What to expect through an FOI request
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA) applies to over 2,900 public bodies, including government ministries and many government agencies, boards, commissions and Crown corporations. FOIPPA allows you to formally request access to the records held by these public bodies. The records could be personal information about you or a person you have guardianship over (or written permission to receive information on their behalf), or it could be general information about government programs and activities.
Helpful info about Freedom of Information requests:
- FOI requests allow access to records
- There are no fees for Personal FOI records requests
- You must have proof of authority or consent to disclose for FOI requests about another person (including your child or a client you represent)
- A clear and concise FOI request should take approximately 30 business days to complete; a broad and unspecific request may take longer
- Some records are not covered by FOIPPA, and are exempt from FOI requests. This can include court records or records that are available for purchase by the public
When you submit an FOI request, either Personal or General, the process will follow a similar path:
- Your FOI request is received and assigned a file number
- You may be contacted by an Information Access Operations (IAO) analyst to clarify your request, to ensure we’re able to retrieve the information you’re looking for
- The request will be assigned to the appropriate Ministry or Agency
- We will gather and confirm the required records
- At this point, we will create an estimate for fees for General requests (there’s no charge for Personal requests), and the timeline may be adjusted for large FOI requests
- An IAO analyst will evaluate your request under the current legislation, which may require consultation with Ministries, public bodies or third-parties
- The records for your request will go through an approval process, which could include peer-review, revisions and final sign-off
- A response package is assembled, including final redactions and printing of the records (if required)
- Your completed record request is submitted to you in electronic or physical formats.
As outlined in FOIPPA, public bodies have 30 working days to respond to your request for records. There are some situations that may result in an extension, and this is typically due to vague or broad requests. A clear and concise request can help you retrieve the information you need within 30 business days, but there are circumstances that may result in a longer timeframe. Your IAO contact will let you know if additional time is required.
Large or complex FOI requests take longer to process than clear and concise requests. You may wish to work with your IAO analyst to simplify your request to expedite processing.
An extension may be made for any of the following reasons:
- The request involves a large volume of records that must be searched and reviewed
- The records involve a number of different public bodies that must be consulted
- The records contain personal information about individuals other than the requester or private company business information and consultation must be undertaken with these parties before the records can be released
- The application does not give enough detail to enable the public body to identify a requested record
These extensions can be for 30 days or longer if authorized by the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
The FOIPPA defines a record as “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.”
These are some examples of the types of records you may need from their respective ministries:
Ministry of Children and Family Development:
• Child in Care records
• Child Protection records
• Adoption records
• Foster Parent records
• Daycare Subsidy records
Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General:
• BC Corrections Branch records
• RoadSafetyBC records (e.g. Driver Fitness file)
• Crime Victim Assistance Program records
Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction:
• Income Assistance records
• Disability Assistance records
• Health Assistance Branch records
Community Living BC:
• Eligibility records
• Assessment records
• Planning records
• Service Provider (Agency) Records
BC Public Service Agency:
• B.C. government staff employment records
• B.C. government employee payroll records
• B.C. government employee occupational health records
B.C. takes the management of information and the protection of privacy seriously and we are legally obliged to meet all the requirements of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA).
FOIPPA prohibits the public release of some types of information, such as personal information about citizens, discussions confidential to cabinet or information that could harm the business interests of a third party. This means that all details that meet these exceptions must be removed from the information releases prior to being posted online.
Releasing any of this information would be in contravention of the act.
If you are dissatisfied with the records received or decision regarding your FOI request, the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia (OIPC) has established a process to help you resolve your complaint.
Visit the FOI Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page for specific answers to commonly asked questions about Freedom of Information requests for records.
If you have questions about the Freedom of Information (FOI) process for B.C. government ministries or the Office of the Premier, contact Information Access Operations:
Information Access Operations
PO Box 9569
Stn Prov Govt
Victoria BC V8W 9K1