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AFP Testifies Before Committee on Ontario Health Privacy Bill

OTTAWA (AFP eWire - Feb. 9, 2004) - AFP has submitted formal written comments and participated in a hearing on Feb. 7 before the Committee on General Government on the impact of Ontario Bill 31, the Health Privacy Information Act.

In its oral comments to the Committee on General Government, AFP estimated that charitable fundraising would suffer decreases of at least 10 percent to 30 percent if the current requirements in the bill were enacted.

Under Bill 31, health-related charities cannot use any patient or client information without the express consent of the individual. An opt-out check-off box would not be acceptable - some sort of explicit permission would be needed. Such a prohibition ignores long-standing ethical safeguards and best practices that fundraisers have implemented and would be detrimental for charities, many of whom depend on private gifts for continued funding.

'Express consent proposals disadvantage health-related charities at the very time when the province needs increased health fundraising to meet its care and fiscal goals,' said Kevin Goldthorp, associate vice president for development at the University of Western Ontario and members of the AFP Canadian Government Relations Committee.

Goldthorp also noted that the impact of Bill 31 would be quite broad. While hospitals would obviously be affected, the definition of 'health information custodian' in the bill would include many smaller organizations and social service charities as well.

During his presentation, Goldthorp asked the committee to consider allowing charities to collect and use non-health, basic contact information (name, address, phone and email) for fundraising purposes through an implied consent mechanism. Under the AFP recommendation, charities could use this information or transfer it to a related foundation or fundraising arm. However, the individual must be given notice of how the information would be used and an opportunity to opt out of the process. All other types of information could be used only if the charity received the express consent of the individual.

AFP's position was bolstered by the recent testimony of Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ann Cavoukian. In her presentation to the committee, Cavoukian said that 'a requirement for express consent would have an adverse impact on a healthcare organization's ability to raise much-needed funds. We prefer and support a requirement that would allow for an initial contact of the patient by the healthcare organization for fundraising purposes. At that point, the patient must be offered an opt-out opportunity.'

AFP and the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP) worked closely together in developing their presentations to the committee.

Consideration of Bill 31 is expected quickly, and a second reading may occur within the next couple of weeks. AFP will be meeting with key legislators about the bill and will alert members if grassroots action is needed.

AFP wishes to thank Kevin Goldthorp for representing AFP, and Susan Mullin, CFRE, and Tad Brown for their work on this issue.

AFP's written comments are attached below. For questions or more information, contact


AFP Comments Bill 31 — PDF Format, 362749KB

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