Learn more about Freedom of Information

Learn more about Freedom of Information (FOI) through the questions and answers below; view B.C. government information releases and published data on the Open Information and DataBC websites; view FOI Request Statistics; view the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA) and the FOIPP Regulation.

What is Freedom of Information (FOI)
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA) establishes the public’s right to access records, subject to limited exceptions to disclosure. Information excepted from disclosure is removed from records released through FOI, with the exceptions noted.

Some FOI requests may require payment of a fee. Fees are charged in accordance with FOIPPA and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Regulation (FOIPP Regulation).

FOI is not a process to request or obtain answers to questions or information that is not contained in public body records. Those questions should be submitted directly to the applicable public bodies, outside the FOI process.

I just want to ask some questions about a public body’s activities.  Can I get the answers through an FOI request?
Questions about a public body’s programs or activities should be directed to the responsible public body. The Freedom of Information (FOI) process provides access to records held by public bodies.

You may wish to submit an FOI request if you think records exist containing information relevant to your question; however, an FOI request could take considerably longer than contacting the public body directly when records are not required.

How can I make a request for records to a B.C. government ministry?
First, check with the ministry that you believe holds the records to confirm your assumption and see if the records are routinely available. If you are requesting general (not personal) records, you also can check the Open Information website to see if the records you want are published there. FOI requests must be in writing.

If you are requesting records from a B.C. government ministry or the Office of the Premier, please submit your request to Information Access Operations (IAO). Select/identify the ministry from which you are requesting records and describe those records clearly and concisely. If you are requesting records from other public bodies not served by IAO, you will need to send your request to those public bodies directly.  Most public bodies have their own websites with contact information.

Where/how do I send a request for records to Information Access Operations (IAO)?
Where to submit a Freedom of Information (FOI) request depends on which public body holds the records. Information Access Operations (IAO) is the FOI service provider for B.C. government ministries and the Office of the Premier. FOI requests for records of B.C. public bodies that are not served IAO should be submitted to those bodies directly.

FOI requests for general (non-personal) records held by B.C. government ministries may be submitted to IAO using the online FOI form (recommended). These requests also may be sent by email to FOI.Requests@gov.bc.ca, by fax to 250-387-9843, or by hardcopy mail to:

Freedom of Information Request
PO Box 9569
Stn Prov Govt
Victoria BC  V8W 9K1

FOI requests for personal records held by B.C. government ministries may be submitted to IAO at the above email, fax or postal address. The required documentation for personal records requests is described on the Request Personal Records page. FOI requests for records of B.C. public bodies that are not served IAO should be submitted to those bodies directly. Most have their own websites, which should include information on how to submit FOI requests.

What do I do if I disagree with the ministry’s decision to withhold information from my requested records?
If you have questions about the response you received, contact the IAO analyst who processed your request. If the analyst is unable to address your concerns, you may request a review by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) within 30 business days of receiving the IAO response letter to your FOI request. Information on the review process is included in the response letter, or you may contact the OIPC.

Do I have to be of legal age to make a request?
No. Anyone may make a request for records under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA).

How long will it take to receive my records?
It could take up to 30 business days to respond to your request. This time may be extended under FOIPPA when a large volume of records is requested, when additional time is needed to consult with third parties or other public bodies, and/or when we need to work with you to clarify your request.

Large complex FOI requests take longer to process than small simple requests. You may wish to work with your IAO analyst to try to narrow and simplify your request to help expedite processing.

Is there a cost to make a request for B.C. government records?
There is no application fee to make a request for records in B.C.; however, depending on the size and complexity of an FOI general request, fees may be charged for services provided. If a fee is chargeable for your request, your IAO analyst can work with you to explore options to reduce or possibly eliminate the fee by narrowing your request. There is no fee for processing FOI personal requests.

What FOI services may have fees applied?
FOIPPA section 75 permits fees to be charged on FOI requests for the services listed below. Fees for these services are charged at rates listed in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Regulation:

  • locating, retrieving and producing the record;
  • preparing the record for disclosure;
  • shipping and handling the record; and
  • providing a copy of the record.

Fees are not charged for:

  • the first 3 hours spent locating and retrieving a record; or
  • time spent severing (removing) information from a record.

What information do I need to provide to access my personal records?
You will need to provide your full legal name and mailing address.  It is also helpful to provide a daytime phone number so we can contact you if there are questions about your request. You should be clear about what kind of records you want; for example, what type of government services did you receive?  You may need to provide additional information to ensure that we are able to match the correct records to you.

Can I request records about my family members (or for someone else)?
In some cases, you may be permitted to access another person’s personal records. If you need advice on submitting these requests, please contact IAO at 250-387-1321.

Can I request records about someone who has died?
Personal privacy rights continue after a person has died. Section 5 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Regulation describes who can access a deceased person’s personal records.   Privacy rights for deceased individuals diminish over time, so the records you can access may depend on how long it has been since the person died.

How do I get information about the status of my FOI request to a ministry?
Call 250-387-1321, quote your FOI request file number, and ask for the IAO analyst assigned to your file. This phone number can be reached toll-free by calling from Vancouver at 604-660-2421. Elsewhere in B.C. call 1-800-663-7867 and ask to be transferred to 250-387-1321.

Can you email my copies of ministry records when they are ready?
We are happy to email records that respond to FOI general requests. Personal records are not sent by email for security reasons, to ensure that unauthorized persons cannot access your personal information. We can arrange for you to pick up your records in person at certain government offices, where you will need to show identification before receiving them. If you need your records urgently, you can arrange for a courier to pick them up and deliver them to you at your expense.

I am going to court and I need to have my records today.
We are unable to respond to requests for records that quickly. All records need to be reviewed carefully before they are released, to ensure that you get a complete response to your request, and to protect the privacy of others.

Are there any exceptions to disclosure?
As defined in Part 2, Division 2 of FOIPPA, each section listed below has its own tests to determine if information should be excepted from disclosure through FOI. Refer to those sections to determine the appropriate tests.

Section 12: Cabinet confidences
Section 13: Advice or recommendations
Section 14: Legal advice
Section 15: Harm to law enforcement
Section 16: Harm to intergovernmental relations or negotiations
Section 17: Harm to financial or economic interests of a public body
Section 18: Harm to conservation of heritage sites
Section 19: Harm to individual or public safety
Section 20: Information to be published or released within 60 days
Section 21: Harm to business interests of a third party
Section 22: Harm to personal privacy
Section 22.1: Information relating to abortion services

FOI Terms & Definitions

"Public body" means

  • a ministry of the government of British Columbia,
  • an agency, board, commission, corporation, office or other body designated in, or added by regulation to, Schedule 2, or
  • a local public body*

    but does not include
  • the office of a person who is a member or officer of the Legislative Assembly, or
  • the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court or Provincial Court.
    *Local public bodies also are defined in FOIPPA. There are many types of these. They process their own FOI requests (not through this site).


"Record" means

 

  • books, documents, maps, drawings, photographs, letters, vouchers, papers and any other thing on which information is recorded or stored by graphic, electronic, mechanical or other means, but does not include a computer program or any other mechanism that produces records.

 


"Personal information" means

 

  • recorded information about an identifiable individual other than [business] contact information.