Whitehorse Daily Star

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Diane McLeod-McKay

Cameras collect ‘highly sensitive’ information’

An investigation by the territory’s Privacy Commissioner’s office finds seven Whitehorse schools are using video surveillance.

By Ethan Lycan-Lang on November 18, 2022

An investigation by the territory’s Privacy Commissioner’s office finds seven Whitehorse schools are using video surveillance.

The investigation by the former Information Privacy Commissioner says the territory’s schools should stop collecting personal information through video surveillance immediately.

The Department of Education, however, has rejected that recommendation, and the three others issued in the report regarding the use of security cameras in schools. 

The investigative report was completed June 14, but only published on the Information and Privacy Commissioner’s (IPC) website Wednesday.

In it, former commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay writes she started investigating the use of video surveillance technology (VST) in schools after a complaint about its use in one school was submitted to her office last February. McKay-McLeod left the office in July to take a job in Alberta.

That complaint, she writes, led her office to discover video surveillance was being used in several Yukon schools.

She said the private, sensitive nature of information collected through surveillance cameras, and the vulnerabile position of those being surveilled – namely, children from Kindergarten to Grade 12 – led her office to investigate “whether the Department has authority under the ATIPPA (Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act) to collect, use and disclose personal information through its use of VST in Yukon schools.

 “After reviewing the Department’s submissions and supporting documents, the IPC found that the Department (of Education) is not authorized to collect the personal information that it is collecting through the use of VST (video surveillance technology) in the seven schools,” the report states.

Based on that finding, the former commissioner issued four recommendations – all rejected by the department:

• All collection of personal information through video surveillance must stop immediately.

• The department must securely destroy any personal information recorded from video surveillance.

• The department should then confirm video recording has stopped and information has been destroyed.

• Finally, a privacy impact assessment must be submitted to the IPC for review should the department wish to try using video surveillance again in any school. 

The seven schools the department identified for the Privacy Commissioner are all in Whitehorse – F.H. Collins Secondary, Vanier Catholic Secondary, Ghùch Tlâ Community School, Porter Creek Secondary, École Whitehorse Elementary, Centre scolaire secondaire communautaire Paul-Émile Mercier (CSSC Mercier) and École Émilie-Tremblay.

Those last two schools are operated by the commission scolaire francophone du Yukon (CSFY).

The use of cameras at these schools varies.

F.H. Collins, for instance, uses 67 cameras, indoors and outdoors; CSFY schools use only 14 cameras, all outdoors.

The department says no school cameras record audio.

In its submissions to the Information and Privacy Office, the department provided its video surveillance policy.

The reasons given for using video surveillance, the commissioner writes, are to ensure security and safety for students and staff, as well as school property.

McLeod-McKay found the department collects “highly sensitive” personal information from students, staff, parents and visitors in its video recordings.

She also found that, despite the department’s video surveillance policy, which doesn’t allow filming in classrooms, cameras are used in theatres, gyms and studios, where students are taught.

Further, cameras in some schools monitor the entrances of washrooms, with some catching parts of the “common area” of these bathrooms.

The amount of personal information collected is not “properly limited,” according to the commissioner’s report.

The department submitted to the IPC that collected information is stored from seven to 14 days, depending on the school.

That collected information, the report says, can track a student’s daily activities and routines, despite absence of wrongdoing.

More sensitive information can also be inferred, such as “medical conditions, emotional state, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation,” the report finds.

The report cautions that video surveillance has become pervasive in society, and should be carefully considered before being used in schools.

While constant surveillance at a low cost is “tempting,” the report states, “there is little evidence that video surveillance works in any deterring capacity.”

Video surveillance should only be used as a last resort, according to the report.

“Whenever possible, the goal should be to preserve the rights and freedoms of students and other citizens, including the right to be free from unwarranted surveillance in schools, and that using this technology should only be resorted to when the benefit to the school community outweighs, to a substantial degree, other competing social interests and individual rights, especially the preservation of personal privacy.”

Were the department to accept the recommendations, it would need to prove that video surveillance was “necessary” to increase safety and deter threats to property and persons.

In an email this morning, department spokesperson Michael Edwards wrote that it takes student and staff privacy seriously and is working to update video surveillance technology policies, procedures and practices.

However, he confirmed the department does not accept the commissioner’s recommendation to immediately stop using video surveillance in schools.

“It is the department’s position that VST is an effective tool,” Edwards wrote.

“Some schools have integrated it as part of their overall approach to enhancing student and staff safety. Therefore, use of VST will not cease while our work is underway.

 “VST systems support safer schools and protect our students and staff. They serve as a deterrent to acts of vandalism and destruction of school property, as well as a tool to assist in addressing incidents of concerning behaviour on school grounds.”

Edwards said there have been no reports of misuse or mishandling of information gathered by video in schools, nor any breaches of privacy.

Recent controversies at Jack Hulland Elementary School included the use of video surveillance to watch children held in seclusion.

Allegedly, a camera was installed to monitor the window of small three-foot by three-foot holding areas in classrooms where students were sometimes kept for bad behaviour.

Allegations in a pending class action lawsuit say these rooms were mostly watched by staff in person, but could also be viewed by video feed on a monitor in the school office.

That school does not currently use that method of surveillance or isolation.

Comments (25)

Up 1 Down 0

Bandit on Nov 25, 2022 at 5:29 am

Those of you worried about Video Surveillance should stay off of Main St. I would guess that if you walked from one end to the other, crossed the street and walked back up the other side you would be on camera probably 100 +/- times
Just Saying...

Up 7 Down 5

Baa, baa, baa… on Nov 23, 2022 at 10:08 am

In response to Anie on Nov 22, 2022 at 3:18 pm:

Anonymous is correct. One should never have to reveal their medical data to anyone other than those that one consents to receive medical treatment from within their own country.

There is just too much history associated with discrimination and harassment in Canada’s history to say, it’s just your vaccine status etc. As we have seen, those in power of whatever like to categorize, blame, and scapegoat those who dissent from the party/corporate line.

Our biggest driver of economic activity should not be a “tar-and-feather” industry of scapegoat assembly lines slavishly adhered to through identitarian precepts predicated on some distorted notions of privilege both for and against.

It was nothing short of fascism - The rest of the world understands this. However, in the democratic republic of chaos where untenable and unworkable ideals of anti-humanism are being orchestrated by Liberalized elites… These things should be resisted on principle and fought against in practice.

If you want to be a sheep go pitch a tent in a pasture somewhere. Just don’t bring bouncy castles or hot tubs - Justin will whip you with an EMA declaration.

Up 17 Down 6

Anie on Nov 22, 2022 at 3:18 pm

Oh Anonymous give it a rest. Nobody wants to know about your medical records, least of all the government. You just aren't that interesting, You were only asked to prove you were vaccinated. If you spent any time in the real world you'd find that isn't an unusual requirement to visit many countries. And you probably seldom go into restaurants anyway. Find something new to be outraged about. Do you have an opinion of cameras in schools?

Up 15 Down 2

Heathen on Nov 22, 2022 at 11:35 am

While there probably is work needed to set down regulations and access to footage from school VS the recommendations to put a complete end to the practice are absurd and the notion that these VS are being actively used in an ongoing manner to collect personal information such as sexual orientation, political beliefs, emotional state etc is laughable. School staff are busy running a school this footage is only gone over when there has been an incident and there it is an obviously helpful tool.
The report’s own conclusions undermine its argument: the goal should be to preserve the rights and freedoms of students and other citizens, including the right to be free from unwarranted surveillance in schools, and that using this technology should only be resorted to when the benefit to the school community outweighs, to a substantial degree, other competing social interests and individual rights, especially the preservation of personal privacy.” It should be clear to nearly everyone that some use of VS is a benefit to the school community and yes it does outweigh Johnny 10 Grader’s concern that he may get caught throwing hands in the hallway with Billy 10 Grader.

Up 17 Down 4

bonanzajoe on Nov 21, 2022 at 7:25 pm

@Max Mack: How do you misuse a security camera. Sorry dude, that one ain't gonna fly.

Up 37 Down 1

Groucho d'North on Nov 21, 2022 at 2:35 pm

I am wondering what ‘highly sensitive’ information’ might mean in this context. Reporter Lang should have asked for some examples during the interview.

Up 36 Down 0

Groucho d'North on Nov 21, 2022 at 9:07 am

Video monitoring is only as good as the follow-through on observed violations.

Up 42 Down 3

Privacy Commissioner is Out to Lunch on Nov 21, 2022 at 8:20 am

While constant surveillance at a low cost is “tempting,” the report states, “there is little evidence that video surveillance works in any deterring capacity.”- this shows how out to lunch the privacy commissioner is. I can tell you, FIRSTHAND, that cameras deter vandalism and violence. I have heard, FIRSTHAND, that some kids have said that they did not do anything bad in the schools BECAUSE of the presence of cameras. Keep the cameras, no if's and's, or but's about it. Would they rather have things happen in school? Such a stupid bureaucratic report that is out of touch with reality.

Up 11 Down 31

Max Mack on Nov 21, 2022 at 7:15 am

I understand how some readers will reflexively defend video surveillance in schools and on school property. However, without proper policies, controls and oversight, there is a significant risk that cameras will be misused.

Schools should not have carte blanche to do as they will.
The Privacy Commissioner is right to raise this as an issue.

The Dept of Education should have performed a thorough Privacy Impact Assessment before instituting the use of cameras. In addition, schools should not simply be trusted that they will are appropriately using surveillance technologies.

Up 71 Down 41

jack on Nov 19, 2022 at 10:56 pm

@Less - All of us went through the public education process nobody needed REST rooms. In my career as a student, I never once saw a student overstimulated and having meltdowns or labelling school a 'busy and challenging place'.

What I did see was lazy sometimes drunk often biased teachers who played favorites, punished those they didn't like and some who even flirted with the females of the class (FHC and GAJ 80s/90s) and god knows what else.

The big problem has always been the quality of the teachers and the low level of accountability placed on their trade. Most are pathetically in the profession for job security, salary, long summer holidays and secure pension.

Until teachers are truly accountable and have their performance measured properly and can be fired, nothing will ever change.

Up 75 Down 5

Less is More on Nov 19, 2022 at 12:09 pm

Good! I'm glad there are video cameras in use. As a parent and an occasional supply teacher, I would like to know that incidents are being recorded. Some children are violent repeatedly and if I had to defend myself in a lawsuit those bits of film or digital recordings would be invaluable.
Furthermore, if one could see recordings of children going to holding rooms they might see children overstimulated and having meltdowns that involve hurting others, throwing things and screaming. They are taken to a holding room and Lo and Behold - they calm down.
In a former school where I worked, we called them REST rooms; the REST being an acronym for Restricted Environmental Stimulus Technique. Children often get overwhelmed as school can be a busy and challenging place. Being able to sit in a room with no stimulation is very calming for them and they can't hurt themselves or others. The storm blows over, they use the calm of the room to get control of their big emotions and angry limbs. They physically and emotionally rebalance thanks to a completely calm place. Self-regulation is a great gift that every student might be able to master if the right resources are applied. And sometimes the best resource is less. Less sound, less sights, less bodies and less sensory data of every kind.
Perhaps if we ever get another predator in a school (God forbid), knowing that cameras could be present might be a big enough disincentive to get them to be professionals. If not then the evidence would be critical to ensure their prompt removal from that school and every school.
If the Principal of a school feels that cameras would be a useful tool to protect staff and students alike then they have my support. Within reason, of course.
And they might be useful to assess new staff members or ones for which concerns have been brought forth.
I bet the ones most opposed to having cameras in the schools are the ones whose children have the most challenging behaviours. I wish every child was calm and willing to learn. I wish every staff member was above reproach. But we are all human beings and the camera does not lie or deny.

Up 57 Down 21

Mr Facts on Nov 19, 2022 at 10:48 am

You lost me after you ignored the blatant health privacy violations that occurred during covid. The privacy commissioner’s office, in reality, serves no purpose. All we got from your office is a shoulder shrug and business as usual when people were refused jobs, access to restaurants, etc. Now you care, lol.

Up 49 Down 30

Anonymous on Nov 19, 2022 at 9:54 am

There's no such thing as privacy anymore. Reveal your medical records to your employer or you're fired and can't eat in restaurants.

Up 81 Down 3

David Griffiths on Nov 19, 2022 at 9:45 am

Dear Commissioner. Apparently you have not travelled outside of the Yukon. If you had, you would realize CCTV is everywhere in the world and I for one fully support it's use in the common areas our schools if it prevents even one instance of bullying or violence.

Up 17 Down 33

Totally real name on Nov 19, 2022 at 9:12 am

This opinion piece on cameras in school should only inspire the very best and brightest to come forward on the anonymous tabloid comment section.

I'm sure the same 6 extremists won't use this soapbox to grandstand their brand of crazy.
Let's all bask in the glow of their intelligent and respectful insights...

Up 49 Down 7

Predator Protection on Nov 19, 2022 at 8:09 am

If we could trust all teachers not to be predators or narcissistic weirdos wearing fetish gear on campus (see Ontario), I might agree that the cameras should not exist. Given the every effort of the woke to normalize harming children on the alter of ‘human rights’, I cannot advise removing the cameras. Some things are objectively wrong. Video tends to help clear up the situation. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.

Up 34 Down 12

Josey Wales on Nov 19, 2022 at 4:31 am

Hmmm...set the cameras on “predator mode”, might save some child from a monster. 🤣 ...just about blew the liberals cover for the deviants/alphabet gang...maybe the cameras should now be turned off?
Since when does the “liberal government” have concerns of unlawful policy?

If you love your kids, public school should concern you more than a Somali pirate does to a oil tanker captain.
Soon those cameras might catch a state sponsored lady with a 5 o clock shadow, going in an outta the wee ladies room.
Or have wee ladies room now be deemed hateful, divisive and non inclusive?
Y’all like this world of make believe and deviance rights? Thank a liberal blowhole and or their, they them, sycophants!

Monsters not responsible for their predatory behaviour are bred like salmon in a fish farm under team commi red policy’s.
...cameras may help identify the poor misunderstood deviant or flaming communist, catch a predator proper?
“If it saves one child...”
Today’s PC Crusader speak...”if it could protect one union position”
Is probably why the cameras are now being questioned.

Up 61 Down 7

Another one of those WTF moments just happened… People everywhere are going WTF!?! on Nov 18, 2022 at 9:17 pm

Good luck with that! Students would openly inhale their marijuana vapes in the hallways, graffiti, vandalize, and burn down the school… Much like all those churches… Those schools will burn like a church… (slight exaggeration - possibly?).

If you believe the children are our future then let’s get them there as safely as possible. Under this privacy interpretation then all public cameras should be removed. Remove all cameras everywhere then because we wouldn’t to catch little Johnny and Suzy doing something… Gaud forbid… Illegal?!?!

What next? Do we give these little monsters of the millennial spawn a feelings button? Here you go little Johnny, press this button and that annoying adult disappears forever… Here little Suzy, press this green button to make those annoying teachers go away forever… Yes, yes of course you can play on your iPhone - Just let me know if the classroom instruction is too loud for you!

But seriously, WTF is wrong with you?

Perhaps schools could supplement their budgets by selling school brand graffiti paint, cigarettes, cannabis products, iPhone chargers and accessories etc. Not sure if there is a market for pens and pencils anymore but if there is they could have witty sayings such as: Welcome to the Trudeau Get High School…

Don’t worry kids - If it’s not to your liking you can throw a tantrum, complain about how your perceptions are creating hurt feelings or, if it’s just too much for you, have one of your millennial parents do it for you!

Oh for those days when the Boomers worked hard labour, often, instead of school. Now school is too hard!

There should be cameras in the classroom. The videos should be sent home to every parent everyday and they can do the behavioural management when Johnny or Suzy get home. Especially those at the management level and above. Let them see their little monsters in action.

Their desks should be placed over trap doors. The teacher gets a button… Away they go to the accompaniment of a theatrical flushing sound… Woosh… The symbolism would be perfect… Johnny you little shyt!

You understand that there has never been a successful society run by children, right?!?!

Up 63 Down 2

YT on Nov 18, 2022 at 7:55 pm

And if a (God forbid) got into the school, and there were no cameras, there’d be hell to pay.
There’s a very, very small number of incredibly entitled parents driving these ridiculous outrages.

Up 49 Down 5

Juniper Jackson on Nov 18, 2022 at 6:59 pm

My opinion? Leave the camera's. Put one right in the bathroom 'common' area that are shared with boys and girls. In the first place, the kids should not be doing anything in school that can not be seen or told to a parent or teacher. Its 2022.. the crazies are running the asylum. Every school should have outdoor cameras..catch the drug sellers trying to peddle their wares.. spot the same car circling the school.. Thank God my kids are out of school, but, at the same time..your child is my child, I want them all as safe as society can provide for.

All that being said, who is monitoring these cameras? IF something untoward is seen, are the parents notified? Did extra staff have to be hired to watch camera's all day? Or are camera's only reviewed when an issue arises? I hope all the schools students KNOW the cameras are there.. they might feel safer..,or, when they are older, it might keep them from endangering themselves. How many od's were there again???? Just my opinion. Once sever harm has occurred, it's too late to say..what do we know about this? Do you have cameras?

Up 78 Down 3

Nadine on Nov 18, 2022 at 6:34 pm

Actually, these cameras were extremely useful when a student set my child’s hair on fire in the hallway- they had the evidence of this event when they rolled the cameras. Keep the cameras!

Up 67 Down 4

Guncache on Nov 18, 2022 at 6:27 pm

What "highly sensitive personal information " would be collected? There is no expectation of privacy in a public setting. How many students record every day with their cell phones?

Up 59 Down 3

bonanzajoe on Nov 18, 2022 at 4:19 pm

Whats wrong with security cameras in schools? However, all information should be deleted unless it has to do with inappropriate activity.

Up 52 Down 4

Hmmm on Nov 18, 2022 at 3:56 pm

As a parent I have no issue with the cameras in the school.

What I do have issue with is who, when and how those videos can be viewed. I had a Principal casually tell me about how he viewed an ‘incident’ that took place. It made me wonder if these video files have auditing capability; to see who accesses them and when.

Up 67 Down 8

Heather on Nov 18, 2022 at 3:41 pm

I fully support cameras in schools.

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