North

No answers on Fort Simpson dump breach until 2020 due to privacy breach backlog

Almost a year after boxes of personal medical records were found at the Fort Simpson dump, the Northwest Territories Information and Privacy Commissioner hasn’t had time to investigate the breach.

Privacy Commissioner hasn't released results of her investigation because of backlog

Randal Sibbeston at the salvage area of the dump in Fort Simpson, N.W.T. This is where he says he found the box of medical records. (Hilary Bird/CBC)

Almost a year after boxes of personal medical records were found at the Fort Simpson dump, the Northwest Territories Information and Privacy Commissioner hasn't had time to investigate the breach.

A spokesperson for Elaine Keenan-Bengts' office says that because of a backlog, the commissioner won't be able to look into the incident for at least another two to three months, meaning the public will have to wait until next year to find out how more than 130 confidential medical records ended up at the dump.

The CBC has made several requests to interview the commissioner on the delay but has not heard back.

Fort Simpson resident, Randal Sibbeston, found the records in the dump's salvage area in the fall of 2018. They contained detailed information about patients' mental health and history of drug use, including applications to addictions treatment facilities, progress reports from those facilities, and detailed notes from one-on-one counselling sessions.

Randal Sibbeston says he found the files in a Bankers Box at the Fort Simpson dump. The box broke and he moved them to a garbage bag. (Hilary Bird/CBC)

The files also included social insurance, treaty and health card numbers.

The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority concluded its investigation into what happened months ago and sent its findings to the privacy commissioner's office.

When she has time, Keenan Bengts will review the authority's investigation and will use it to write a final report on the breach. In December 2018, Keenan Bengts told CBC she expected the whole process to take six months. It is now expected to be finished in January 2020, 13 months after the breach was first made public.

Internal emails obtained by CBC in July through an access to information request show the health authority struggled to contact all 132 people affected by the breach.

In January, a month after the breach was brought to the authority's attention, it had only been able to send letters to 69 of the people whose information was found at the dump.

Ten of the people whose records were found are deceased.

Nahendeh MLA, Shane Thompson, has refused to comment on the delay or how it could affect his constituents.

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