MEDICAL MARIJUANA PRIVACY BREACH

If you were a member of the Marihuana Medical Access Program and received the November 2013 mailing, please register on our enhanced secure registration system, even if you have previously communicated with any of the lawyers or law firms listed at this site. Providing the information requested does not make you a client of the lawyers or law firms operating this site.

Registration now will assist in prosecuting the class action and assessing what damages were suffered by the class as a whole. Please re-visit the site often for updates and to keep your registration up-to-date.

For questions relating to the registration system, call toll-free 1.866.241.9914.

1.  On November 19, 2013, Health Canada mailed letters to 41,514 clients of the Marihuana Medical Access Program across Canada to advise of changes to the Program commencing on April 1, 2014. The windowed envelope containing the letter explicitly identified the “Marihuana Medical Access Program” in the return address on the outside along with the name and address of the client recipient.

2.  On Thursday, November 21, 2013, George Da Pont, deputy minister at Health Canada issued an apology on Health Canada’s website describing the mailing as an administrative error. The apology stated: “I have been advised that as the result of an administrative error the envelopes were labelled to indicate that they were sent by the Program. This is not standard Health Canada practice.” The apology went on to state: “We are in discussion with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.”

3.  The law firms of Sutts, Strosberg LLP (now Strosberg Sasso Sutts LLP), Charney Lawyers, Branch MacMaster LLP and McInnes Cooper agreed to work together on the prosecution of a proposed class action commenced in November 2013 against the Government of Canada on behalf of all persons who were sent a letter from Health Canada in an envelope that referred explicitly to the “Marihuana Medical Access Program”. On October 23, 2014, the law firms filed a second amended statement of claim in the Federal Court of Canada.  

4.  The proposed representative plaintiffs in the class action are identified in the statement of claim by the pseudonyms “John Doe” and “Suzie Jones”.

5.  In a decision released on February 25, 2014, the Federal Court of Canada granted the plaintiffs’ motion for an order protecting the identities of “John Doe” and “Suzie Jones” which was opposed by the Government of Canada. In most cases, parties to a legal action are required to name themselves and this information appears on the public record. The Court concluded that the plaintiffs’ privacy should be maintained because a denial of their anonymity in the action would result in disclosure of the very information they seek to protect and thereby exacerbate the damage and/or risk of harm already caused by Health Canada’s November 2013 mailing. The Government of Canada appealed the confidentiality order. On July 24, 2014, the Federal Court of Canada released its decision dismissing the Government of Canada’s appeal.

6.  On October 23, 2014, the plaintiffs served and filed a motion record seeking an order certifying the lawsuit as a class action.  The motion was heard on June 11 and 12, 2015.

7.  On November 24, 2014, the Government of Canada filed a motion record for an order striking portions of the affidavit of David Robins, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, filed in support of the plaintiffs’ motion for certification. On December 4, 2014, the plaintiffs filed a responding motion record. In a decision released on February 24, 2015, the Court dismissed the Government of Canada’s motion.

8.  On March 3, 2015, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (“OPC”) released a report of findings from its investigation into Health Canada’s November 2013 mailing. While the OPC initiated its own complaint, it also received 339 complaints from individuals who cited concerns about the impact of the privacy breach on their personal lives including loss of employment, reputational damage and personal safety. In the report, the OPC concluded that the complaints are well founded and that Health Canada violated the federal Privacy Act by referencing the Marihuana Medical Access Program on the envelope in combination with the name of the addressee. The OPC’s report was only delivered to each of the 339 complainants, but a copy of the report may be viewed here.

9.  The OPC’s investigation is concluded. Affected individuals who were not among the 339 complainants do not need to file additional complaints to the OPC.

10. On July 27, 2015, the Federal Court of Canada released its order and reasons granting the plaintiffs’ motion for certification of the action as a class proceeding.  A copy of the order and reasons may be viewed here.  

11. The Class is defined as: “All persons who were sent a letter from Health Canada in November 2013 that had the phrase ‘Marihuana Medical Access Program’ or ‘Programme d’acces a la marihuana a des fins medicales’ visible on the front of the envelope.”

12. The Government of Canada appealed the July 27, 2015 certification order.  The appeal was heard by the Federal Court of Appeal on April 5, 2016.  By judgment delivered on June 24, 2016, the appeal was allowed in part but the July 27, 2015 certification order was upheld with respect to the causes of action in negligence and breach of confidence.

13. If the class action is successful, Class Members who received the November 2013 letter from Health Canada in an envelope that referenced the “Marihuana Medical Access Program” may be entitled to compensation for the breach of their privacy, damages for emotional distress/inconvenience, and/or compensation for out of pocket expenses.

14. Anyone who received the letter should register on our enhanced secure registration system, even if they have previously communicated with any of the lawyers or law firms listed at this site. Registration on the system will assist counsel in prosecuting the class action and assessing what damages were suffered by the class as a whole.

15.Anyone who has questions or encounters difficulty with the registration system may contact us toll-free at 1.866.241.9914.

16. Please revisit the site often for updates and to keep your registration up-to-date. We will continue to update this website as developments occur.

17. If you would like to know more about how a class action works, please click here.

Andrea Greenwood
Ward Branch
Theodore Charney
David Fraser
Jane O'Neill

June 24, 2016             The Federal Court of Appeal releases its reasons for judgment allowing the Government of Canada’s appeal of the July 27, 2015 certification in part, but upholding the July 27, 2015 certification order in respect of the causes of action for negligence and breach of confidence.

October 23, 2015        The plaintiffs filed the second amended statement of claim and a motion record seeking an order to certify the lawsuit as a class action in the Federal Court of Canada.

July 27, 2015             The Federal Court of Canada releases its order and reasons granting the plaintiffs’ motion for certification of the action as a class proceeding.

March 16, 2015          Press release: Commissioner: Health Canada violated privacy laws by disclosing personal health information of over 40,000 Canadians. Read the full release here.

March 03, 2015          The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada released a report of findings in respect of its investigation into the November 2013 mailing in which it concluded that Health Canada violated the federal Privacy Act.

February 24, 2015      Federal Court of Canada releases its decision dismissing the Government of Canada’s motion to strike portions of the Robins affidavit filed in support of the plaintiffs’ motion for certification.

February 25, 2014      Federal Court of Canada releases its decision dismissing the Government of Canada’s appeal of the Court’s order permitting the plaintiffs to maintain their confidentiality in the class action.

February 04, 2014      The enhanced secure registration system is now available.  Please register here.

RELATED NEWS