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Freedom of Information - Becoming Better Informed about the Process
- How do I make a Formal request?
- Is there a cost?
- What records can I request?
- What kind of a response can I expect?
- What can I do if I am not satisfied with a public body's response to my request?
How do I make a Formal request?
If you are not able to get the information you want through the informal route, and you still wish to make a request under the FOIPP Act, you must do so in writing.
You can either fill out a form, available on this web site or at any Government Agent's office, or simply make your request in the form of a letter or email. A written request under the FOIPP Act for records in the custody of any Government Ministry and some government Agencies can be accepted by the Information Access Operations branch, who process FOI requests on behalf of ministries. Once your request has been received, ministries have 30 days to provide you with a response, subject to any extensions permitted under the FOIPP Act. If you have questions or need clarification about the records held by a specific ministry or agency, you may wish to contact the Manager, Information Access and Records for that ministry or agency.
Is there a cost?
The FOIPP Act provides you with access to your own personal information free of charge. Access to all other information may be subject to a fee. Charges are based mainly on time spent searching and retrieving records, however, the FOIPP Act provides that the first three hours of search and retrieval time is free of charge. Each additional hour is charged at the rate prescribed in the regulations to the FOIPP Act. Charges also apply to photocopies.
What records can I request?
The FOIPP Act applies to all records in the custody and/or under the control of public bodies, including personal information. However, only in exceptional circumstances will access to someone else's personal information be provided to you.
Access to all other information is provided except where release of that information is prohibited by the FOIPP Act or its release would cause a specific harm. These exceptions to disclosure are listed in the Guide to Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy available on the OCIO web site.
What kind of a response can I expect?
You will receive the records you requested unless an exception applies to all or part of the record. If one or more of the exceptions to disclosure apply to parts of a record, a public body may remove or "sever" those parts but will release the remainder of the record. Severed information will appear as a blank space. If you receive a document from which information has been severed, the public body will indicate the reasons for severing the information, and the section(s) of the FOIPP Act it has relied upon to remove it.
If one or more of the exceptions to disclosure apply to the entire record, a public body may refuse access to the whole record.
The time spent by a public body reviewing and severing records is not charged to applicants.
What can I do if I am not satisfied with a public body's response to my request?
You can ask the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia to review a public body's decisions about your information request. The Commissioner's Office is independent of government and has the authority to review any matter relating to a public body's response to your request and to issue binding orders to resolve disputes.