Freedom of Information and the Protection of Privacy
Purpose and Scope of the Act
British Columbia’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act was introduced to apply to public bodies in British Columbia. Schedule 1 of the Act sets out the definition of public body, which includes local governments. The Act is retroactive in that it applies to records that were created before the Act came into place.
The intent of the act is to:
- Make public bodies more accountable by providing the public with access to records whenever possible.
- To prevent the unauthorized collection, use and disclosure of personal
The main principle of the Act is that all municipal information should be available to the public, except for that which is specifically outlined as being exempt under the Act.
How do I make a request?
You should always start by making an informal request. To do this, contact the department that you think might have the information that you are looking for. Public bodies are encouraged to ensure that, as many records as possible are routinely made available to the public.
If you are told that the information is not routinely available, then you must make a Freedom of Information request (FOI) to access what you are looking for. The FOI request must be made in writing. A FOI Request for Access to Records Form can be downloaded here or can be picked up at the front reception of Whistler Municipal Hall located at 4325 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, BC, V0N 1B4.
You may deliver, mail, fax or email your FOI request to:
4325 Blackcomb Way
Whistler, BC, V0N 1B4
What can I request?
Under FOI, you can request access to a record. You cannot ask for a specific question to be answered, only for access to records that you think will hold the answer to your question. Under the Act, it is the responsibility of a local government to provide you with access to records, not to interpret the information for you.
The record must be under the custody and control of a public body in order for it to be released through an FOI. Custody means having physical possession of a record and control means that the local government is the owner of the record and has the right to control it.
If a local government receives a request for records that are under the custody and control of a different public body, the local government may transfer the request to the other public body to respond. This could include situations where the other public body created the record or was the first to obtain the record.
All records within the custody and control of a local government should be disclosed to the public unless a record is specifically outlined as an exception under the Act. Some records contain information that shouldn’t be disclosed and as a result the municipality is required or may have the discretion to withhold information. Exceptions under the Act include:
- Cabinet and local public confidences
- Policy advice or recommendations
- Legal advice
- Disclosures harmful to law enforcement
- Disclosures harmful to intergovernmental relations or negotiations
- Disclosure harmful to the financial or economic interests of a public body
- Disclosure harmful to the conservation of heritage sites
- Information that will be published or released within 60 days
- Disclosures harmful to business interests of a third party
- Disclosures harmful to personal privacy
Is there a fee to process my FOI request?
We may charge you fees to cover the cost of processing your FOI request. We will not charge you fees for access to your own personal information or for the first three hours spent searching for and retrieving the records. If we are going to charge you any fees we will send you a fee estimate before processing your request. We may also require you to send in a deposit and the fee must be paid in full before we provide you with the records.
Our fees are set out in Bylaw No, 1088, 1994, which are in accordance with the maximum fees set by the province. They include the following for non-commercial applicants:
- $7.50 per ¼ hour ($30/hour) spent location, retrieving and producing the records
- $0.25 per regular photocopy
To reduce fees and minimize taxpayer expense, please narrow your request as much as possible.
How will the Municipality respond to my request?
The Act requires us to respond to your FOI request within 30-business day of receiving it. If we deny you access to any record or part of a record you have the right to ask for review by the British Columbia Information and Privacy Commissioner, an offer of the legislature who is independent of the government. A decision of the Commissioner is final but can be subject to judicial review.
The Commissioner can be contacted at:
Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner
P.O. Box 9038, Stn. Prov. Govt.
Victoria, BC V8W 9A4
Tel. (250) 387-5629 Fax (250) 387-1696
Is my personal information protected?
The Act protects personal privacy by restricting the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. Please note that only private individuals have personal privacy rights; businesses do not.
Collection: 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 the operation of a program.
Use and Disclosure: Personal information must only be used for the purpose it was collected or for a use consistent with the reason that it was collected. We may also use or disclose personal information in other ways, but only if we have legal authority to do so.