.  

See for the full letter here.

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Jason Woywada, Executive Director 
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
(P) 604-739-9788 
Meghan McDermott, Interim Policy Director 
BC Civil Liberties Association 
(P) 778-679-8906