In British Columbia, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the Act) sets out several fundamental rights for accessing information, including:
- the right of the general public to access information in the custody of public bodies;
- the right of an individual to access personal information about themselves, and to request correction of such personal information; and
- the right to expect that public bodies will not engage in the unauthorized collection, use or disclosure of personal information.
Under the Act, the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) is considered a public body.
What is Covered by the Act?
All records on which information is recorded are covered by the Act. This includes correspondence, reports, forms, bylaws, drawings, contracts, etc. It’s important to note that the Act requires disclosure of existing records containing information – not the production of new records to comply with an information request.
Some records may be (or must be) restricted from access by the public, including records containing:
- personal information;
- information being considered in confidence;
- information subject to solicitor-client privilege;
- information harmful to law enforcement or the interests of the public if disclosed; and
- information harmful to third-party business interests if disclosed.
Methods of Accessing Records
Most records held by the CVRD are considered routine in nature and are available without the requirement of a formal Freedom of Information request under the Act. These records include meeting agendas and minutes, corporate policies, annual reports, permits, licences, bylaws and budgets. Before filing an application under the Act, individuals should consult the complete list of routinely available records, many of which are available for viewing and printing directly from the CVRD website.
Keep your request simple, clear and focused to reduce processing time and possible service fees.
Example Request #1
"Please provide copies of all planning reports and studies undertaken in the last 10 years."
This is unacceptably broad - applicability to specific records open to interpretation; volume of research required would be disruptive to other operations.
Example Request #2
"Please provide copies of planning reports and studies undertaken the Comox Lake watershed over the last 10 years."
This is Acceptable - will require interpretation of some records for applicability; may require time extension for full compliance.
Example Request #3
"Please provide copies of the planning studies undertaken on the Comox Lake watershed and published from 1999 to 2003."
This is best practice - request is precise, compliance assured within allowable timeframe.