You Have a Right to Ask the Information and Privacy Commissioner to Get Involved

If you have made a request for a record, or a request for correction of your personal information, you have a right to ask the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner to review any decision, act or failure to act by the public body in respect of that request.

You also have a right to make a complaint to the Commissioner if:

  1. the public body did not perform a duty as required under FOIPPA;
  2. the public body improperly extended the time to reply to your request;
  3. the public body charged you an inappropriate fee;
  4. the public body refused to make the correction you requested, and had no justification for the refusal; or
  5. the public body collected, used or disclosed your personal information in breach of the law.

The Commissioner’s overriding policy is to resolve a dispute by a settlement agreed to by the parties. In all complaints and requests for review, the Commission staff assigned to the file is required to attempt mediation first. In general, settlements are preferable to having a solution imposed by the Commissioner after an Inquiry, because the parties have control over settlements.

Generally, complaints and requests for review should be in writing, but if you have difficulty reading or writing in English, the Commissioner’s office will assist you.

How Do You Ask for a Review?

Within 30 business days after receiving the public body’s decision, you must write to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner to ask for the review.

In your request you must include your name, address, phone and fax numbers, a copy of your original request to the public body, a copy of the decision of the public body and an explanation of what you want the Commissioner to review.

If you take longer than 30 business days to send your request for review to the Commissioner, you will have to give an explanation for the delay. The Commissioner will allow the longer time if the public body consents or if circumstances prevented you from getting your review request filed on time.

The review process takes a long time. The Commission is allowed 90 working days to investigate your case and consider the arguments. He will assign a Portfolio Officer to read the public body’s decision, to look at the documents you sent and any other relevant documents and may suggest mediation. If you and the public body agree to a mediated settlement, the case is considered resolved. If the mediation does not result in a settlement, then your case might proceed to a formal inquiry.

A formal inquiry is set up like a court case in that both sides make arguments to the Commissioner and try to convince him that he should rule in their favour. One big difference between a formal inquiry and a court case is that most formal inquiries are done in writing, so you do not have to go to a hearing room and give evidence orally. Instead, in most cases, the  parties all send written submissions (a written explanation of the facts and of the legal argument) to the Commissioner and the other parties. The procedure for sending, receiving, reading and considering the submissions and any other evidence is somewhat formal and the Commissioner has established some rules for inquires, to ensure fairness.

How Do You Make a Complaint?

The Commissioner is allowed, under s. 42 of FOIPPA, to investigate and attempt to resolve a complaint that:

  1. a public body failed to do something it is required by FOIPPA to do;
  2. a public body improperly extended the time for responding to a request;
  3. a fee charged was inappropriate;
  4. a public body had no justification for refusing to make a correction you requested;
  5. a public body or its service provider collected, used or disclosed your personal information in breach of FOIPPA.

Generally, you should make your complaint in writing unless your ability to read and write English is limited by language or disability, in which case the Commissioner’s office will assist you.

In most cases the Commissioner will refer you back to the public body to attempt to give it a chance to resolve the complaint directly with you, unless you have already taken that step or the Commissioner feels that doing so would not be appropriate in the circumstances. Your complaint would then be referred to a Portfolio Officer, who will investigate the facts, hear arguments from all parties, and issue a written report detailing the facts, the Officer’s conclusions and any recommendations made.

The Portfolio Officer is allowed to make recommendations to the Commissioner and the public body. If the Portfolio Officer concludes that your rights were violated by the public body, she can recommend a resolution and the Commissioner may order the public body to follow the recommendations. If the Portfolio Officer concludes that the facts do not support your complaint, then the Commissioner may dismiss your complaint.

If you do not agree with the Officer’s conclusions and recommendations, you can ask the Commissioner for a further review.