VANCOUVER — The British Columbia Court of Appeal has struck down a section of the province’s child protection legislation that allowed social workers to access a parent’s medical records without their consent, a search warrant or a court order.
The three-judge panel says a section of B.C.’s Child, Family and Community Service Act is unconstitutional, finding the legislation lacked safeguards to protect parents’ deeply personal medical information.
The ruling says the act allowed child welfare workers with the Ministry of Children and Family Development to access private medical information on parents from public bodies, including hospitals and medical clinics.
The panel says the section of the act allowing broad access to parents’ medical history was not “minimally intrusive” as a lower court found, and could give access to “intensely private information” that was not a necessary part of an investigation.
The appeals court ruling says the act didn’t set out clear rules around the search and seizure of parental medical records, finding state interference with such information could have a chilling effect on parents seeking help and have a negative impact on relationships with health-care providers.
The appeals court gave the B.C. government a year to bring its law into constitutional compliance, siding with the appellant, a Prince George mother of three with a history of trauma and mental-health issues who first came to the attention of the ministry in 2017.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 25, 2023.