Section 7 - Time limit for responding

Overview

Section 7 establishes a 30-day limit for public bodies to respond to freedom of information requests. Section 7 also outlines specific exceptions to the 30-day response time limit. 

Section Reference

Section 7 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act 

7 (1) Subject to this section and sections 23 and 24 (1), the head of a public body must respond not later than 30 days after receiving a request described in section 5 (1). 

(2) The head of the public body is not required to comply with subsection (1) if 

(a) the time limit is extended under section 10, or

(b) the request has been transferred under section 11 to another public body.

(3) If the head of a public body asks the commissioner under section 43 for authorization to disregard a request, the 30 days referred to in subsection (1) do not include the period from the start of the day the application is made under section 43 to the end of the day a decision is made by the commissioner with respect to that application.

(4) If the head of a public body determines that an applicant is to pay fees under section 75 (1) (a) or (b), the 30 days referred to in subsection (1) of this section do not include the period of time from that determination until one of the following occurs:

(a) the head of the public body excuses the applicant from paying all of the fees for services;

(b) the head of the public body excuses the applicant from paying some of the fees for services and the applicant agrees to pay the remainder and, if required by the head of the public body, pays the deposit required; 

(c) the applicant agrees to pay the fees for services set out in the written estimate and, if required by the head of the public body, pays the deposit required; 

(d)  the applicant pays the application fee. 

(5) If an applicant asks the commissioner under section 52 (1) to review a fee estimate or a refusal to excuse the payment of all or part of a fee required by the head of the public body, the 30 days referred to in subsection (1) do not include the period from the start of the day the applicant asks for the review to the end of the day the commissioner makes a decision. 

(6) If a third party asks under section 52 (2) that the commissioner review a decision of the head of a public body, the 30 days referred to in subsection (1) do not include the period from the start of the day the written request for review is delivered to the commissioner to the end of the day the commissioner makes a decision with respect to the review requested. 

(7) If a person asks under section 62 (2) for a review of a decision of the commissioner as head of a public body, the 30 days referred to in subsection (1) do not include the period from the start of the day the request for review is delivered to the minister responsible for this Act to the end of the day the adjudicator makes a decision with respect to the review requested. 

Summary 

Public bodies have a duty to assist applicants and should respond as quickly as possible to requests for information. Section 7 establishes a response time limit of 30 days for public bodies that receive a freedom of information request.  

Section 7 also identifies some situations when the response time limit does not apply. Exceptions to the time-limit include:  

  • Situations when the head of a public body is not bound by the time limit  

  • Specific periods that are excluded from the time limit calculation 

Sometimes a public body may need more than 30 days to respond to the applicant's request due to the operational requirements of the public body. Section 10 specifies when and how extensions to the response time limit are permitted. 

If a request is transferred to a different public body, the 30-day time limit no longer applies to the original public body. For more information on transfers see section 11. 

Section 7 also allows public bodies to pause the time limit on FOI requests under certain circumstances. Sections 43, 52(1), 52(2), 62(2), and 75 outline situations when request time limits may pause. Additionally, sections 23 and 24 can establish new timelines for requests. See the interpretation section below for more details. 

Procedure

Ministry public bodies work with the Information Access Operations (IAO) branch to manage requests, including time limits for responding. Ministry questions regarding timelines can be directed to FOI.Requests@gov.bc.ca. 

Non-ministry public bodies may develop their own procedure managing timelines, as long as these procedures are aligned with any applicable legislation and regulation 

Interpretation

Interpretation Note 1: Days to respond 

The 30 days to respond exclude Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. 

Days are defined in FOIPPA as not including a holiday or Saturday. The Interpretation Act defines “holiday” as Sunday and a number of statutory holidays listed in section 29 of that act. As a result, days are non-holiday weekdays, during regular business hours. 

If a request is received outside of regular business hours of a public body (e.g., 4:30 pm) for the B.C. government), then the time limit for response starts on the next day.  

Example

A request is received on Monday, February 21, 2022 at 3:50 pm. Since Monday is Family Day, the request is considered received on the next regular business day: Tuesday February 22, 2022. The calculation of 30 days excludes 6 Saturdays and 6 Sundays, so the request is due on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. 

Interpretation Note 2: Transfers and response time 

Under section 11 of FOIPPA, an FOI request can be transferred from the receiving public body within 20 days from when the request was received. For more information on transfers, see section 11 of the manual 

Transfers can impact time limits for responding in the following ways: 

  • If a public body transfers an FOI request to a new public body, the head of the public body sending the transfer must notify the applicant that the request has been transferred within 20 days of first receiving the request. 

  • A new public body that receives a transfer from the previous public body has a 30-day time limit to respond to the request as outlined in section 7. 

Example: 

The Ministry of Interpretation receives a request Tuesday, February 22, 2022 at 3:50 pm. Excluding 6 Saturdays and 6 Sundays, the request is due on Tuesday, April 5, 2022.  

As they conduct a search for records, the Ministry of Interpretation discovers that they do not have records, but the Ministry of Reconsideration does have records and has confirmed it will accept the transfer. The Ministry of Interpretation must complete the transfer of the request within 20 days, so the last day to transfer the request would be Tuesday, March 22, 2022. 

The Ministry of Interpretation notifies the applicant that they will transfer the FOI request to the Ministry of Reconsideration on Wednesday, February 23, 2022.  

The Ministry of Reconsideration receives the transferred request on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 at 3:50 pm. The Ministry of Reconsideration has 30 days to respond to the request. Excluding 6 Saturdays and 6 Sundays, the request is now due on Wednesday, April 6, 2022.  

Interpretation Note 3: Extensions and response time 

Time limit extensions can occur under section 10 of FOIPPA. For more information on extensions, see section 10 of the manual.  

Example:  

The Ministry of Interpretation receives a request Tuesday, February 22, 2022 at 3:50 pm. Excluding 6 Saturdays and 6 Sundays, the request is due on Tuesday, April 5, 2022.  

As they conduct a search for records, the Ministry of Interpretation discovers that they need more time to respond to the request that is not otherwise covered under section 10 (1) (a-c).  

The ministry informs the applicant of the additional search time needed to complete a thorough and accurate search. The ministry asks the applicant for consent to extend the original deadline of Tuesday, April 5, 2022 by an additional 30 days. 

The applicant consents to the 30-day extension. The new due date for the request (excluding 6 Saturdays, 6 Sundays, and the holidays of Good Friday and Easter Monday), is Thursday, May 19, 2022. 

Interpretation Note 4: Fees and response time 

While a public body is waiting for payment of application fees or fees for services, the time limit to respond to a request is paused. For more information on fees, see section 75 of the manual. 

Example: 

The Ministry of Interpretation receives a request Tuesday, February 22, 2022 at 3:50 pm. Excluding 6 Saturdays and 6 Sundays, the request is due on Tuesday, April 5, 2022.  

The Ministry of Interpretation determines that retrieving the records will take more than three hours and issues a fee estimate to the applicant on Tuesday, March 8, 2022, 10 days after receiving the request. The request timeline is now paused with 20 days remaining.  

The time limit for responding to the request stays paused until the fee estimate is paid or the fee is waived through the fee waiver process. 

The request stays paused for two days March 8 to March 10, 2022 while the applicant decides how to proceed.  

On Thursday, March 10, 2022 the applicant pays the fee and the request is re-started. The request is now due 20 days from the re-start date. Excluding 4 Saturdays and 4 Sundays, the request is due on Thursday, April 7, 2022. 

Interpretation Note 5: Third party information and response time 

When a request involves information about a third party, section 7 links the time limit to respond with the time limit for third party notification. For more information on how third party notification and third party review can impact the time limit to respond, see sections 23 and 24 of the manual.  

Interpretation Note 6: External review pauses response time 

The time limit to respond to a request is paused while waiting for a ruling from the commissioner or an adjudicator. The following external review scenarios can put a pause on the time limit to respond during the times noted below: 

  • During the time from the day that the head of a public body asks the commissioner for authorization to disregard a request until the end of the day that a decision is made by the commissioner under section 43. See section 43 of the manual for more information. 

  • During the time from the day that the applicant asks the commissioner to review a processing fee estimate or excuse some or all payment of a processing fee until the end of the day that a decision is made by the commissioner under section 52 (1). See section 52 of the manual for more information. 

  • During the time from the day that a third-party asks the commissioner to review a decision to give access to some, or all, of a record that contains information which could be exempt from disclosures under Sections 18.1, 21, or 22 until the end of the day that a decision is made by the commissioner under section 52 (2). See section 52 of the manual for more information. 

  • During the time from the day that a person asks an adjudicator for a review of a decision made by the commissioner until the end of the day that a decision is made by the adjudicator under section 62 (2). See section 62 of the manual for more information. 

Sectional Index of Commissioner's Orders

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner maintains a Sectional Index of Commissioner’s orders organized by the Act’s section numbers.   

 

The information in this manual is not intended to be and should not take the place of legal advice.  

Last updated: June 2022