Guidelines for Units Responding to Access to Information Requests

I.  Informal Request (oral, by email or on paper not referencing FIPPA)

Step 1

All staff members forward informal request to unit manager who reviews the request to determine which records contain the information the applicant wants. If the records that respond to the request were not created in the unit, forward the request to the relevant unit. If it is unclear where the request should be directed, forward to the Information, Privacy and Copyright Office.

Step 2

Unit manager determines whether records contain information to which FIPPA exclusions or exemptions apply, or may apply. (See Tip Sheet 4 on FIPPA Exclusions and Exemptions for details).

  1. If there are no exclusions and/or exemptions because
    • the records contain no personal information about other individuals (i.e., someone other than the applicant), or
    • the records have at a previous time been sent to, or received from, the applicant, either directly or by a cc, or
    • the records contain personal information and are being disclosed to the individual to whom the information pertains as per normal practice, or
    • the records contain no general information the unit believes should not be disclosed, and
    • the records are not excluded from the Act,

then the request can be handled informally. Disclose the information to the applicant, either orally or by producing for the applicant a copy of the relevant records.

  1. If exclusions or exemptions apply, or may apply, because the records contain
    • personal information about other individuals, or
    • general information for which exemptions may apply, or
    • the records are excluded from the Act,

then the request must be treated formally and a formal request submitted in writing. (See Access to Information Request Form on the Information, Privacy and Copyright Office’s website.)

II.  Formal Request (written referencing FIPPA)

Step 1

If your office receives a written request (as a letter or email that references FIPPA, or using the access request form), it must be handled formally. Notify the Information, Privacy & Copyright Office immediately. The University must provide a decision on access to records within 30 calendar days.

Step 2

The Information, Privacy and Copyright Office will request the unit(s) to search for, locate and retrieve records responsive to a request. Instructions on how to document the search and photocopy or print records will be provided. Documenting the search is very important as the process may become part of an affidavit.

The Information, Privacy and Copyright Office will assess the records in consultation with the unit, communicate with the requester, prepare a recommendation for the designated Area Information and Privacy Officer (Area IPO), and provide access to the requester as appropriate.

Summary of Process for Formal Request

This summary represents an ideal estimate of the time frame for certain activities. The actual time depends on the scope of the request, the volume of records which need to be reviewed, and the complexity of the issues involved.

Receive request and conduct preliminary assessment (Days 1-4)

  1. Information, Privacy and Copyright Office (IPCO) receives request and application fee and assigns tracking number.
  2. IPCO notifies Area Information and Privacy Officer (Area IPO) that request received and gathers preliminary information.
  3. IPCO works with requester, if necessary, to clarify and/or narrow the scope of the request.
  4. IPCO sends an Acknowledgement Letter to requester.
  5. IPCO provides instructions to Area IPO for conducting and documenting the search for responsive records. Area IPO liaises with units.
  6. IPCO, in consultation with Area IPO and/or units, completes preliminary assessment, considering: transfer of request to another public body; fees; need for fee estimate; third-party notices; need for consultation; creation of new records.
  7. If applicable, IPCO sends requester a Fee Estimate. If the fee estimate is more than $100, request processing is put on hold until the requester sends a 50% deposit.

Search for records (Days 5-10)

  1. Units locate, retrieve and copy all records responsive to the request and forward to Area IPO who in turn, forwards them to the IPCO.
  2. If applicable, IPCO sends third parties required notices. Third parties have 20 days to respond and request processing is put on hold during that time.

Review records and make decision on disclosure (Days 11-30)

  1. IPCO reviews records line by line to determine whether FIPPA exclusions and exemptions apply to the requester’s right of access, and drafts recommendations for Area IPO decision-maker.
  2. IPCO reviews each record with Area IPO who makes a decision on disclosure.
  3. IPCO severs and prepares records for disclosure; sends Decision Letter to requester with copy to Area IPO.

This guideline has been developed to assist in establishing good practices and procedures.  Additional questions or requests for advice on records and information management or information and privacy issues should be referred to the Information, Privacy and Copyright Office: