Canada: Changes To Ontario's Health Information Privacy Law Include Breach Notification, Increased Penalties

Last Updated: June 3 2016
Article by Julia Johnson

Notification to affected individuals and regulators will be required in the event of unauthorized use or disclosure of personal health information under amendments to Ontario's health information legislation.

The Ontario legislature passed Bill 119 1 in May, which amended the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004, c 3, Sched. A ("PHIPA") and repealed and replaced the Quality of Care Information Protection Act, 2004, SO 2004, c 3. PHIPA governs the collection, use and disclosure of personal health information by health information custodians, such as doctors and hospitals. The Information and Privacy Commissioner for Ontario ("Privacy Commissioner") oversees PHIPA and had been advocating for amendments to PHIPA to regulate electronic health records ("EHRs") and the creation of shared provincial electronic health record system.

Among the amendments to PHIPA is a revised definition of a "use" with respect to personal health information. Under the new definition, use means "to view, handle or otherwise deal with the information". This change aims to prevent snooping into the health records of individuals.

The amendments also create a positive obligation for health information custodians to protect against the unauthorized collection of personal health information. The new section 11.1 states: "A health information custodian shall take steps that are reasonable in the circumstances to ensure that personal health information is not collected without authority."

Notification requirements

Significantly, similar to new federal privacy laws governing the private sector, Ontario's new amendments include data breach notification requirements, whereby health information custodians must notify affected individuals if personal health information about an individual in its custody or control is used or disclosed without authority. The health information custodian must also notify the Privacy Commissioner.

Health information custodians are further required to give notice to a College of a regulated health profession when an employee, agent or member of the College, is terminated, suspended, or subject to disciplinary action resulting from the unauthorized collection, use, disclosure, retention or disposal of personal health information.

Clarification of agent obligations

Under PHIPA, health information custodians may use agents, such as hospital employees and third-party service providers, to collect, use, or disclose personal health information on their behalf. A new amendment clarifies that an agent's permission to do so may be subject to conditions or restrictions imposed by the health information custodian or a prescribed requirement and that any collection, use, or disclosure by an agent must be in accordance with law.

Electronic health record governance

A major part of the amendments contemplate a governance framework for a shared provincial electronic health records for which there is no single health information custodian. Section 55 of the Act now states that the "prescribed organization has the power and the duty to develop and maintain the electronic health record." The prescribed organization will manage and integrate personal health information and oversee the EHR, including monitoring and logging access. Under the PHIPA General Regulation, eHealth Ontario is a prescribed organization that maintains a provincial electronic health record.

The new EHR part also provides for "consent directives" which individuals may submit to the prescribed organization to withhold consent to the collection, use and disclosure of personal health information by means of the EHR. Consent directives may be overridden in certain circumstances, such as a significant risk of serious bodily harm, but health information custodians must be notified in such circumstances.

Penalties for offences double

Finally, penalties for offences under the Act have doubled with the new amendments, increasing to $100,000 from $50,000 for individuals and to $500,000 from $250,000 for organizations. There is no longer a limitations period for prosecution under the Act. Formerly, prosecutions must have been commenced within six months of when the alleged offence occurred.

QCIPA repealed and replaced

The second legislative change brought by Bill 119 is the repealing and replacement of QCIPA, which governs "quality of care information" gathered by a permitted committee.

QCIPA generally prohibits the disclosure of "quality of care information." However, the purpose of the Act is to permit confidential discussions among health facilities to learn from incidents and improve health care systems. A person may disclose any information to a quality of care committee for the purposes of carrying out quality of care functions. However, no more personal health information may be disclosed than is reasonably necessary.

This type of information is excluded from provincial access and privacy laws. When Bill 119 was before the legislature, the Privacy Commissioner submitted that it was concerned the new legislation would result in the disclosure of less information to individuals and their representatives. Under the previous version of QCIPA, quality of care information did not include "facts contained in a record of an incident involving the provision of health care to an individual [...]". This exclusion has been narrowed to only exclude facts in relation to a critical incident. "Critical incident" means "any unintended event that occurs when a patient receives health care from a health facility that, (a) results in death, or serious disability, injury or harm to the patient, and (b) does not result primarily from the patient's underlying medical condition or from a known risk inherent in providing the health care."

As such, only facts related to critical incidents can be disclosed otherwise information considered quality of care information is not disclosable.

Like PHIPA, unauthorized use or disclosure of quality of care information is an offence under QCIPA.


1 An Act to amend the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004, to make certain related amendments and to repeal and replace the Quality of Care Information Protection Act, 2004.

To view original article, please click here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions