Your Right to Request Access

You have the right to request access to any record of a public body, including a record containing your personal information. You do not have a right to request access to another person’s personal information. The public body cannot charge you a fee for access to your own personal information.

How do You Request Access?

To make a request, you must write to the privacy office of the public body. You should be as specific as possible about the records you’d like to request. It may help you to be clear if you use the Request to Access Records form. The clearer your request, the easier it may be for the public body to respond quickly.

How Long Will it Take for a Response?

A public body must respond to a request within 30 days, but may extend the time for responding in certain circumstances. If it extends the time to respond, it must tell you so and explain the reason why. It must also tell you when you can expect a complete response.

What If You’re Not Sure How to Make the Request, or Have a Language Barrier?

Public bodies have a duty to assist you in your information requests, and must make every reasonable effort to respond without delay, openly, accurately and completely.

Sometimes a public body may contact you to narrow down the type of records you are looking for or to clarify your request. You can help the public body find the records you want by answering the questions asked by the public body.

What If You Want the Information in a Specific Format, or You Want Only Certain Parts of the Information?

A public body must create a record for an applicant from information in its custody or control, if the information exists, if a record of the information can be created using normal computer systems, and if doing so would not unreasonably interfere with the operations of the public body.

Sometimes creating entirely new records of information that exists in another format can be time consuming and expensive, so a public body may resist doing so. The Privacy Commissioner has generally not been very sympathetic to arguments by public bodies and has said that several factors will be considered when deciding whether to allow a public body to refuse to create a record. One factor will be the burden that creating the record would put on the public body’s information systems resources in relation to its total resources.  Another factor would be the size and complexity of the task.

If the Public Body Has the Records You Want

If the public body has records containing your personal information, it must give you access to them, unless there are reasons to refuse access to all or part of the records you seek. If it refuses to give you access, it must tell you why. It must also tell you that you have a right to request a review of its decision by the Information and Privacy Commissioner within 30 working days.

When Can The Public Body Refuse to Give You Access

There are certain limited circumstances when a public body might not give you access. For example, the public body is not allowed to give access to information that would reveal cabinet confidences. It can choose not to give access to policy advice or recommendations or legal advice, or to information if the disclosure could be harmful to a law enforcement matter, to national security, or to individual or public safety. Public bodies are not allowed to disclose information if doing so would result in the unreasonable invasion of someone else’s personal privacy. There are some exceptions to each of these limits on disclosure.

If the Public Body Does Not Have the Record You Want

If the public body does not have the records you requested, it must tell you. If it knows that another public body has the records you want it can transfer your request to that public body. If it does transfer your request, it must tell you that it has done so. The public body which receives your request must respond to you within 30 days of the transfer date.

If you are told that your request has been transferred, it is a good idea to contact the public body that received the transfer to find out if it needs any more information to respond to your request.

Your Right to Request Correction to Your Personal Information held by a BC Public Body

Your Information Must be Accurate and Complete

Public bodies have to make sure that the personal information they hold is accurate and complete. If you believe there is an error or omission in your personal information, you may ask the public body to correct it. You will have to provide proof to assure the public body that the correction should be made.

What Does the Public Body Have to Do When You Request a Correction?

The public body can either make the correction or, if it decides that changing the information is not appropriate in the circumstances, it must make a note in the record to show that you asked for the correction, and what you wanted the correction to be.

For example, an opinion is a subjective assessment of your abilities, performance or other characteristics, so if you ask for a correction to an opinion, the public body usually will not make the correction because that would mean changing the opinion. Instead, the public body will make a note in the record saying that you do not agree with the opinion.

If the error is a simple factual error, and adequate proof is provided, the public body should make the correction.

In either case, if the public body has given the information out in the previous year to other public bodies or third parties, it has to tell them about the correction request, because they have to make the same correction or annotation to any record they have that contains your personal information.  been done the public body must write to you and explain whether they corrected the information or not, and give you reasons for their decision.