FIPA Bulletin – December 2010

In this issue:

  • FIPA wins 6-year battle for release of $300 million IBM contract
  • FIPA to start 2011 with new Executive Director
  • BC Ferries FOI policy thwarts requests from advocacy groups and media
  • FIPA asks for investigation of false claims of “no records” by government
  • Third BC Information Summit a big success
  • Legal Actions:
    • Black hole grows: Submissions to gov’t consultations are now ‘policy advice’.
    • FIPA fights in Supreme Court of Canada
  • FIPA Donations and memberships at the touch of a button

BC FIPA proposes revisions to s. 13 of FIPPA after College of Physicians v. OIPC decision (the “Dr. Doe” case)

BC FIPA has proposed revisions to s. 13 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in Response to the Decision in College of Physicians of British Columbia v. British Columbia (Information and Privacy Commissioner) in its submission to the Special Committee to Review the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

Executive Summary

Section 13 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act permits an exception from access for “information that would reveal advice or recommendations be developed by or for a public body or a minister”. Until recently, it had been generally believed that “advice or recommendations” was limited to documents or reports that advocated that government choose a particular course of action or make a particular decision; in effect, “we recommend that you do this”, or “we advise that you do that”.

In the recent “Dr. Doe” case, however, the Sexual Conduct Review Committee of the College of Physicians was able to withhold from an applicant experts’ reports about whether or not she had been hypnotized. The Court of Appeal held that the s. 13 exception was not limited to recommendations as defined above; instead, the investigation and gathering of facts could be exempted from access pursuant to s. 13, regardless of whether or not any decision or course of action was actually recommended.

The result is a departure from the original intent of the statute. Applicants can now be denied access to a great variety of documents that would previously have been available to them. This will be the case even where the documents are about those applicants themselves and directly affect their interests.

The legislation should be amended to reflect the intention that the words “advice or recommendations” in s. 13 are limited to actually advising or recommending that government do something.

Download the full submission (pdf).