Protection of Personal Information when Reporting on Small Populations

Date came into force or revised

In effect July 1, 2004; revised 2009; revised 2020



Policy statement

This policy is intended to prevent the possibility of associating statistical data with an identifiable individual. To protect the privacy of individuals, very small population numbers must be suppressed (masked) when the Ministry of Education and Child Care reports or otherwise publicly releases aggregated data.

Rationale or purpose of policy

Under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA), a public body may disclose personal information for research or statistical purposes. Protection of privacy must be ensured when personal information is reported and released.


The FOIPPA provides the public with a right of access to information in the custody or under the control of provincial government Ministries and other public bodies, subject to limited exceptions. It also protects personal information by prohibiting the unauthorized collection, use, or disclosure of personal information by public bodies. Personal information is defined in the FOIPPA as recorded information about an identifiable individual other than contact information.

Policy in full

This policy applies to all school, district and Ministry staff responsible for reporting or otherwise publicly releasing personal information and any other organization reporting information provided by the Ministry of Education and Child Care.

Any and all cells of fewer than 10 observations will be masked in any data set to be released publicly (i.e. through Open Data or in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request).

For reporting and release of information for vulnerable sub-populations such as, but not limited to, diverse needs and Indigenous students, the level of re-identification risk will be assessed in cells of more than 10 observations. Based on the assessment, an appropriate level and specific method(s) of masking the data may be determined. An example is the occurrence of more than 10 vulnerable students in a region with a small population.