Freedom of Information (FOI)
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act helps promote good city governance by balancing the following principles:
Freedom of Information (FOI)
- The public has the right to access government information.
- Whenever possible, information held by the City should be available to the public.
Protection of Privacy
- Individuals have the right to have their personal information protected.
- The City should not improperly collect or disclose personal information.
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the Act) applies to all records (i.e. all recorded information) that are under the custody or control of a public body. The Act defines records as follows:
“Record” includes books, documents, maps, drawings, photographs, letters, vouchers, papers and any other thing on which information is recorded or stored by graphic, electronic, mechanical or other means, but doesn’t include a computer program or any other mechanism that produces records.
It’s important to note that the Act covers access to records and the information contained in them. It’s NOT the intention of the Act that staff compile and summarize research in order to answer specific questions. Applicants are expected to conduct their own research based on records received from the City and make their own interpretations.
There are two ways to request information from the City:
Informal request via routine channels
Since almost all of the City’s information is available through routine channels, you should always start by making an informal request: contact the department you think might have the information you’re looking for.
Formal FOI requests
If the information you’re seeking isn’t available through routine channels, you may make an FOI request for records containing the information.
Unlike routine requests, formal FOI requests must be made in writing. Your request must provide sufficient detail to assist staff in locating and retrieving the records.
You may use our FOI Application Form, although it’s not required to make a formal request. You may deliver, mail, or e-mail your FOI request to:
When you make an informal request for information, the department that has the information may charge you a fee to cover its costs in processing your request. Departments charge in accordance with our Fees and Charges Bylaw No. 9381.
Formal FOI requests
We may charge you fees to cover the cost of processing your FOI request. Section 75 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Bylaw No. 9682 permits public bodies to charge applicants fees for costs associated with processing requests to access records under the Act. The maximum fees are set out in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Regulation to the Act. For example, the following fees apply for non-commercial applicants (i.e. private individuals):
- $7.50 per ¼ hour ($30/hour) after the first three hours spent locating, retrieving and producing the requested records
- $7.50 per ¼ hour ($30/hour) to prepare records for disclosure (includes the time spent photocopying and reassembling files)
- $0.25 per page of regular photocopies provided
- Shipping and handling charges (method chosen by applicant)
The Act prohibits public bodies from charging applicants for access to their own personal information. The Act also states that the first three hours spent searching for and retrieving the records is free of charge. If the number of records to be searched appears to be excessive, we'll send you a fee estimate before processing your request, which will require you to provide us with a deposit.
To help reduce fees and to minimize taxpayer expense, please narrow the scope of your request as much as possible. Also, you should try to specify a date range as our records date back more than a century.
When you make an informal request, the department you approach will respond to you as quickly as possible. Depending on the kind of information you're requesting, you may be able to get an answer over the phone.
The Act allows us to withhold information if release would be an invasion of privacy or cause harm by one of the means listed in the Act, such as harming a law enforcement investigation or threatening anyone’s health or safety. If the City withholds any information, we'll tell you which section or sections of the Act were used in making this decision.
If we deny you access to any record or part of a record, you have the right to ask for a review by the British Columbia Information and Privacy Commissioner, an officer of the legislature who is independent of the government.
The Act requires that we respond to your request within 30 business days of our receipt of your request. We'll make every effort to make the records available to you sooner, if possible.
If your request is broad in scope, or if a large volume of records respond to your request, we may extend the time limit for responding under Section 10 of the Act for an additional 30 business days. For particularly large and difficult requests, we may apply to the British Columbia Information and Privacy Commissioner for an additional time extension.
The majority of requests are processed within 30 business days of us receiving your request.
Depending on what you ask for, you may not get access to all information contained within the records that respond to your request.
The Act includes several specific exemptions to disclosure, which means that, by law, certain types of records and information are to be protected and not made available to the public. Some exemptions are mandatory while others are exercised at the discretion of the FOIPP Head (as defined in our Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Bylaw No. 9682) based on the relevant circumstances surrounding the request.
For example, reasons for denying access to information held by the City are generally related to the protection of:
- Personal privacy
- Businesses trade secrets
- Solicitor-client privilege
- Deliberations of Council and Council Committees that are authorized to be held in the absence of the public (i.e. Closed or “in camera” meetings)
- Policy advice, staff recommendations or draft regulations not yet made public
- Information that may harm a law enforcement matter (this includes bylaw enforcement matters)
- Information that may harm the financial interests of the City or other public body
If you don’t get access to all the information you requested, you will be advised of the reasons and the provision(s) of the Act on which you have been denied full access. If you’re not satisfied with how the City responds to your FOI request, you have the right to ask the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia to review the City’s response.
The Act protects personal privacy by restricting the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. Please note that personal privacy rights extend only to private individuals, not businesses, societies, corporations, etc.
When an individual makes an FOI request to the City, their personal information is protected and isn’t made public.
We only collect personal information when we have the clear authority to do so, or when the collection is related directly to and is necessary for an operating program. When we’re collecting personal information, we must do so directly from you, unless we have legal authority to collect the information from another source. These rules apply even if the personal information is held by another government body.
Use and disclosure
The personal information must only be used for the purpose it was collected or for a use consistent with the reason it was collected. We may also use or disclose personal information in other ways, but only if we have legal authority to do so. We have security arrangements to protect personal information from unauthorized use or disclosure.
For example, if you make a bylaw enforcement complaint, we ask for your personal information (name, address, telephone number) in order for us to keep you informed of our handling of your complaint. As a complainant, your personal information is protected and isn’t made public. The only time that your identity as a complainant would be disclosed to another public body is to comply with Court proceedings.