2014 Ontario Child Health Study - Privacy impact assessment


Starting in October 2014, Statistics Canada will conduct the 2014 Ontario Child Health Study (OCHS) on behalf of a team of researchers, headed by McMaster University. The OCHS is a research study of the mental health of children and youth living in families and neighbourhoods throughout Ontario.

The target population includes all families with children and adolescents aged 4 to 17 years whose usual place of residence is a private household in the province of Ontario. The sample size for the main collection is 13,420 families and 21,470 children.


A privacy impact assessment for the 2014 Ontario Child Health Study was conducted to determine if there were any privacy, confidentiality and security issues associated with the study, and, if so, to make recommendations for their resolution or mitigation.

The Statistics Canada generic privacy impact assessment addresses many of the privacy aspects related to the survey. This specific Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) addresses the following privacy concerns:

  • Data collection from children
  • Potentially sensitive questions
  • Longitudinal data collection
  • Length of interview


The 2014 Ontario Child Health Study is a voluntary survey designed as a sequel to the 1983 OCHS, as the information from the 1983 survey is now considered to be outdated and often not suitable to guide policy and program decisions on resource allocations in line with the needs of children and youth living in Ontario today.

The study has five objectives:

  • to estimate the prevalence of child mental disorders;
  • to quantify the association between child mental disorders, chronic health conditions, and social and academic functioning;
  • to examine the extent to which families with children exhibiting mental health needs receive mental health services, express satisfaction with them or experience barriers to their use;
  • to determine if there has been an increase in the prevalence of child mental disorders between 1983 and 2013 or changes in socio-economic inequalities (gradients) for child disorder;
  • to model contextual influences (family, neighbourhood, school) on risk for disorder.

Consultations and Review Board

A number of committees and groups were involved in the development of the OCHS content, design and procedures to address privacy and research ethics questions related to the survey. Members included experts from Statistics Canada, the McMaster research team, a number of universities, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

All OCHS protocol and procedures were submitted to the Hamilton Integrated Research Ethics Board, and final ethics approval to proceed with the study was obtained from the Research Ethics Board.

Risk Area Identification and Categorization

The PIA also identifies the risk areas and categorizes the level of potential risk (level 1 representing the lowest level of potential risk and level 4, the highest) associated with the collection and use of personal information of respondents.

  • Type of program or activity – Level 1: Program or activity that does not involve a decision about an identifiable individual.
  • Type of personal information involved and context – Level 3: Social insurance number, medical, financial, or other sensitive personal information, or the context surrounding the personal information is sensitive; personal information of minors or of legally incompetent individuals or involving a representative acting on behalf of the individual.
  • Program or activity partners and private sector involvement – Level 4: Private sector organizations, international organizations or foreign governments.
  • Duration of the program or activity – Level 3: Long-term program or activity.
  • Program population – Not applicable: The program’s use of personal information is not for administrative purposes. Information is collected for statistical and related research purposes, under the authority of the Statistics Act.
  • Personal information transmission – Level 3: The personal information is transferred to a portable device (i.e., USB key, diskette, laptop computer), transferred to a different medium or is printed.
  • Technology and privacy: The 2014 OCHS does not require the implementation of new technology or modifications to legacy systems to support the creation, collection or handling of personal information.
  • Privacy breach: There is a low risk of personal information being disclosed.


While several potential privacy concerns have been identified and the Statistics Canada generic privacy impact assessment addresses some concerns, this assessment concludes that, with the existing Statistics Canada safeguards, any remaining risks are either negligible or are such that Statistics Canada is prepared to accept and manage the risk.

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