FOIPPA Policy Definitions
* denotes words which are included in Schedule 1 Definitions.
The following reference sources are used. Subsequent references to these sources will appear as indicated below:
- Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 8th Ed. [OED]
- Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 9th Ed. [OED 9th]
- Dictionary of Canadian Law, 1st Ed. [DCL]
- Black's Law Dictionary, 6th Ed. [Black's]
* "access" means the ability or opportunity to view, study or obtain a copy the records of government. The Act provides the public with a right of access to records in the custody or under the control of a public body.
There are two methods for gaining access to the records of government:
- routine channels; and,
- formal Freedom of Information (FOI) requests under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The first method satisfies the needs of most information seekers. Formal FOI requests made under the Act provide a method of seeking access to information that is not otherwise available. The Act is the avenue of last resort to gain access to government records; i.e., when routine channels have failed.
- Skills training assists a social assistance recipient to return to the workforce and is one facet of the social assistance program.
- Driver testing is required in determining eligibility for a driver's licence as part of the driver licensing program.
"adjudicative function" means where an administrative tribunal, board, or other non-judicial body or individual has a function conferred by statute, with power to hear and rule on issues involving the rights of people or organizations.
"administration of a public body" comprises all aspects of a public body's internal management (other than personnel management), necessary to support the delivery of programs and services. Administration includes financial management, material management, contract management, property management, information management, and risk management.
Either the context or form of the record makes it clear that it was prepared to provide advice to decision makers, or that information must have been communicated from one person to another to constitute advice.
"agreement" is the consent of two or more persons concurring respecting the transmission of some property, right, or benefits, with the view of contracting an obligation, a mutual obligation [Black’s].
"any other person" extends the protection provided by this exception to individuals who are not law enforcement officers. This includes civilians, persons in the witness protection program, family members of law enforcement officers and civilians, and other individuals who assist law enforcement interests.
- Disclosure of a third party's personal information may be required so that an individual can prove his or her inheritance rights.
In the context of this Act, an appraisal is a report or other record, including facts, findings, and conclusions.
- An appraisal report on the value of a computer system owned by a public body may not be withheld under section 13(1).
- An appraisal report prepared for a public body by a private consultant to value its real estate holdings may not be withheld under section 13(1).
"arbitrator" is a private, disinterested person, chosen by the parties to a dispute, for the purpose of hearing their contention and giving judgement between them, to whose decision (award) the litigants submit themselves either voluntarily or, in some cases, compulsorily.
"archival purpose" means any legitimate use which can be made of archival records (including genealogical and family research, statistical and quantitative analyses, sociological studies, land claims research, academic pursuits, litigation, and background for films and books), as well as any of the functions normally performed by, for or within an archives (including scheduling, selecting, preserving, arranging and describing records, and making them available for use.)
"archives of the government of British Columbia", formally know as "BC Archives", is the central archives service for the government of British Columbia, and provides research access to records of enduring value to the province for both the provincial government and public clientele.
"archives of a public body" is the agency authorized to perform archival functions on behalf of that public body; i.e., the agency responsible for selecting, preserving and making available the non-current records of the public body preserved because of their continuing value.
The phrase "as the basis for making a decision or formulating a policy" means the head must have cited publicly the information as the basis (basis means the foundation or support of something [OED]) for making any of his or her decisions as head of the public body or as the basis for the formulation (creation, design, development) of a policy of the public body.
"Attorney General" is the chief law officer for the province and the official legal advisor to the Lieutenant Governor and members of Cabinet. The Attorney General’s responsibilities are set out in the Attorney General Act.
"Auditor General" is an officer of the Legislature appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council to examine the accounts and records of the government relating to the consolidated revenue fund and all public money including trust and special funds under the management of the government and relating to public property. The Auditor General must report annually to the Legislative Assembly on her/his work, including findings as to whether or not ministries and public bodies have carried out their financial responsibilities as established in the Auditor General Act.
"belief" means the mental acceptance of a proposition, statement, or fact, as true, on the ground of authority or evidence; assent of the mind to a statement, or to the truth of a fact beyond observation, on the testimony of another, or to a fact or truth on the evidence of consciousness; the mental condition involved in this assent. [OED]
"board" in relation to a regional district, means the board of directors for the regional district [Municipal Act, section 1].
"bylaw" means a rule or resolution adopted by a corporation to regulate its operations [DCL]. As it applies to local government bodies, "bylaw" means a Regulation made by the council or board and formalized in a document known as a bylaw.
"cabinet" is the common name for the Executive Council and the Lieutenant Governor in Council. It is the committee of senior ministers (heading individual provincial government ministries) which acts collectively with the Premier to decide matters of government policy.
"cause personal information to be collected" - This refers to the collection of personal information on behalf of a public body and includes services under contract or other forms of agreement where the personal information is under the control of the public body.
"character reference(s)" means someone vouching for another person’s character. That reference is usually being assessed in the context of a position of trust, and may be required either within or outside the employment context.
- Details of a past job performance appraisal submitted by a job applicant during the interview process.
"civil proceedings involving the government" are legal proceedings involving private rights and remedies (as opposed to criminal matters) in which the government of British Columbia or a public body is a party.
- Information which demonstrates the lowest price a third party could charge for a product and still receive a profit;
- Marketing plans, including market research surveys;
- Customer lists;
- Syndicated polls marketed by a commercial polling company.
The "Commissioner as head of a public body" means that the Commissioner makes decisions related to freedom of information requests to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner and ensures that the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner meets the privacy requirements of the Act.
As a result, the Act covers the administrative records of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, e.g., travel vouchers, requisitions, financial records.
"committee of its governing body" means a group of people designated by the governing body of the local public body who have been designated to consider a particular issue or subject matter. A committee may be composed of elected officials, members of the local public body and/or other persons designated by the governing body.
"competitive position" means the information in question must be capable of use by an existing or potential business competitor, whether or not that competitor currently competes for the same market share.
- information that discloses the profit margin on a private company's operations;
- marketing plans, including market research surveys, polls;
- information which reveals the internal workings of a private company
- An applicant requests information about his stock broker, who is being investigated by the British Columbia Securities Commission for alleged insider trading.
"complaint" means a grievance or expression of dissatisfaction submitted by an applicant or other person to the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The complaint could be about a decision, action or lack of action of a head of a public body, or generally about the information practices of the public body.
A complaint may be based on one or more of five grounds listed in subsection 42(2) of the Act:
- an improper time extension;
- an inappropriate fee;
- a practice that violates one of the Act's privacy protection provisions;
- a duty under the Act not performed; or,
- a correction of personal information not made.
The concept is applied to information or records supplied to a public body by sources of confidential law enforcement information or by third parties (including individuals and other levels of government.) It is a factor in considering the exception of information under paragraphs 15(1)(d) and (e), paragraph 16(1)(b), subsection 21(1) and section 22.
The information must have been supplied with an expectation that the public body will not disclose the information. The intention that confidence will be maintained may be explicitly stated within the record in question or may be implied by the circumstances under which the information was submitted and received. Where confidentiality is implied, there must be objective grounds to support the assumption of confidentiality.
It is not sufficient for an external governmental entity or other third party simply to stamp documents confidential or to assert in representations that information was supplied in confidence. There must be evidence which can be used to support the assertion and to prove that the information has been treated in a consistently confidential manner.
"confidential source" is someone who has provided information to a public body with the assurance that his or her identity will remain secret. The assurance may be express or implied. There must be evidence of the circumstances in which the information was provided to establish whether the source is confidential.
"consent" means voluntary agreement by a person in the possession and exercise of sufficient mental capacity to make an intelligent choice to do something proposed by another; it supposes a physical power to act, a moral power of acting and a serious, determined and free use of these powers ... [Black’s].
"consent, informed" is a person’s agreement to allow something to happen (such as surgery) that is based on a full disclosure of facts needed to make the decision intelligently; i.e., knowledge of risks involved, alternatives etc ... [Black’s].
"conservation" means the safeguarding of a resource for the future by active physical preservation and/or legal protection. Interference with conservation means any activity that might threaten the integrity or continued existence of a resource.
"consultation" refers to the process by which a public body asks employees within the public body, other public bodies, individuals or other third parties (including other governments), to comment on the proposed disclosure of information in which they have an interest. It also refers to the process of notifying third parties under section 23 of the Act.
Consultations may result in the transfer of a request to another public body if the second public body has a greater interest in the requested records. Consultations must be completed within the original or extended legislated time limit.
"consumer test report" is a compilation and analysis of research into consumers’ needs in relation to specific goods or services, or which examines the quality, safety, operation or delivery of those goods and services.
The intention of this paragraph is to ensure that a consumer test report is released, along with any tests of the equipment public bodies used to test the consumer products or services.
- Elevator test reports.
- Reports on the inspection of restaurants for cleanliness.
- Tests of children's products.
"contract to supply goods or services" refers to agreements concluded by a public body with another party to buy or sell products, merchandise, services or wares. This term also covers agreements entered into by public bodies in the nature of employment or performance of work-related duties.
Where the information in a record directly relates to more than one public body, more than one public body may have control of the record. The public body with the greater interest processes the request for information.
The following are some of the factors indicating that a public body has control of a record:
- the record was created by a staff member, an officer, or a member of the public body in the course of his or her duties;
- the record was created by an outside consultant for the public body;
- the record is specified in a contract as being under the control of a public body;
- the content of the record relates to the public body's mandate and functions;
- the public body has the authority to regulate the record's use and disposition;
- the public body has relied upon the record to a substantial extent;
- the record is closely integrated with other records held by the public body; or,
- the contract permits the public body to inspect, review, possess or copy records produced, received or acquired by the contractor as a result of the contract.
- An individual's credit rating.
Intelligence gathering is a separate activity from the conduct of investigations. Intelligence may be used for future investigations, for activities aimed at preventing the commission of an offence, and to ensure the security of individuals or organizations.
Intelligence gathering is usually unrelated to the investigation of the occurrence of a specific offence. Authorities may covertly observe the activities of persons suspected of involvement in criminal activity, with the expectation that the intelligence may be useful in future investigations. Intelligence may be drawn from investigations of previous incidents that may or may not have resulted in the trial and conviction of the person under surveillance. Such information may be gathered through surveillance of associates or known or suspected criminals.
Criminal intelligence may also be drawn from investigations that have resulted in the commencement of proceedings against a person or organization.
"custody" (of a record) means having physical possession of a record, even though the public body does not necessarily have responsibility for the record. Physical possession normally includes responsibility for access, managing, maintaining, preserving, disposing, and providing security.
Where more than one copy of a record exists, more than one public body may have custody of a record.
"damage" refers to destruction, deterioration or reduction in value of a fossil site, natural site, anthropological or heritage site. Damage also refers to harming a habitat, or impairing the health or safety of a population of an endangered, threatened or vulnerable animal or plant species or subspecies, or any other endangered or rare living resource.
- The location of the Burgess Shale fossil site which contains fossils that are 560 million years old was not revealed until the site could be designated as a national park under federal law. The inherent value of this site in British Columbia’s Rocky Mountain range justified the secrecy of its location until it could be protected by statute.
- The disclosure of locations of native burial caves could result in damage through vandalism and desecration.
"debt" is something that is owed, especially money; a state of obligation to pay something owed [OED]; a specified sum of money owing to one person from another, including not only the obligation of a debtor to pay, but the right of a creditor to receive and enforce payment [Black's].
"decision" in the context of a request under the Act means a conclusion, formal judgment, including the reasons which were used in reaching that judgment, or resolution reached by the head of a public body (or by the person with the head's delegated authority) in the course of processing the request. The decision must, in some manner, affect the rights of the applicant or have an effect on the person concerned (e.g., entitlement to benefit, service or a particular job) and be made in the exercise of a discretionary power or an adjudicative function.
"decision-maker" is the person within the public body who makes formal judgements at various stages in the processing of a request or on whether to disclose personal information under sections 33 to 36 of the Act. The decision-maker is the head of the public body or another person to whom the head has delegated authority.
It is the act by which the head of a public body or the Commissioner under section 47 authorizes an employee or officer within the public body or the Commissioner’s office to exercise one or more of the head's authorities or decision-making powers.
Only the head or the Commissioner has the power to delegate. The head may delegate any of her or his powers under the Act except the power to delegate (section 66.) Delegations must be in writing and are vested in the position, not the person occupying the position. Thus, delegations remain in effect even if the head changes or the person occupying a position changes.
The person delegating the authority remains responsible and accountable for all actions and decisions made under that delegation.
"Director or Manager of Information and Privacy (DMIP)" is the public body employee responsible for the overall management of freedom of information and protection of privacy functions and responsibilities within the public body.
"Directory of Records" is the publication (also called the "Freedom of Information Directory" in the Act) required by section 69 of the Act. It is published by the minister responsible for this Act. The Directory is a reference tool that assists the public to exercise its right of access to records in the custody or under the control of public bodies. It lists records held by public bodies.
"disclose/disclosure" means to reveal, show, expose, provide copies of, sell, give or tell (personal or non-personal information or records.) Disclosure may occur either as a routine release of information in the absence of a requestor or in response to a formal request under the Act.
"disclosure could reasonably be expected to" means that the head of the public body must have objective grounds for believing that disclosure could reasonably result in a specified outcome (harm or benefit) contemplated by the exception. There must be a link between the disclosure of specific information and the harm or benefit that is expected from its release. The public body must be prepared to present detailed and convincing evidence of the facts that led to the expectation that harm or benefit could occur if the information were disclosed.
Public bodies need not demonstrate that actual harm will result, or that actual harm resulted from a similar disclosure in the past. However, past experience could be part of the factual considerations upon which the expectation of harm is based. The context in which a public body operates is also taken into account in determining whether it is reasonable to expect that harm will result from the disclosure of information. The demonstration of the harm will depend on the sensitivity of the information. For example, a life-and-death situation may require a mere possibility rather than a probability of harm.
"discretion" - A head of a public body is required to use his or her judgement in making a variety of decisions, including whether or not to withhold requested information and when to waive a fee. The head must show that relevant factors were considered in making the decision.
"discretionary exception" is a non-obligatory exclusion to a general right of access which requires the head of the public body to use his or her judgement in deciding whether or not to withhold requested information. The head must show that relevant factors were considered in making the decision.
There are eight discretionary exceptions in the Act:
- section 13 (policy advice or recommendations);
- section 14 (legal advice);
- section 15 (disclosure harmful to law enforcement);
- section 16 (disclosure harmful to intergovernmental relations or negotiations);
- section 17 (disclosure harmful to the financial or economic interests of a public body);
- section 18 (disclosure harmful to the conservation of heritage sites, etc.);
- section 19 (disclosure harmful to individual or public safety); and,
- section 20 (information that will be published or released within 60 days.)
"discretionary power" is granted under statute to the administrative level of government. There is a discretionary power when, given certain factual circumstances, the administrative authority is free to make a particular decision and has a choice among various decisions; in other words, when his or her conduct is not dictated in advance by law [Dussault and Borgeat, Administrative Law, 2nd ed.].
"disputes or grievances" include controversies, debates and differences of opinion regarding any issues. Common among the grievances relating to aboriginal peoples are those relating to land, but this section is not limited to land claim issues.
"draft" means that the resolution, bylaw or other legal instrument or bill in question has not yet been finalized for consideration by the local public body. This applies to entire draft legal instruments or private Bills and to individual sections or phrases that are part of a draft. (s 12)
- A preliminary version of a zoning bylaw drafted by the municipal planning department.
This applies to entire draft Acts or regulations and to individual sections or phrases that are part of a draft Act or regulation.
This wording covers draft legislation at all stages of its development - from initial Request for Legislation to the finalized legislation, drafted by Legislative Counsel and awaiting introduction in the Legislative Assembly. After First Reading, the draft legislation is considered a Bill, and is not covered under this exception.
A Cabinet decision is made to enact legislation that would prohibit smoking in all public places. The Ministry of Attorney General is asked to research the impacts, social benefits and costs of the proposal, and to draft the legislation. All records generated by the ministry in the course of initiating the legislation, including the request for legislation, research, analysis reports, legislative drafts and all directly related documentation, would be covered by this subsection.
Once the final draft has passed First Reading in the Legislative Assembly, it becomes a Bill, and is subject to public scrutiny. The new Bill and any amendments or changes to it that are passed in the Legislative Assembly are a matter of public record. The drafts and associated working materials described above, however, are not matters of public record, and remain covered by this subsection.
This exception to disclosure does not cover background factual material produced or assembled in support of the draft legislation once the final draft legislation has passed First Reading, or a Cabinet decision has been made public not to proceed with it (subsection 12(2)(c)).
- A Ministry commissioned a report to assess how a major event would affect the economy of British Columbia. The event has since taken place. The report may not be withheld under section 13(1).
- A public body hired a consultant to develop an economic forecast of population and industry growth rates. The economic forecast may not be withheld under section 13(1).
* "educational body"
- An individual's high school grade point average, individual assignment marks and/or course marks.
"efficiency" or "performance" refers to the management, administration, operations, conduct, functioning, or effectiveness of the public body, its programs or its policies. This phrase relates to the management of finances, assets, and personnel, and the delivery of services of the public body. It also pertains to the effectiveness of the public body’s programs and policies in completing those tasks.
"employment history" refers to any information regarding an individual’s work record. This includes the name of her or his employer, the term of employment, the duties associated with the position, the salary and the reasons for leaving.
- An individual's employment performance appraisal reports.
"endanger the life or physical safety" means where disclosure of information could threaten, or put in peril, someone's life or physical well-being. An individual's physical safety can be threatened as a result of a physical attack or an attack against property that is likely to cause casualties.
"endangered species" is any species of flora or fauna that is threatened with imminent extinction throughout all, or a significant portion of its natural range. This species should appear on the national endangered species list compiled by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, be a "S1" on the tracing list of B.C. Conservation Data Centre, or be designated as endangered under section 6(1) of the Wildlife Act by the Lieutenant Governor in Council by regulation, or other legislation.
The following species have been designated as endangered species under the Wildlife Act (Designation and Exemption Regulation (Wildlife Act), B.C. Regulation 168/90):
- Vancouver Island Marmot
- Sea Otter
- Burrowing Owl
- White Pelican
"evidence" means any species of proof, or probative matter, legally presented at the trial of an issue, by the act of the parties and through the medium of witnesses, records, documents, exhibits, concrete objects, etc., for the purpose of inducing belief in the minds of the court or jury as to their contention [Blacks].
"environmental" refers to the physical surroundings and conditions, especially those affecting people’s lives; conditions or circumstances of living; external conditions affecting the growth of plans and animals [OED].
"environmental impact statement" (s 13) is a formal account of facts and contains technical assessments, based on factual findings and conclusions, respecting the social, cultural, economic and environmental effects, influences or consequences of specific projects or activities such as buildings, highways, construction, mining and timber harvesting.
- An environmental impact statement was prepared on a proposed copper mine. The statement included some preliminary advice and recommendations. A second separate summary of the statement was created that included advice and recommendations prepared for the ministry as to how to manage the environmental consequences of the project, should it receive approval. The advice or recommendations in the summary document may be withheld under section 13(1). the remainder of the records, including the preliminary advice and recommendations contained in the environmental impact statement, must be released unless another exception applies.
- A briefing note prepared for a minister contains a paragraph outlining the environmental consequences of approving a toxic waste dump site in the interior of the province. The paragraph contains information similar to an environmental impact statement in content and substance but not in form. The advice or recommendations may be withheld under section 13(1), but the remainder of the record must be released unless another exception applies.
- Incorrect factual information such as birth date or address
"ethnic origin" is similar to racial origin in that it refers to the identification of the common descent that connects a group of persons but can also include other common features such as language, culture or country of origin.
- A historical document regarding the settlement of a community lists the countries of origin of specific settlers.
"every reasonable effort" is an effort which a fair and rational person would expect to be done or would find acceptable. The use of ‘every’ indicates that a public body’s efforts are to be thorough and comprehensive.
The "Executive Council" is commonly known as the Cabinet.
This phrase refers to a group of ministers, acting collectively. The scope of subsection 12(1) does not extend to the individual minister level, unless the individual minister is acting as a Cabinet committee.
A committee of the Executive Council, also known as a Cabinet committee, includes one or more Cabinet ministers. The committee exercises some or all of the powers of Cabinet as a whole, or develops and provides recommendations to Cabinet. Also included in the definition is an entity or individual to which the Executive Council or any of its committees has delegated decision-making authority on their behalf.
Included in the definition of Executive Council committees are all Cabinet Caucus Committees.
The existing Cabinet committees include:
- all Cabinet Caucus Committees;
- Cabinet/Caucus Committee on Legislation;
- Treasury Board;
- Planning Board;
- Cabinet Committee on Crown Corporations;
- Environment and Land Use Committee;
- First Nations Issues Working Group;
- Social Development Working Group;
- Forestry Working Group;
- Green Economy Working Group;
- Cabinet Committee on Collective Bargaining; and,
- Cabinet Committee on Regulations and Orders-in-Council
"except/exception" refers to provisions in the Act which permit or require an exception to the right of access to records in the custody or under the control of public bodies. The Act specifies limited exceptions to the right of access where disclosure would result in harm to government or a third party (sections 12 through 22.) The right of access does not extend to information excepted from disclosure under Division 2 of the Act.
The Act requires that, wherever reasonable, public bodies sever any excepted information and release the remainder.
An exception is either discretionary or mandatory. A discretionary exception gives the discretion to disclose or withhold requested information to which the exception applies, after due consideration of the factors. Discretionary exceptions begin "The head of a public body may refuse to disclose information ..."
A mandatory exception requires a head to withhold the information to which the exception applies; the head has no option to disclose information. Mandatory exceptions begin "The head of a public body must refuse to disclose ... "
"explicit" means not obscure or ambiguous, having no disguised meaning or reservation. Clear in understanding [Black’s]. Information is revealed explicitly if the information itself is this type of information or it makes a direct reference to the type of information subject to the exception.
- A public body holds a record which is a proposal from a private company and which includes specific details of an unpatented trade secret. The company provided the proposal on the written invitation of an officer of the public body. The company requested that the information be kept confidential. The facts and circumstances of the case and the representations of the company, all make it clear that the company regards the information as confidential and that the release of this information could reasonably be expected to result in undue financial loss to the company.
"expose to civil liability" means to reveal information that could lead to court action for damages. For example, reports prepared during the initial stages of a criminal investigation often contain derogatory comments about a suspect. Most investigations begin with conjecture that may or may not be substantiated by the investigation. The subsequent release of such a report should not expose law enforcement personnel, witnesses or other sources to civil liability. This includes all types of civil liability.
- Opinions expressed about an individual under law enforcement investigation by a person who has had dealings with that individual.
- A statement by a police officer that he or she believes the complainant is making a false allegation.
- the applicant does not provide enough details for the public body to identify the requested record;
- a large umber of records has been requested or must be searched;
- more time is need to consult with third party or another public body; or,
- a third party has asked for a review under subsection 52(2) or 62(2.)
"factual material" means a cohesive body of facts which are separated in some manner from advice or recommendations. It does not refer to isolated statements of fact. Factual material refers specifically to information that cannot be withheld under section 13(1) and which must be severed from advice or recommendations if those are being withheld. Where factual information is intertwined with advice or recommendations in a manner whereby no reasonable separation can be made, then the information is not factual for the purposes of paragraph 13(2)(a).
Factual material is not limited to information that has been confirmed or accepted as accurate by the public body.
- A draft of an audit report includes an evaluation of management practices. The author's assessment of the public body is based on factual material regardless of whether the public body agrees with the assessment. The author's recommendations may be excepted under section 13(1), but the background facts upon which the recommendations are made cannot be withheld under this section. Other exceptions, however, may apply.
- The recommendations portion of a minister's briefing note contains factual information. This factual information may be withheld under section 13(1) if it cannot be separated from the recommendations.
Other exceptions may apply to the factual material.
"fair trial" means a hearing by an impartial and disinterested tribunal; a proceeding which hears before it condemns, which proceeds upon inquiry, and renders judgment only after consideration of evidence and facts as a whole [Black's].
"fees" are the charges that an applicant pays a public body for certain services flowing from the processing of a request under the Act. Fees are not related to a public body's actual salary and operational costs for processing requests and administering the Act.
Fees are not a barrier to access and are not intended to enable a public body to recover the full costs of providing access to information. Unless it is listed in section 75 of the Act, a public body may not charge a fee for providing a service.
"field research" means research which must be conducted outside of the normal office environment, but does not include library research. For the purposes of this paragraph, the field research must have been undertaken (conducted, attempted, carried out) before a policy proposal is formulated.
"final audit" means the conclusive or decisive report of an official investigation of accounts or other matters pertaining to the performance or efficiency of a public body, or any of its programs or policies. This includes an associated executive summary, management report, management or policy letter and other supporting documents. A final audit does not refer to the auditing process.
- A record revealing how much an individual property owner is in arrears on her or his taxes to a local government. (Although section 447 of the Municipal Act provides for disclosure of a statement of unpaid taxes charged against a specified real property, it may still be an unreasonable invasion of privacy to disclose information linking the amount of unpaid taxes to an individual property owner.)
- Financial forecasts;
- Profit and loss statements.
- A list of an individual's investments.
"financial interests" refers to the financial position of a public body or the government of British Columbia. It includes the management of assets and liabilities, and the ability of the public body or the government to protect its own interests in financial transactions with third parties and public/private partnership agreements. The financial interests of the government of British Columbia include the ability to collect taxes and generate revenues.
"gathered for the purpose of collecting a tax" means the information was collected by authorities for the purpose of collecting due or overdue taxes, for a federal, provincial or municipal government.
- Information gathered in a municipal tax return in relation to eligibility for a Homeowner Grant.
"government of British Columbia" is defined in the Interpretation Act as "Her Majesty in right of British Columbia." This phrase refers to the government of British Columbia in a broad sense and includes ministries, Crown corporations, agencies, commissions, and the public bodies listed in Schedule 2 of the Act.
[The use of "government of British Columbia" instead of "public body" indicates that the section 16 exception has a different and higher-level coverage than the section 17 exception (Disclosure harmful to the financial or economic interests of a public body). Section 16 is available only where disclosure of information could reasonably to expected to harm the conduct of intergovernmental relations of the government of British Columbia, a larger concept than a public body. Section 17 protects the financial and economic interests of either the smaller units of the government of British Columbia (public bodies) or the government of British Columbia itself.]
"greater interest" - When two or more public bodies have custody or control of a record, the concept of greater interest may be used to determine which body should respond to a request for access to the record. "Greater interest" (in a record) occurs when a public body can demonstrate that it meets a larger number of the criteria governing custody or control.
The term is applied to the injury to a particular public or private interest that could occur as a result of disclosure of certain types of information in government records in response to a request under that Act.
The likelihood that harm will result from disclosure of specific information may constitute grounds for the exception of the information. The head of a public body must be able to provide detailed and convincing evidence of the facts or rationale supporting the expectation that disclosure of the requested information would harm the particular public or private interest.
There must be a link between the disclosure of specific information and the harm which is expected from release. Although it is not necessary to demonstrate that actual harm will result, or that actual harm did result from a similar disclosure in the past, such past experience could be part of the factual information which the expectation of harm is based. The demonstration of the harm will depend on the sensitivity of the information. For example, a life-and-death situation may require a mere possibility rather than a probability of harm.
A fear that disclosure would hinder, impede, or minimally interfere with a particular public or private interest does not satisfy this harm test.
* "health care body"
"identified" (with respect to personal information) means that the person has been informed of the specific information to be used or disclosed, the new use to which the information will be put and the consequences of agreeing or refusing to the new use or disclosure.
- information is revealed implicitly if it allows for an accurate inference to be made which would reveal the excepted information.
- there is no explicit statement of confidentiality, request for confidentiality, confidentiality agreement or other objective evidence which indicates the parties’ understanding that the information would be kept confidential.
- A memorandum from an officer of the public body to a director refers, to a proposal from a private company on details of an unpatented trade secret, in a manner which would allow a competitor of the company to infer details of the trade secret.
"implemented" means that the decision to implement the plan has been communicated to the official(s) in the public body who are responsible for carrying out the plan. It is not necessary for implementation activities to have been completed.
- Treasury Board has made a decision to cut spending in a particular program. No public announcement has been made. At the point in time when the spending cut has been communicated to the ministry officials and the ministry begins making the budget cuts to the program, the background explanations or analysis used by Treasury Board to make its decision will not be covered by this exception.
Note that after a Cabinet decision is implemented, another exception may apply.
- A decision is implemented in the fall to change taxes in the spring budget, but the tax change is not publicly announced. This information would be excepted from disclosure until the spring under section 17 of the Act.
"in accordance with an enactment" means that the authority to confiscate the records in question must be found in a statute or regulation and that the confiscation was carried out in line with the requirements of the statute or regulation.
"incapacity" means a physical or mental condition or disorder suffered by a member of a professional body of such nature and extent that it is desirable in the interests of the public or the member that the member no longer be permitted to practice [DCL].
An "individual identifier" is information such as a person’s name, Social Insurance Number (or other number unique to the person such as driver’s license number, employee number or health card number), address, date of birth (usually used in combination with other identifiers such as name to distinguish between people with the same name but different birth dates) or any other discrete element of personal information that would enable a third party to deduce the identity of the person concerned.
"information" means recorded information and is anything that conveys facts, opinions, concepts, ideas or other forms of knowledge and includes records as defined in this Act. The information must be recorded in some manner.
Information rather than "record" is used to convey that the exceptions apply to the information in the record, not the whole record. Where exceptions apply to portions of a record, only that part is severed and the applicant receives the remainder of the record.
"inquiry" is one stage in the process in which the Commissioner reviews a decision of a head of a public body or investigates a complaint against a head. The inquiry is normally preceded by mediation and if not settled by mediation is followed by an order in which the Commissioner formally disposes of the issues.
- United Nations.
- International Monetary Fund.
- Crayfish or crabs
- Spiders and mites
- Marine life such as a starfish, or jellyfish
"investigative techniques and procedures" means the methods or processes by which examinations, enquiries or observations are carried out. The meaning of this phrase includes the equipment and technology employed to conduct these examinations, enquiries or observations.
Generally, quasi-judicial boards and tribunals are under a duty to act in accordance with the rules of natural justice (Dictionary of Canadian Law). A person is acting in "judicial or quasi-judicial capacity" if he or she is required to:
- investigate facts, hear all parties to the matters at issue, weigh evidence or draw conclusions as a basis for their action;
- exercise discretion of a judicial nature; and
- render a decision following the consideration of the issues rather than simply making a recommendation.
- Courts of Revision created pursuant to the Assessment Act.
"judicial review" is the investigation and determination by a court of the legal validity of an act, decision, instrument or transaction, of a question of vires (powers), jurisdiction, concerning an obligation to observe the rules of natural justice or 'act fairly', or concerning principles which should be observed when statutory discretion is exercised [DCL].
A court has the power under the Judicial Review Procedure Act to review actions or decisions by the Commissioner in relation to the exercise or purported exercise of her/his statutory powers of decision (powers or rights conferred by law to make a decision.) It is not an appeal procedure and does not provide a review of questions of fact.
(Judicial review is distinct from an adjudicator's review of any decision, act, failure to act by Commissioner as the head of a public body.)
* "law enforcement"
"law enforcement agency in a foreign country" - Police forces and other law enforcement organizations in other countries including international organizations and the municipal or state police forces of foreign countries are included in this term.
- In the United Kingdom: New Scotland Yard; Metropolitan London Police.
- In the United States of America: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); US Immigration and Naturalization Service (USINS); Individual state and city police forces.
- In France: La Sûreté.
- International: Interpol.
"liable" means bound or obliged in law or equity; responsible, answerable, chargeable, compellable to make compensation, satisfaction or restitution or bound to respond because a wrong has occurred [Black’s].
"licence" or "permit" means written authorization from a public body to carry out a named activity. For example, a licence may grant permission to marry, print something, preach, be a driver or owner of a vehicle on a public road, own a dog or gun, or carry on some trade (OED).
Does not "limit_in_any_way" means that it is not the intention of the Act to replace or halt any means of access to records that are routinely available to the public and do not contain personal information.
- The Act does not replace or limit a public body's practice of routinely releasing records containing non-personal information to the public. A public body may charge a reasonable fee for the production of maps, surveys and reports without the need for a formal request under the Act.
- A word processing electronic document stored on a hard or floppy computer disk.
- An electronic data base containing personal or general information that is stored on magnetic tape.
- A video cassette containing recorded sound and images.
- An offset plate used in the printing industry for printing paper copies.
"made public" means that the plan was made public by a conscious decision of the government. The fact that information about the proposal or project has been leaked through unofficial sources does not constitute making public by government.
"mailing list" is any collection of names and addresses or telephone numbers that are collected and used for the purpose of sending similar information in a systematic manner to those appearing on the list.
"management of personnel of a public body" comprises all aspects of the management of the human resources of a public body. This includes staffing requirements, job classification, recruitment and selection, employee salary and benefits, hours and conditions of work, leave management, performance planning and review, training, and separation and layoff.
Personnel management does not include the management of consultant, professional, or other personal service contracts. These are included under administration of a public body.
There are three mandatory exceptions in the Act:
- section 12 (Cabinet confidences);
- section 21 (disclosure harmful to the business interests of a third party); and,
- section 22 (disclosure harmful to personal privacy.)
"may refuse to disclose" means that the section is a discretionary exception to the public’s right of access. The head must exercise discretion in deciding whether to release the information despite the applicability of this exception (unless another exception applies.) In exercising discretion, the head has a duty to consider all relevant factors affecting the particular case.
- A patient's cancer treatment records.
- Records containing information about an individual's counselling sessions for alcohol dependency.
- Patient records held by the College of Physicians and Surgeons as part of an investigation of a doctor. Doctor-patient records are treated in strict confidence. A patient has a right of access to his or her own records that are held by the College, but it would usually be an unreasonable invasion of the patient's privacy to disclose them to a third party.
- A case file related to a special needs student, containing the student's care requirements and evaluating his or her progress.
"mental health" means the ability of a person’s mind to function in its normal state. Determination of the effect of a release of information on a person’s mental health must, where practicable, be based on a subjective evaluation made on a case by case basis. It may be helpful for the head to obtain the assistance of an expert (e.g., a psychiatrist) when making this determination.
"monies" is the medium of exchange authorized or adopted by a government as part of its currency; assets that can be easily converted to cash; capital that is invested or traded as a commodity; funds; sums of money [Black’s]; sums of money; a current medium of exchange in the form of coins and banknotes; wealth; property viewed as convertible into money [OED].
"municipality" includes a city, town, village, district or township incorporated by or defined in the Municipal Act, the City of Vancouver (as defined by the Vancouver Charter) and the Resort Municipality of Whistler (as defined by the Resort Municipality of Whistler Act.) It does not include a village where the Lieutenant Governor in Council has, by regulation applicable to villages generally or to one or more villages, declared that a village shall not be deemed to be a municipality within the meaning of any Act other than the Municipal Act [Interpretation Act].
"must refuse to disclose" means that the section is a mandatory exception to the general right of access, subject to any particular requirements pertaining to the section. The head of the public body has no discretion and must not release the requested information unless required to do so in the public interest under section 25 (information must be disclosed if in the public interest.)
"natural sites" mean land, including land covered by water, which contains resources or unique natural formations that are the products of the province's natural history, or which are of scientific, aesthetic, cultural, educational, and ecological value, and are of such merit or scarcity as to justify their conservation.
- The location of a cave which has fragile or scientifically important features.
- A unique land formation caused by an unusual geological development.
"negotiating position" refers to ongoing or future negotiations. Information from completed negotiations is not covered unless, for instance, the same strategy will be used again and it has not been revealed in the completed negotiations.
- A document which discloses the lowest price a company will pay in the acquisition of assets, during a negotiation for the purchase of those assets
"negotiation" is the act of settling or arranging the terms and conditions of a bargain, sale, or other business transaction [Black’s]. Information about negotiations would include positions, options, instructions and criteria to be used in negotiations.
- Spouse, parent, child.
- Cousins brought up together as siblings.
- A grandchild brought up by grandparents.
"notice/notification" - A public body is required by the Act to inform, or give notice to, a member of the public, an affected third party or an applicant regarding certain steps it proposes to take or has taken in the processing of a request or in the disclosure of personal information. A public body must notify:
- an affected third party where the head of the public body intends to give access to information which might be excepted under section 21 or 22 [subsection 23(1)];
- an applicant, when the requested information might be excepted under section 21 or 22 and the third party has been notified [subsection 23(2)];
- both the applicant and third party of the decision on disclosure or exception of the third party's information [subsection 24(2)];
- the person concerned when her/his personal information is disclosed under paragraph 22(4)(b) or paragraph 33(p) of the Act; or,
- a third party whose information is disclosed in the public interest under section 25 of the Act.
A public body may notify an affected third party where the head does not intend to give access to information that might be excepted under section 21 or 22.
"normal computer hardware and software and technical expertise" means the computerized data processing equipment, accompanying software programs and in-house technical staff employed by the public body on a daily basis. A public body is not required to acquire equipment or software, or seek the expertise of an outside body or person to create a record from a machine readable record in its custody or under its control.
- An individual's volunteer work.
- A person's photography hobby.
- Young Offenders Act - an offence to knowingly disclose certain court, police and government records relating to young offenders except as authorized by that Act.
- Prohibition of disclosure of information under the Official Secrets Act.
- Prohibition of release of wiretap transcripts under the Criminal Code of Canada.
- A job application which does not include relevant information on professional qualifications.
"oral request" means a request made by word of mouth; spoken; not written [OED 9th]. Section 2 of the Regulations permits an applicant to make an oral request for access to a record if (a) the applicant’s ability to read and write English is limited, or (b) the applicant has a physical disability that impairs his or her ability to make a written request.
Under section 58, after completing an inquiry, the Commissioner must dispose of the issues by making an order. The Commissioner may, for example:
- require the head of a public body to give access to records;
- require the head to refuse access;
- require that a duty imposed by the Act be performed;
- confirm or reduce fees; or,
- confirm or reduce an extension.
"organized criminal activities" means criminal conspiracies and other criminal activities of organizations or groups of people. Organized refers to a degree of coordination of the criminal activity, thus excluding random criminal activities. The criminal activity need not be serious, but must be organized.
- Criminal activities of the Mafia or Cosa Nostra and Oriental triads.
The phrase "other similar discretionary benefit" refers to any monetary or non-monetary allowance given by a public body. The nature of these other benefits must be discretionary, that is, the public body must have a choice as to whether to provide this allowance.
"other legal instrument by which the local public body acts" means any formal or legal document in writing, other than a resolution or bylaw, which relates to the internal governance of the local public body or with the Regulation of its area of jurisdiction.
- Rules established by the Law Society of British Columbia.
- Drafts of resolutions, bylaws or other legal instruments by which the local public body acts which will govern the conduct or actions of a local public body may be withheld, unless the provisions of subsection 4 apply.
- An initial draft of a school board Regulation regarding curriculum requirements may be withheld under this section.
"other person or body appointed to resolve or inquire into a labour relations dispute". The appointment can be from any level of government or a public body (e.g., ministerial appointments, Cabinet appointments or appointments from the chief executive officer of a public body).
"peace officer" includes a mayor, sheriff and sheriff’s officer; a warden, correctional officer, and any other officer or permanent employee of a penitentiary, prison or correctional centre; and a police officer, police constable, constable or other person employed for the preservation or maintenance of the public peace (Interpretation Act, Section 29).
"performance" or "efficiency" refers to the management, administration, operations, conduct, functioning, or effectiveness of the public body, its programs or its policies. This phrase relates to the management of finances, assets, and personnel, and the delivery of services of the public body. It also pertains to the effectiveness of the public body’s programs and policies in completing those tasks.
"perjury" means with intent to mislead, making before a person who is authorized by law to permit it to be made before him a false statement under oath or solemn affirmation, by affidavit, solemn declaration or deposition or orally, knowing that the statement is false [DCL].
"person" includes a corporation, partnership or party, and the personal or other legal representatives of a person to whom the context can apply according to law [Interpretation Act, section 29]. In the context of some sections, "person" will clearly mean an individual; i.e., a human being.
"personal privacy" - the Oxford English Dictionary defines "personal" as "relating to, concerning, or affecting a person as a private individual (rather than as a member of a group or the public, or in a public or professional capacity); individual, private; one's own". "Privacy" is defined as, "the state or condition of being alone, undisturbed, or free from public attention, as a matter of choice or right; seclusion; freedom from interference or intrusion".
- A letter stating the trustworthiness of an applicant for a car loan.
- details of a past job performance appraisal submitted by a job applicant during the interview process; and,
- performance evaluations of a job candidate provided by a present or former employer or colleague.
"physical health" means the well being of an individual’s physical body. Determination of the effect of a release of information on an individual’s physical health must consider the current or normal state of health of persons who may be affected by the release of information, as well as the decline in health that is expected to occur if the information is disclosed to the applicant. It may be helpful for the head to obtain the assistance of an expert (e.g., a physician) when making this determination.
"policy" means a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by a government, party, business or individual [OED]. Policies are usually, but do not have to be, formally recorded and relate directly to the mandate and functions of the public body.
- In a situation where Cabinet is considering making a decision that will affect the forest industry, the fact that the European Economic Community is also considering actions that might affect British Columbia's forest industry may be a consideration that will affect policy.
- In a situation where Cabinet is considering raising the minimum wage, the projected implications on employment levels in the service sector may be assessed. This would be a policy consideration.
"policy proposal" - In order to determine what constitutes a policy proposal, all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the case will have to be examined. A policy proposal does not need to be contained in a formal policy document (such as a briefing note), but it should refer to the report of field research.
- A study into the traffic pattern at a particular highway intersection is conducted by a ministry. The results are compiled in a report. Some time later, a letter is sent from the Director of a branch of the Ministry to his Assistant Deputy Minister that proposes a need for a policy change, based on the results of the report.
The report cannot be withheld under section 13(1) and would be released unless another exception applies. Section 13(1) may apply to the recommendation portion of the letter from the Director to the Assistant Deputy Minister that recommends a policy change, based on the report.
"post-secondary educational body" means an educational body, as defined in Schedule 1, except for a board as defined in the School Act.
[Privacy] includes such concepts as:
- freedom from unreasonable search and seizure;
- confidentiality of our associations and beliefs;
- autonomy or uniqueness of the individual, the right to be oneself with minimum interference; and,
control over information about ourselves, of others' knowledge of our affairs.
[Privacy Commissioner of Canada]
The right to be let alone. The right of a person to be free from unwarranted publicity and the right to live without unwarranted interference by the public in matters with which the public is not necessarily concerned [Black's].
"program(s)" means formally recognized activities and functions designed to deliver specific services which are related to a specific subject matter or topic. Programs do not refer to computer programs. Two closely related terms are "operating program" and "activity."
"program contact" is also called the Program Information and Privacy Contact, the public body employee who coordinates a program area's retrieval and review of records in response to a request for records under the Act. The program contact ensures that the program area provides the program director's recommendations for disclosure or exception of the requested records to the central Information and Privacy Unit and the Director/Manager of Information and Privacy. The program contact the link in the request management process between the program area and the Information and Privacy Unit.
"program director" is the public body employee or officer (within a ministry, a branch director or equivalent) responsible for ensuring that the management of freedom of information and protection of privacy within her/his program area meets the requirements of the Act.
- driver licensing program,
- regulation of recreational fishing,
- kidney dialysis services,
- Youth Court services,
- public health protection.
- It may be necessary to disclose some personal information regarding nearby residents when disclosing the location of an industrial plant that is discharging toxic wastes into a waterway.
* "public body"
"The public" means the public at large, not simply the members of the local public body who are not elected officials, members of the governing body or members of a committee under the governing body.
- A meeting open to the members of the College of Teachers, but not to the public at large, is a meeting held in the absence of the public.
- A meeting open to the public, which no members of the public happen to attend, is not a meeting held in the absence of the public.
- A meeting which may be held in camera under the School Act, but to which the public is nevertheless invited, is not a meeting held in the absence of the public.
- A meeting which may be held in camera under the Municipal Act, but to which certain members of the public are invited to discuss sensitive issues that pertain to their property or other rights, is a meeting held in the absence of the public.
"public opinion poll" is a survey which collects the opinions of a sample of the public on issues, and which usually contains statistical analysis on the results of that poll. The purpose of such polls generally is to extrapolate the information so that there is an indication of the opinion of a wider segment of the population.
- A survey commissioned by a public body to ascertain the public's views with respect to a proposed new dam is a public opinion poll, and cannot be severed under section 13(1). However, other exceptions may apply.
The following are other examples of records that could be considered to be within the definition of "public opinion polls":
"Consumer and Commercial Research Surveys" includes surveys of consumers, producers or commercial operators for the purpose of improving market opportunities, consumer and client services.
"Public Opinion Focus Group Reports" are the reports of guided discussions on a topic of concern to the public. The discussions take place between a restricted group of participants selected according to pre-determined methodological criteria. The groups are guided by a moderator according to a guide developed for the occasion. The results cannot be extrapolated to a wider segment of the population.
"Consumer and Commercial Focus Group Reports" are the reports of guided discussions on a topic which serve the purpose of improving market opportunities and/or consumer and client services. The discussions take place between a restricted group of participants selected according to pre-determined methodological criteria. The groups are guided by a moderator according to a guide developed for the occasion. The results cannot be extrapolated to a wider segment of the population.
"Public Record Index" - The minister responsible for this Act publishes annually the Public Record Index, which is an index of records that are available to the public without a request under the Act.
The index must include, for each category of records prescribed by the head of a public body, the following:
- a description of the mandate and functions of the public body;
- a description of all records in that category produced or obtained by the public body during the past 12 months;
- the location of the records; and,
- the title, business address and business telephone number of an officer or employee of the public body who can answer questions about the records.
As with the Directory of Records, the minister must provide copies of the Public Record Index to public bodies and to public libraries and other prescribed libraries in British Columbia. Each public body must ensure that copies of the Public Record Index are available to the public at one or more of its offices.
"public scrutiny" is not necessarily limited to instances where wrongdoing is alleged, or where it is alleged that the public body's normal practices or procedures are not being followed. The public body considers the broader interest of public accountability that may be demonstrated by disclosure of the requested information.
- Disclosure of past education and employment in the curriculum vitae of a successful job applicant will demonstrate that a qualified individual was appointed to a position in government.
The purpose for which personal information was obtained or compiled is the object to be attained or the thing intended to be done; e.g., the administration of a program, the provision of a service or other activity.
"quasi-judicial" is a term applied to the action, discretion, etc., of public administrative officers or bodies, who are required to investigate facts, or ascertain the existence of facts, hold hearings, weigh evidence, and draw conclusions from them, as a basis for their official action, and to exercise discretion of a judicial nature [Black’s].
Generally, quasi-judicial boards and tribunals are under a duty to act in accordance with the rules of natural justice [DCL]. A person is acting in a quasi-judicial capacity if he or she is required to:
- investigate facts, hear all parties to the matters at issue, weigh evidence or draw conclusions as a basis for their action;
- exercise discretion of a judicial nature; and,
- render a decision following the consideration of the issues rather than simply making a recommendation.
- A letter on the file of a client of the ministry makes note of the fact that the client is eligible for additional benefits as an aboriginal person.
This phrase describes any other living organism which is neither plant nor animal, but is in the classification of all living things. This includes the Kingdoms of Monera, Protista, and Fungi. These living organisms must be rare, i.e., uncommon, scarce or seldom found, or they must be considered endangered, as defined above.
- Chanterelle mushroom or the pine mushroom
"reasonable" is a subjective assessment which means fair, proper, just, moderate, suitable under the circumstances; rational; governed by reason; not immoderate or excessive; the standard which one must observe to avoid liability for negligence, including the foreseeability of harm [Black's].
It is applied to a variety of assessments, decisions and duties for which public bodies are responsible under the Act, including:
- exercising the duty to assist applicants and to respond to requests without delay;
- assessing the invasion of a third party's privacy;
- assessing the harm that could be expected to result from disclosure of third party business information;
- collecting accurate personal information;
- making security arrangements for personal information;
- assessing a proposed consistent use or disclosure;
- taking care to give a notice required under the Act; and,
- determining if excepted information may be severed from a record.
"recommendation" refers to the submission of a suggested course of action that will ultimately be accepted or rejected by its recipient during a deliberative process; a favoured or preferred course of action.
Information must be communicated from one person to another to constitute recommendations, unless the context or form of the record makes it clear that it is prepared to provide recommendations to decision makers.
"record linkage", also called "data matching", is the systematic comparison of sets of information (usually information banks or data banks) for any of a variety of reasons, including research or administrative purposes.
"regional district" means a regional district incorporated under Part 24 of the Municipal Act, or under Part 24 of the Municipal Act, R.S.B.C. 1979, c. 290, as it read before it was repealed by the Municipal Amendment Act, 1989.
"relations" includes both formal negotiations and more general exchanges, (e.g., meetings between staff of federal and provincial agencies, communications between staff of federal and provincial bodies) and associations between the government of British Columbia and external entities. These negotiations, exchanges or associations may be conducted by any officer or employee acting on behalf of the head of the public body.
- Correspondence between the Ministry of Attorney General and the British Lord Chancellor's Department in respect of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. (In this example, the harm test would probably be met because the release of exchanges between central authorities responsible for administering this convention could be expected to have a detrimental effect on future sharing of information).
- A memo from the federal Minister of Sustainable Resource Management summarizing the terms of an agreement which has been publicly announced. (In this example, the harm test would probably not be met.)
- Communications between the Ministry of Attorney General and the British Columbia Board of Parole would not fall within this exception, because the Board of Parole is a public body as defined in Schedule 2 of the Act.
"released" means to have made information available "to the public" without charge. Release can occur actively through distribution of information to the public or passively by providing information to the public at specific locations.
- BC Ferry Corporation schedules
- Social benefit application forms
- Public information brochures and pamphlets
"repetitious" repeating or being repeated; copy, replica; saying by heart, piece to be said so. Oxford Dictionary, 9th edition defines as characterized by repetition (repeating or being repeated) esp. when unnecessary or tiresome.
"report" includes a broad range of documents that provide information or opinions. It must consist of a formal statement or account of the results of the collation and consideration of information. Generally speaking, results would not include mere observations or recordings of fact.
A request may be formally submitted under the Act, in which case it must be in writing (except in circumstances specified in the regulations.) A formal request brings with it a number of rights, such as the right to a response within 30 days and the right to ask the Commissioner to review a decision.
Where a formal request is not necessary, an inquiry for information may be dealt with by the routine release of information.
"research" means the systematic investigation into and study of materials, sources, etc., in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions [OED 9th]. In order for a disclosure of personal information for a "research purpose" to be permissible, the researcher must intend to use the personal information to investigate and ascertain facts or verify theories.
"resolution" means a formal expression of the opinion or will of an official body or public assembly, adopted by vote. The term is usually employed to denote the adoption of a motion, the subject matter of which would not properly constitute a statute, such as a mere expression of opinion; an alteration of the rules; a vote of thanks or of censure, etc. [Black's].
- A policy analyst for a school district drafts a resolution. The analyst makes several revisions to the resolution before submitting it to the Board of School Trustees for consideration. All versions other than the final version submitted to the Board may be withheld under this section. The version that is submitted to the Board may not be withheld.
"reveal(s)" means to disclose; to come to sight or knowledge [OED 9th]. Information may explicitly or implicitly reveal that which is subject to an exception (e.g., substance of deliberations, advice, recommendations, etc..)
Example of information revealed explicitly
- A note from the Secretary to the Executive Council to a minister, copy to a deputy minister, that informs the minister of the discussions that Cabinet had on a particular issue. This information, in itself, reveals the substance of Cabinet deliberations.
Example of information revealed implicitly
- A letter from the Secretary to a Cabinet committee to a well-known expert on labour law, asking him if he would be available to attend a sitting of a Cabinet committee, on a particular date at a given time, and answer questions on a pressing issue. This information, by itself, does not reveal the substance of Cabinet deliberations. However, combined with media reports of Cabinet needing to deal with a particular labour issue, the release of this information would implicitly reveal the substance of Cabinet deliberations - it is reasonable to assume that someone could infer that Cabinet will consider the issue at a particular time.
"review" means a re-examination by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of a decision, act or failure to act by the head of a public body in the course of processing a request for access to information under the Act.
It also refers to the actions of an adjudicator in re-examining any act, failure to act or decision of the Commissioner as the head of a public body.
In the context of processing a request, it means the public body's line by line examination of records to determine what information may be disclosed.
"Routine inspections" are inspections that are carried out where there are no specific allegations that standards have been breached. To determine whether an inspection is routine, the practice of the public body must be reviewed.
Complaint driven inspections do not qualify as routine inspections. The fact that complaints are regularly investigated does not make them routine.
"routine release" means the disclosure of specified types of information as a matter of course without the necessity of a formal Freedom of Information (FOI) request. Routine release includes (but is not limited to) the release of records that have been designated by heads of public bodies as available without a formal request under section 71 of the Act, and records that have been designated by the Minister responsible for FOIPPA under section 71.1. Routine release may be reactive (responding to requests for information when received) or proactive (systematically disseminating information in advance of requests using mechanisms such as the Internet, libraries, publications, helplines, etc.)
"scientific" means according to rules laid down in exact science for performing observations and testing the soundness of conclusions; systematic, accurate; used in, engaged in, or relating to science [OED 9th].
"scope" is the range of records covered by the Act, as defined by section 3 of the Act. All records in the custody or under the control of a public body are included in the scope of the Act, except those categories listed in paragraphs 3(1)(a) to (g.)
"security measures" define the physical protection or guarding from unauthorized access or disclosure, theft or other danger. Good security may require such measures as locked filing cabinets, computer access codes, restricted access to work areas and encryption (the encoding of data).
"serious and repetitive criminal activities" means serious criminal activities committed more than once by the same person, group of persons, or organization. The criminal activities may be committed randomly or in a pattern.
- Serial crimes (e.g., sexual assault, arson, murder).
* "service provider"
The Act requires public bodies to sever excepted information wherever it can reasonably be done in order to ensure that as much information as possible can be disclosed.
The actual severing is done by blacking out, taping over, cutting out or otherwise removing the excepted information (e.g., by using special editing features on some photocopiers) so that it is not disclosed with the rest of the record.
"Sites of anthropological value" refers to lands, including land covered by water, in which the place or features it contains are of traditional, social, spiritual or other cultural importance to an aboriginal people, other cultural group, the people of British Columbia, or to humanity.
- A place of spiritual or other cultural value to an aboriginal people. Some traditional ceremonies are held at secret locations. Cultural information disclosed to anthropologists or to the government with an expectation of confidentiality must be kept confidential.
- A prehistoric village or similar archaeological site could be damaged through vandalism or looting if its whereabouts were revealed.
"sites of heritage value" means land, including land covered by water, upon which resources are located that are the products of the province's human history or which are of scientific, aesthetic, cultural, educational, or historical value, and are of such merit or scarcity as to justify their conservation.
- Shipwrecks off the BC coast may be susceptible to damage and/or looting if their locations were revealed.
- Buildings of historical significance to the province may be damaged and/or looted if their locations were revealed before adequate protections were put in place.
"solicitations by other means" include, but are not limited to, requests or petitions made to individuals in a systematic manner either door-to-door, by facsimile transmission, by electronic mail or through the internet.
"statistics" is the science of collecting and analysing numerical data, especially large quantities of data and usually inferring proportions in a whole from proportions in an representative sample; any systematic collection or presentation of such facts [OED].
"statistical research" is any research based on these methods using quantifiable personal information, for example, to study trends, extrapolate from the data and/or draw conclusions. Statistical research is often done in demographics (e.g., to study the incidence of disease), to evaluate the success of training or health programs or to study other social issues and trends.
- A municipality annually surveys its residents to determine their level of satisfaction with the type and quality of services being provided by the municipality. It uses this data for making budgetary decisions and for long-range planning. The survey results may not be withheld under section 13(1); however, any advice or recommendations based on the results may be withheld.
- A public body produces a statistical survey which analyzes mortality rates in automobile accidents in the Greater Vancouver area for a specific time period. Advice, based on the survey results, is sent to the public body’s head office. The survey methodology and data, questions and survey analysis would be released, unless another exception applies.
"submitted or prepared for submission" means that the information went before Cabinet or its committees or that it was incorporated into a Cabinet submission or used as the basis for developing a Cabinet submission.
Information that is reasonably expected to be placed before Cabinet or its committees also qualifies as "submitted or prepared for submission", although it may not yet have been placed before Cabinet or its committees.
- A briefing note that could possibly be incorporated into a Cabinet submission at some later date does not qualify as "submitted or prepared for submission".
A "subspecies" is a class of species which has been geographically isolated form the rest of its species but still can interbreed and exchange genes with others of its species [OED]. "Race" means a genus, species, breed or variety of animal, plants, or micro-organisms [OED]. In the system of classification of living things, a "race of plants" is any genus or species of plant contained in the Kingdom of Plantae.
- An agenda, minute or other record that documents the matters addressed by Cabinet (e.g., a list of issues tabled at Cabinet that reflects the priorities of Cabinet).
- A letter from Cabinet or a Cabinet committee that relates to the discussion or consideration of an issue or problem, or that reflects a decision made but not made public (e.g., a letter from Treasury Board to a ministry executive stating a decision that affects the ministry's budget but which has not been announced). Note: this is an instance where a record not placed before Cabinet or one of its committees would reveal the substance of deliberations.
- A briefing note placed before Cabinet or one of its committees.
- A memo from a deputy minister to the assistant deputy ministers in a ministry that informs them when Cabinet will consider an issue.
- A briefing note from a deputy minister to a minister concerning a matter that will be/is being considered by Cabinet.
- A draft or final Cabinet submission.
"Supervision" means the oversight or superintendence of a person. This definition includes adults and young persons still subject to control by correctional authorities or their agents due to legally imposed restrictions on their liberty. This includes individuals on parole, on probation, on a temporary absence permit, under bail supervision or performing community service work.
- Observations recorded by a health, building or other inspector do not constitute information supplied, implicitly or explicitly, in confidence.
"supplied in confidence" applies to information that one person provides or furnishes voluntarily or by law and entrusts to another in circumstances where there is an expectation that privacy will be maintained and the public body will not disclose the information. It would also include information provided orally and recorded by an employee of the public body. Information produced by a public body about a third party is not "supplied."
The intention that confidence will be maintained may be explicitly stated within the record in question or may be implied by the circumstances under which the information was submitted and received. Where confidentiality is implied there must be objective grounds to support the assumption of confidentiality.
Some factors which may be considered when determining if information was received in confidence are:
- the existence or lack of an explicit statement of or request for confidentiality, a confidentiality agreement, or other objective evidence which indicates the parties’ understanding that the information would be kept confidential;
- representations received from the external governmental entity as to their understanding;
- past practice of the public body, particularly if similar information received in the past was kept confidential;
- the type of information, including whether it would normally be kept confidential by the external governmental entity;
- whether the information was supplied voluntarily by the external governmental entity, informally requested by the public body, or required to be supplied by the public body, and whether there would be negative consequences of a failure to supply the information; and
- actions taken by, or conduct of, the public body and the external governmental entity which may indicate an understanding of confidentiality.
The fact that a record is stamped confidential is an indicator of confidence but is not, in itself, sufficient evidence to support the assertion of confidentiality. There must be other evidence which can be used to support the assertion and to prove that the information has been treated in a consistently confidential manner.
- Health information is supplied in confidence by an individual to the Public Service Employee Relations Commission.
- An employee may request confidentiality when providing personal comments about the subject of an audit.
- The names of individuals signing a petition are not normally supplied in confidence. Petitions are generally considered to be public information; individuals signing a petition are publicly lending their support to a position and expect that their names may be disclosed. There may be some cases, however, in which the circumstances surrounding the collection of the signatures on a petition indicate that the individuals have signed with the understanding that their names will not be disclosed.
- An evaluation of an employee supplied in confidence. If the employee only has one co-worker, knowledge of the existence of the evaluation would reveal the identity of the person who supplied it.
- An evaluation that contains comments that only one person could have supplied. The evaluation would normally have some form of acknowledgment that it was received in confidence.
"tax" means provincial, municipal or federal tax. It does not include licence fees, stumpage fees, royalties, municipal development cost charges levied on developments, or other fees assessed in relation to a direct benefit received by the party paying the fee.
- Notes prepared by a university professor to refer to while presenting a lecture to students.
"technical study" is a study involving or concerned with the mechanical arts and applied sciences; of or relating to a particular craft or subject or its techniques [OED]. A technical study involves an application of some form of specialized knowledge to a subject (e.g., where an engineer studies a plan to build a road on a particular site) and includes a cost estimate.
"terrorism" means acts of serious violence or other activities that create fear in individuals, groups or nations. Terrorist tactics are generally used to coerce governments or communities into taking or ceasing specific actions.
- Human Resources Development Canada is an agency of the federal government.
- UNESCO is an agency of the United Nations.
- The Regional Planning Services is an agent of the Capital Regional District.
* "third party"
"threatened species" is any species of flora or fauna that is likely to become endangered in Canada or British Columbia if the factors affecting its vulnerability are not reversed. This species should appear on the national threatened species list compiled by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, be an "S2" on the tracking list of the BC Conservation Data Centre, or be designated as threatened under section 6(2) of the Wildlife Act by the Lieutenant Governor in Council by regulation, or other legislation.
- Northern Linanthus
- Umatilla Dace
- American Peregrine Falcon
- transfer a request for access to information under the Act (10 days);
- respond to a request (30 days);
- extend the original 30-day response time for a request, without the Information and Privacy Commissioner's approval (30 days); or,
- make a decision after receiving the representations of a third party under section 23 of the Act (10 days.)
It may also refer to the legislated period of time allowed to:
- a third party to make representations after being given notice under section 23 of the Act (20 days);
- an applicant to request a review or to submit a complaint, after being notified of the head's decision (30 days); or,
- the Information and Privacy Commissioner to complete a review or investigate a complaint (90 days.)
*"trade secret" - In order to be considered a trade secret, the information must meet all the standards established in Schedule 1. Information that is generally available through public sources such as an annual report or other publication would not qualify as a trade secret under the Act.
- The specifications for a piece of specialized lab equipment developed by the research and development section of a private company, and not known to the public, would have commercial value and the specifications disclosure could reasonably be expected to result in improper benefit to a competitor. This information meets the definition of trade secret.
"transfer" means the act by which one public body formally passes to another public body the responsibility for processing a request for access to records under the Act, usually because the receiving public body has a greater interest in the requested records.
"treaty" is a formally concluded and ratified agreement between states [OED]; a compact made between two or more independent nations with a view to the public welfare; an agreement, league or contract between two or more nations or sovereigns, formally signed by commissioners properly authorized and solemnly ratified by the several sovereigns or the supreme power of each state [Black's].
- those in custody under federal or provincial statute or municipal bylaw;
- young persons in open or secure custody or pre-trial detention under the Young Offenders Act;
- those involuntarily committed to psychiatric institutions; and,
- parole violators held under a warrant issued by a parole board.
"undue financial loss or gain" - There must be objective grounds for believing that releasing the information would result in undue loss or gain to any person or organization. This includes the public body which has custody or control of the information in question and the third party that supplied the information. The loss or gain must be monetary or have a monetary equivalent or value (e.g., loss of revenue, loss of corporate reputation or loss of goodwill by a private sector company.)
"unreasonably interfere" means going beyond the limits of what is reasonable or equitable [OED 9th] in time and resources and the impact which this use of resources would have on the public body’s day-to-day activities.
"unreliable" means of unsound or inconsistent character or quality (OED). In most cases, it will be necessary to check the source of the personal information to determine whether or not it is reliable.
"use" of personal information means employing it to accomplish the public body's objectives; for example, to administer a program or activity, to provide a service or to determine someone's eligibility for a benefit or suitability for a job.
"vulnerable species" is any species of flora or fauna which are of concern because they are naturally scarce or likely to become threatened as a result of disclosure. This includes species occurring at the fringe of their range or in restricted areas and thus particularly susceptible to human impacts.
- Western Rattlesnake
- White Sturgeon
- Yew Tree