Freedom of Information
What are my rights under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act?
You have two general rights under the Act:
- the right to access to records in the custody or under the control of a public body, including your own personal information (you also have the right to request correction of your personal information); and
- the right to privacy protection of your personal information in the custody or under the control of a public body.
Who does the Act Apply to?
- Prince Edward Island Government Departments
- Provincial Boards
- Provincial Commissions
- Provincial Agencies
- Provincial Crown Corporations
- School Boards
Schedule 1 of the General Regulations to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act provides a list of many of the designated public bodies covered under the Act, but this list is not exhaustive.
Who does the Act NOT apply to?
- Federal Government Departments and Agencies
- Post-secondary Educational Institutions
- Police Agencies
- Private Businesses
What kind of information may I request?
You are entitled to request any recorded information held by a public body. This information may be contained in books, documents, maps, drawings, photographs, letters, vouchers, papers, notes, minutes and any other information that is written, photographed, recorded or stored in any manner, but does not include software or any mechanism that produces records.
You also have the right to request access to your own personal information. Personal information includes your name, home or business address, home or business telephone number, age, sex, education, marital status, health-care history, financial history, race, criminal history, religious or political beliefs or associations, fingerprints, blood types, inheritable characteristics and other information about you held by a public body. It is defined at clause 1(i) of the Act.
Details about your personal health information as it relates to privacy and information access can be found on Health PEI's site at Health Privacy and Information Access.
When requesting access to information, you may ask to either examine the requested information or be provided with a copy of the requested information.
Are there exceptions to my information rights under the Act?
Yes, there are exceptions to one's information rights under the Act. For example, the Act does not permit a public body to give access to Cabinet confidences, someone else's personal information (if it would be an unreasonable invasion of their personal privacy), or information that could harm the business interests of another.
A public body may also refuse to provide access to records that could harm law enforcement, or the economic or financial interests of a public body, other individuals, or the public.
There are other exceptions set out in the Act that may also apply.
How do I request information from a public body?
You can request information from a public body by writing to, or visiting, the appropriate public body. Much information is routinely released to the public.
If the information you want is not routinely released, a formal request for access to information under the Act may be necessary. You may speak to the government's Access and Privacy Services Manager, Kathryn Dickson, for direction about the information you are wanting access to, or you may contact the FOIPP coordinator of any of the specific public bodies that process access requests directly, all of whom are listed at the following link: FOIPP Coordinators. These representatives, as well as the employees of the Access and Privacy Services Office, are knowlegable of and will explain the process to you.
If the formal process is the only option available to you, you may complete an application form directly online, Request to Access Information Online, or manually complete a paper copy of the application form, Request to Access Information, and submit it to the Access and Privacy Services Office or to the office of the specific public body that processes access requests directly and that holds the information you are requesting. The Act requires that all requests:
(a) be made in writing;
(b) specify the subject-matter of the record requested with sufficient particulars to be identified; and
(c) be accompanied by the required fee.
You may make a verbal request for access to a record if your ability to read or write English or French is limited, or if you have a physical disability or condition that impairs your ability to make a written request.
Your request needs to be clear and complete in order for the public body to respond properly.
How long does the access request process take?
Generally, a public body must respond to your request within 30 days. There are certain circumstances that may extend this time; for example, while the public body awaits a response from you to a fee estimate, the time stops and begins to run again after your response is received.
The public body may extend the time for responding to a request for up to 30 days. If this happens, the public body must inform you of the reason for the extension, when a response can be expected, and that you have a right to request a review by the Commissioner. The Commissioner may also extend the time for response to an access request.
How much does it cost to request access to information?
There is a $5 application fee to request access to general records. There is no charge for making a request to access your own personal information, or for correction to your personal information. You may, however, be charged a fee for the cost of copying and sending the records.
For general records, if the time required to process your request exceeds two hours, the public body may charge an additional fee. The public body will provide a fee estimate that will include the cost of locating and preparing the records for disclosure. Once you receive the fee estimate, you have 20 days to indicate if the fee estimate is acceptable, or to modify your request (for example, narrowing the scope of the request) which would change the amount of the fee assessed.
The public body has the authority to waive a fee in certain circumstances, and you have the right to request that the Commissioner review a fee estimate given by a public body.
Schedule 2 of the General Regulations to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act provides a list of the maximum amounts that may be charged to applicants by a public body for services.
Will I still have to pay the fee if I am denied access?
Yes, you will still have to pay the fee, even if you are denied access to some or all of the information you requested. The application fee will not be refunded.
What kind of response can I expect?
You will receive one of the following responses to a request for access to information:
- You will be informed whether access to the record, or part of it, is granted or refused. If access is granted, you will be informed of where, when and how access will be given.
- If access to records is partially granted, you will receive a package containing the records requested, but with particular sections severed or blacked out. If a public body refuses to release all or part of the records to you, it must tell you why. You will be informed of the name, title, business address and business telephone number of an officer or employee of the public body who can answer your questions about the refusal. It must also tell you that you have the right to request a review of its decision by the Commissioner within 60 days of receiving the decision.
- If a public body does not have the records that you requested, it will tell you. If appropriate, the public body may transfer or refer your request to another public body. Within 15 days after receiving a request for access to a record, the public body may transfer the request if the record was produced by or for the other public body, the other public body was the first to obtain the record, or the record is in the custody or under the control of the other public body. The public body that receives the transferred request must then notify you and it will then be responsible for processing your application.
What if I receive no response from a public body?
If you receive no response to a request for access to information after 30 days has passed since submitting your request, the public body is deemed to have refused access. At that point, you may request, in writing, that the Commissioner conduct a review of the decision to refuse access to the records.
How much does it cost to request a review?
There is no fee for requesting a review of a public body's decision by the Commissioner.
I applied for information and I am not satisfied with the decision I received. How do I request a review?
If you are the person who applied for access to information and you are not satisfied with the decision you receive from the public body, within 60 days of receiving the decision you can:
- write a letter to the Commissioner describing the circumstances of your case. Be sure to include all relevant information, such as the name of the public body and the file number it has assigned to your request. You may also use a Request for Review application form, Form 1, for this purpose;
- attach a copy of the public body's response or decision letter that you received;
- include a copy of the access request, if you have it;
- include your telephone number so that the staff of the Commissioner's office can contact you.
I received notice that someone else applied for information that I think should not be disclosed. How do I request a review?
If you are a third party to someone else's access request and you do not think that the information should be disclosed, within 20 days of receiving notice of the request you can:
- write a letter to the Commissioner describing the circumstances of your case. Be sure to include all relevant information, such as the name of the public body and the file number it has assigned to the request. You may also use a Request for Review application form, Form 2, for this purpose;
- attach a copy of the public body's notice that you received;
- include your telephone number so that the staff of the Commissioner's office can contact you.
It is important to note that the Commissioner does not have the ability to extend the time for a third party to deliver a request for a review outside of the 20-day time limit. If the request for a review is delivered to the Commissioner by mail, it is highly recommended that you contact the office to confirm receipt. If time is of the essence, you may contact the Commissioner to discuss an alternative mode of delivery.
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act does not provide for compensation for a violation of privacy rights
What happens when a review file is opened by the Commissioner's office?
When a request for review is received at the Commissioner's office, a file will be opened and you will receive confirmation that your request was received. At the same time, a copy of the Request for Review is sent to the public body involved. The Commissioner may sever any information in the request that the Commissioner considers appropriate before giving a copy of the request to the head of the public body and to any other person affected by the request. The public body must then deliver a copy of the records to the Commissioner's office.
What happens next?
The Commissioner will examine the records, the decision of the public body, your representations, and those of the public body. The Commissioner may require further representations from either party and will contact the parties to clarify any outstanding issues.
What are "representations"?
You will be asked to provide the Commissioner's office with a letter outlining your reasons for disagreeing with the public body's decision. This letter is called your "representations" or "submissions". Your representations should include detailed arguments and evidence for the Commissioner's consideration to persuade the Commissioner to resolve the review in a particular way.
Once the Commissioner is satisfied that all the necessary information has been collected and that all parties have had the opportunity to make representations on all of the relevant issues, the Commissioner will issue an order. The order is first sent to all of the parties of the review and later made available on this site.
You may review any relevant Commissioner's orders, case law, or statutory materials, and include references to such materials in your representations. You may access and research Commissioner's orders posted on this site.
Are my representations to the Commissioner confidential?
No one is entitled to have access to, or to comment on, representations made to the Commissioner by another person. However, unless there is an overriding confidentiality concern, the Commissioner may use discretion in deciding whether representations may be shared with the other parties to a review. Information that the Commissioner considers confidential may be severed before giving a copy of your representations to the head of the public body or to any other person affected by the request. If you do not want your submissions to be disclosed to the other parties to your review, you should explain which materials you do not wish disclosed and provide your reasons why not. Similarly, the public body may also make representations that they may want withheld from you.
What if I am not satisfied with the decision of the Commissioner after a review?
The Commissioner's order is final; however, if you are not satisfied with the decision of the Commissioner, you may apply to the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island for a judicial review of the order.
IF I HAVE MORE QUESTIONS, WHO CAN ANSWER THEM?
If you have any further questions regarding access to information, protection of privacy and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, you may contact the staff of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner at:
Office of the Information and Privacy
Commissioner for Prince Edward Island
J. Angus MacLean Building
Second Floor, 180 Richmond Street
P.O. Box 2000
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, C1A 7N8
Telephone: (902) 368-4099
Facsimile: (902) 368-5947