ESSEX COUNTY, Ont. – Paramedics are raising concerns over a new policy passed by Essex County Council this past week, which addresses video cameras that have been installed inside ambulances among other locations. The new policy, which passed with little public debate or attention, spells out the types of locations where cameras will be placed, as well as possible uses for the footage collected.

Ian Nash, a paramedic and president of CUPE Local 2974, said “Essex Council has already installed video cameras in the backs of ambulances, despite passing a policy that says cameras will not go into locations where people have an expectation of privacy. A patient experiencing an emergency and undergoing medical care should absolutely have an expectation of privacy. We have serious concerns about this.”

Nash said that cameras pointing at the patient compartments were installed in ambulances in December, 2014, and that paramedics raised these concerns with their employer. “We asked if they were going to be recording, and they said they’d get back to us and didn’t. The next thing we knew, last week Council passed a policy spelling out the uses for footage collected.”

Suanne Hawkins, a national representative with CUPE, also raised concerns about who will be viewing the footage collected. “The policy speaks to ‘authorized persons’,” she said. “Who is that? Who decides which people are allowed to view footage of a patient in an urgent care situation in the back of an ambulance – a patient who has not consented to be filmed? In a relatively small community, this raises very serious privacy issues.”

Cameras have also been installed in the front of the ambulance, facing the paramedics in the cab. Nash said the union recently learned that the cameras are also collecting audio. “The privacy considerations are huge,” he said. “To install cameras that collect audio and video in a medical setting, with no public debate or discussion, is a real problem. The policy itself says that signage will be installed to advise people of video recording on County property – but there are no signs on ambulances. Even if there were, we don’t think that someone in an emergency medical situation is in a position to consent to being filmed.”

CUPE Local 2974, which represents 280 paramedics in Essex County, is calling on Council to stop recording in ambulances altogether. “This is not the appropriate venue for video cameras,” said Nash. “The County just needs to take them out, and respect patient privacy. It’s clearly the right thing to do.”


For more information:

Ian Nash, President, CUPE Local 2974:  519-816-1671

Suanne Hawkins, CUPE National Representative:  226-347-0242

Andrea Addario, CUPE Communications Representative:  416-738-4329