Information Commissioner closes big loophole in FOI law
VANCOUVER, June 19, 2015 – In a series of decisions released today, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has ruled that governments and public bodies can no longer withhold information in a record on the basis that it is ‘outside the scope’ of the FOI request.
This puts an end to one method used by governments and public bodies to arbitrarily remove information from records requested under FOI.
“This is a huge victory for FOI requesters in BC,” said BC FIPA Executive Director Vincent Gogolek. “The Commissioner’s office has emphatically told public bodies in this province that they can’t use this loophole ever again.”
BC FIPA had appealed to the Commissioner after filing an FOI with ICBC requesting records related to the data sharing and privacy aspects of combining the BC driver’s licence with the BC Services Card. ICBC had refused to disclose parts of records on the basis that they were “not responsive”, or outside the scope of the FOI request.
In Order F15-25, the adjudicator stated that that: “a public body is not authorized by FIPPA to withhold parts of responsive records on the basis that those parts are, in the public body’s view, non-responsive or outside the scope of the access request. Therefore, ICBC must process the information it withheld as being ‘not responsive’ or ‘out of scope’ by either disclosing it or withholding the information that it is authorized or required to withhold under Part 2, Division 2 of [Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act] FIPPA.”
“This restores proper interpretation of the law, and requires public bodies to justify their decisions to redact FOI records”, said Gogolek. “It eliminates one of the ways bureaucrats and politicians could avoid releasing records without being able to point to a section of the law that allowed them to do it.”
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Vincent Gogolek, Executive Director
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
Email: Vincent (at) fipa.bc.ca