The BCCLA welcomes the news that a Vancouver parent is launching a class action lawsuit against the Province following revelations that B.C. had been secretly storing 800,000 DNA records without consent.
The DNA records, literally dried blood on index cards that have the child’s name and date of birth recorded on them, are collected from infants in B.C. and the Yukon as part of a genetic screening test, but are not destroyed when the testing is complete. 11 years of blood test records are now on file, representing approximately 800,000 children’s DNA, stored at a private facility.
“The BCCLA supports this class action, and we will continue our work on the privacy complaint while the lawsuit proceeds independently,” says Holmes. “It seems that the Health Ministry does not feel there is an issue in building a database of this kind without any public input, enabling legislation, or consent, but we do not agree that government can trample on individual rights. The courts will ultimately determine the matter unless the government relents.”
Combined with sections 165-167 of Bill 11, which was passed just weeks ago, these DNA records are now available across government and to law enforcement on demand, without a court order. The BCCLA is actively involved in a privacy complaint against the Newborn Screening Program for failing to disclose to new parents that their infant’s blood tests would be used for medical research and stored indefinitely.
“It seems obvious to us from their media comments that the Province won’t give these sensitive records up without a fight,” said Holmes. “Well, it looks like they’ve found one. These cards and Bill 11 could easily lead to genetic discrimination against children, or gross privacy violations by law enforcement. This is now a matter for the Courts to resolve.”
The class action was filed on behalf of the parent by Jason Gratl of Gratl & Company.
Robert Holmes, President, 604-838-6856
David Eby, Executive Director, 778-865-7997
Class action lawsuits
Class action lawsuits are lawsuits that combine large numbers of individuals with similar or identical forms of alleged damage against a single defendant or group of closely connected defendants.
Class actions are most useful where damages are too low for any one individual to bring an action forward, but where combined, the value of the damages caused by the negligence or other illegal action rises to the level to make litigation cost effective.
In order to initiate a class action, an individual or group of individuals are “certified” by the court as a “representative plaintiff” or “representative plaintiffs” to represent the interests of a class of people for common issues of fact and common issues of law. The process saves each member of the class from making the same legal argument and presenting the same evidence over and over again.
The class is defined at a certification hearing by the court to ensure clarity of who is and isn’t involved. For example, the class here would be infants whose records are on file with the newborn screening program of B.C. If the representative plaintiff succeeds, the damages awarded to the representative plaintiff are awarded by the Court to each member of the class, to be distributed as directed by the Court.
Notice of the outcome of the lawsuit is usually given by internet or newspaper advertisement or by direct mail, where the addresses of the class members can be ascertained. Damages for violations of privacy
In British Columbia, violations of privacy can be brought to court and awarded damages even if an individual doesn’t have any financial injury through the Privacy Act. Currently, there is a case being decided by the Supreme Court of Canada City of Vancouver v. Cameron Ward, that will determine what level of government misconduct is necessary in order for an individual to claim monetary damages for infringements of rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It is the position of the plaintiff in the class action around the blood spot cards that his child’s rights under the Privacy Act and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms were violated by the storage of these cards.
Who filed the class action, and who can participate?
The class action was filed by Jason Gratl of Gratl & Company. The first proposed class is all individuals are on file with the newborn screening program of B.C. The second proposed class is the parents and blood relatives whose genetic and medical information may be extracted from their children’s blood samples.
What should concerned parents do?
Concerned parents may either wait for the resolution of the class action, commence their own
individual action, and/or apply using the form below for recovery of their children’s records.
Access the form to request your children’s records here >>