Ca: Court orders release of Ashley Smith's prison records three years after suicide

An interesting case from Canada indicates that the right to request your personal records be sent to a federal agency not only falls under their Privacy Act but also survives death:

A federal judge has ordered Canada’s prison service to disclose the personal files of a teen inmate who killed herself.

Federal Court Justice Michael Kelen says the Correctional Service of Canada broke the law by failing to release Ashley Smith’s records while she was still alive.

Smith was 19 when she choked herself to death with a strip of cloth at the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont., in October 2007.

Earlier that year she had requested access to her personal prison records, authorizing their release to the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.

Smith had alleged poor treatment by the Correctional Service, including assault, lack of psychiatric care and frequent transfers between prisons and treatment facilities across Canada.

Prison ombudsman Howard Sapers, the correctional investigator, found she was moved 17 times in just 11 months. He harshly criticized the prison service for failing to give Smith proper care and protection.

In a ruling released Thursday, Kelen said the prison service breached the Privacy Act in not giving Smith her records, and that neither her death nor a subsequent RCMP investigation into the conduct of prison staff were valid reasons to withhold them from the Elizabeth Fry societies.


Kelen rejected the prison service’s argument that it had no legal obligation to hand over Smith’s records following her death. “I conclude that the Act intended that an individual’s right to grant access to their personal information survives their death.”

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