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Manitoba

Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

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Understanding FIPPA

 

When do I have to use FIPPA to get information?

Manitoba government departments and other public bodies routinely make a lot of information available to the public. Look at the websites or contact the public body to see if you can get the information you need without submitting a FIPPA application.

Some offices have an established application form and process.  FIPPA does not replace these existing procedures for gaining access to information which is normally available to the public. Nor does it affect any fees that may be charged for such access. An example would be fees for a copy of a birth or marriage certificate.

When information is not available informally or through another process, a formal request for access can be made under FIPPA.

How do I request information under FIPPA?

Complete the FIPPA application form. Describe the records you wish to access as clearly and as specifically as possible. Include your name, address and telephone (or fax) number where you can be reached. Sign the form and keep a copy for your reference.

Mail the completed application form to the Access and Privacy Coordinator of the public body which has the information that you are seeking. For a list of the addresses of the coordinators, consult where to send your application.

Oral requests are accepted from applicants with limited ability to read and write English or French or with a disability that prevents them completing a written request.

Where do I send my application?

Send your application to the public body that you think has the records you want to see. For example, if you are a client of a program administered by Sport, Culture and Heritage and you would like to view your file, send your FIPPA application to the Access and Privacy Coordinator at Sport, Culture and Heritage.

For the addresses of the public bodies that are under FIPPA, consult where to send your application.

If you are not sure which public body has the information you would like to see, please call the Information and Privacy Policy Secretariat at 945-3445.

When will I get a response to my FIPPA application?

In most cases, you should receive a response from the public body within 30 days, unless the public body has transferred the request to another public body or extended the response time.

If you do not receive a response within the 30 day period, you may submit a complaint to the Manitoba Ombudsman

When can the public body take more than 30 days to reply?

The public body may extend the time limit for up to an additional 30 days, or longer if the Ombudsman agrees:

      • If the applicant does not provide enough detail to enable the public body to identify the requested records;
      • If the public body needs time to consult with a third party or another public body before deciding whether to grant access;
      • If a large number of records is requested and responding within 30 days would interfere unreasonably with the operations of the public body;
      • If a third party makes a complaint to the Ombudsman about a decision to grant access.

If the public body wants to extend the response time limit, you will be informed in writing of the reason for the extension and given the new date by which a response may be expected.

Which public bodies fall under FIPPA?

FIPPA applies to the following:

      • Manitoba government departments (including Executive Council);
      • Manitoba boards, commissions, and similar bodies whose board members are all appointed by statute or by Lieutenant Governor in Council, such as Manitoba Hydro, Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation, and the Municipal Board);
      • Bodies designated as government agencies, educational bodies and health care bodies in the Access and Privacy Regulation
      • City of Winnipeg;
      • Municipalities and Local Government districts;
      • Planning districts;
      • Conservation districts;
      • Community councils under The Northern Affairs Act;
      • School divisions and districts;
      • Assiniboine Community College and Red River College;
      • Brandon University, University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg; University College of the North, Université de Saint-Boniface; and
      • Regional health authorities

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Do I have to pay to get information through FIPPA?

There is no fee for making an application under FIPPA or for the first 2 hours spent by the public body searching or preparing information for you.  

The following are chargeable services under FIPPA:

  • Search and Preparation Fees

$15 per half hour (after 2 free hours)

Applies to: locating the records, time to make working copies, doing any required severing.

Does not apply to: deciding what information cannot be disclosed and must be severed, transferring an application to another public body, preparing a fee estimate.

  • Computer Programming and Data Processing Fees

$10 for each 15 minutes of in-house programming or data processing, or the actual cost of having it done externally

  • Copying Records (If Applicant Requests a Copy)

Photocopies and computer printouts: 20 cents per page;
Prints from microfilm: 50 cents per page;
Any other copying method: actual cost

Note: applicants requesting copies of their own personal information are not required to pay for the copies if the total copying charge is less than $10.

  • Delivery Fees

Regular mail: no charge;
Courier delivery: actual cost

How do I find out if I will be charged and how much it will be?

If you will have to pay a fee, the public body will send you a fee estimate before providing the service. You will have 30 days to notify the public body if you will pay the cost or want to modify the request in order to reduce the fee. If you want the public body to proceed with the original request, you should sign the Estimate of Cost form and send it with the total payment to the public body.

If you do not reply to a fee estimate within 30 days, the public body may consider the application to have been abandoned.

If you receive a fee estimate that you think is unreasonable, you may submit a complaint to the Manitoba Ombudsman.

Can fees be waived under FIPPA?

FIPPA includes a discretionary fee waiver provision. If you would like your fees waived, you must send a request to the public body.

Fees may be waived if the public body believes that:

      • paying the fees would impose an unreasonable financial hardship on the applicant, or
      • the applicant is requesting access to his or her own personal information and a waiver is reasonable and fair in the circumstances, or
      • the records relates to a matter of public interest concerning public health, safety or the environment.

The public body will inform you in writing of its decision about waiving the fees.

You may submit a complaint to the Manitoba Ombudsman if the public body refuses to waive all or part of the fees.

What kind of response can I expect?

The public body will reply in writing to your request. If access is granted, you will be informed when and how access to the records will be given.

If you are denied access to all or some of the requested records, you will be advised of the specific FIPPA exception(s) on which the refusal is based and the reason that this exception applies, as well as the contact information for an officer of the public body who can answer questions about the refusal. You will also be informed of your right to complain to the Ombudsman’s Office about the refusal.

When an exception to disclosure applies to part(s) of the record, this information will not be disclosed. However, the remainder of the document will be provided to you. A blank space or a heavy black line and a FIPPA section number for the applicable exception to disclosure will appear in place of the severed information on the copy of the record provided to you. 

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What information won’t be released to me?

Information that falls under an exception to disclosure in FIPPA may not be released to you.  There are several exceptions, some of which are mandatory (i.e. they have to be applied) and some are discretionary (i.e. it is up to the public body to decide if they should be applied in a particular instance). 

The mandatory exceptions are:

Unreasonable invasion of a third party’s privacy (Section 17)
Harm to a third party’s business interests (Section 18)
Cabinet Confidences less than 20 years old (Section 19)
Information provided in confidence by another government (Section 20)
Information in a law enforcement record covered by a Canadian law which prohibits disclosure (Section 25(2))
Solicitor-client privilege of a person other than the public body (Section 27(2)

The discretionary exceptions are:

Harmful to intergovernmental relations (Section 21)
Local public body confidences (Section 22)
Advice to a public body (Section 23)
Individual or public safety (Section 24)
Harmful to law enforcement or legal proceedings (Section 25)
Security of property (Section 26)
Solicitor-client privilege of the public body (Section 27)
Harmful to the economic and other interests of a public body (Section 28)
Testing procedures, tests and audits (Section 29)
Confidential evaluations about the applicant (Section 30)
Harmful to preservation of heritage resources (Section 31)
Information that will be available to the public (Section 32)

What can I do if I am not satisfied with the response?

If you are not satisfied with the public body’s response to your FIPPA request, you may submit a complaint to the Manitoba Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is an independent review officer with broad investigative, auditing and reporting powers under FIPPA.

You may complain to the Ombudsman for a number of reasons including if:

      • you have not received a response to your application within 30 days;
      • you do not believe the extension of the response time beyond 30 days is appropriate;
      • you have been denied access to all or part of the records for which you applied;
      • your request for correction of your personal information has been refused;
      • a public body refuses to waive all or part of estimated fees
      • you believe your own personal information has been collected, used, or disclosed  in violation of FIPPA;
      • as a third party, you wish to contest a decision of a public body to give access to records against your wishes;
      • you are the relative of a deceased person who has been refused access to that person’s personal information by a public body.

Generally, the complaint must be made within 60 days after being notified of the access decision and must be on the prescribed Complaint Form.

The Ombudsman will investigate your complaint and will try to resolve it informally, to the satisfaction of the parties and in a manner consistent with the purposes of FIPPA. If the complaint cannot be resolved informally and is found to be supportable, the Ombudsman will make recommendations to the public body. Written notification of the Ombudsman’s findings and any recommendations to the public body will be sent to you, when the investigation is completed.

For further information about the powers of the Manitoba Ombudsman under FIPPA and the procedure for making a complaint, visit the website of the Manitoba Omdusman’s Office.

 

What can I do if I am still unhappy after the Ombudsman’s investigation?

If you remain dissatisfied with the response of the public body after the Ombudsman’s investigation and report, you have the right to appeal to the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench. An appeal may be made only after the Ombudsman has issued a report.

A third party may also appeal a decision of a public body to disclose business information or personal information. The third party must also have complained to the Ombudsman and received a report.

Generally, an appeal must be filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench within 30 days of receiving the Ombudsman report, or within 30 days of receiving notice from the Ombudsman about the public body’s response to the report.

The Court may dismiss an appeal if it determines the pubic body was authorized or required to refuse access to a record. If the Court determines that the public body was not authorized or required to refuse access, it may order the release of some or all of the information.

If the Court finds that a record or part of a record falls within an exception to disclosure, the Court cannot order the public body to give the applicant access to the record or part of it, regardless of whether the exception requires or merely authorizes refusal of access. For example, where the record falls within a discretionary exception to disclosure and the public body has properly exercised its discretion to refuse access, the Court cannot order disclosure of that record.

A decision of the Court of Queen’s Bench is final and binding.

There is no appeal to court under FIPPA about the collection, use or disclosure of personal information by a public body.

What is a record?

FIPPA applies to all records in the custody or under the control of a public body.  A ‘record’ is information in any form and includes information that is written, photographed, recorded or stored in any manner on any storage medium or by any means including graphic, electronic or mechanical means. It does not include electronic software or any mechanism that produces records.

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Are all records held by public bodies covered by FIPPA?

Access to the following records is not governed by FIPPA:

      • Court records: records of judges, magistrates, and justices of the peace; judicial administration and support records
      • Records of the Legislative Assembly and its officers (the Speaker, Clerk of the Assembly,  Auditor General, Manitoba Ombudsman, Children’s Advocate and Chief Electoral Officer, Information and Privacy Adjudicator)
      • Records of members of the Legislative Assembly who are not ministers
      • Personal or constituency records of a minister or an elected official of a local public body
      • Teaching materials and research information of employees of educational institutions
      • Questions used on an examination or test
      • Records relating to a prosecution or an inquest under The Fatality Inquiries Act when proceedings have not been completed
      • Records in the Archives of Manitoba, or the archives of a local public body, acquired from a person or entity other than a public body
      • Records originating from a credit union held by the Deposit Guarantee Corporation of Manitoba
      • Records under statutes that expressly provide that they prevail over FIPPA such as The Adoption Act, The Child and Family Services Act, The Mental Health Act, The Securities Act, The Statistics Act, The Vital Statistics Act, The Workers Compensation Act, and the Youth Criminal Justice Act (Canada).

 

How do I get access to records of Manitoba government departments and agencies held by the Archives of Manitoba?

Visit or contact the Archives of Manitoba and identify which records you would like to view. Archives staff will assist you and advise whether you need to get authorization and if so, from whom.

Does FIPPA give me the right to access my personnel files if I work for a private company?

FIPPA does not apply to the private sector. The Canadian Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) protects employee information in the federally-regulated private sector, as well as personal information of customers.

At the present time there is no requirement that private sector businesses in Manitoba provide their employees with access to personnel files. Some companies do so by internal policy or procedure.

How do I apply for access to records of the Federal government?

Access to Federal government records fall under the Access to Information Act. You can contact Access to Information and Privacy at http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/atip-aiprp/apps/coords/index_e.asp

When did FIPPA come into effect?

FIPPA came into force for Manitoba government departments and agencies on May 4, 1998 and for the City of Winnipeg on August 31, 1998. On April 3, 2000, it was extended to all Local Governments, school divisions, community colleges, universities, regional health authorities, and hospitals.

What is personal information?

Personal information is any kind of recorded information about an identifiable individual. It includes:

      • your name;
      • your home address or home telephone number, facsimile or e-mail number;
      • your age, sex, sexual orientation, marital or family status;
      • your ancestry, race, colour, nationality, national or ethnic origin;
      • your religion or creed, or religious belief, association or activity;
      • your personal health information;
      • your blood type, fingerprints or other hereditary characteristic;
      • your political belief, association or activity;
      • your education, employment or occupation, or educational, employment or occupational   history;
      • your source of income or financial circumstances, activities or history;
      • your criminal history, including regulatory offences;
      • personal views or opinions, except if they are about another person;
      • views and opinions expressed about you by another person; and
      • identifying numbers, symbols or other particulars assigned to you.

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How do public bodies protect my privacy?

FIPPA sets out requirements that public bodies must follow to protect the personal information that they hold. These requirements embody the principles of ‘fair information practices’ which are increasingly accepted around the world.

While fair information practices may be formulated differently from one country or organization to another, they are based on the following minimum standards:

      • Collection

Organizations must collect personal information directly from the individual concerned, except in specified circumstances, and collect only what is required.

      • Use

Personal information collected for one purpose should not be used for another purpose, without the consent of the individual.

      • Disclosure:

Personal information should not be released to another organization or individual, except in specified circumstances.

      • Information management

Records management policies and procedures must be followed to ensure that personal information is secure and not retained any longer than necessary.

      • Individual access

An individual must be able to access his or her personal information and to correct or annotate this information.

      • Openness

Documentation about information management policies, practices and holdings should be available to the public and easily understandable.

      • Accountability

Organizations are accountable for their personal information policies, practices and holdings. They must designate an individual who is responsible for the organization’s compliance with fair information practices.

Can I access my personal health information?

Yes, in most cases. Access to your personal health information is governed by The Personal Health Information Act (PHIA), not FIPPA.

PHIA applies to health professionals, health care facilities and health services agencies, in addition to the public bodies that fall under FIPPA.

There is no application form under PHIA.

You have the right to complain to the Manitoba Ombudsman under PHIA, if you are unable to access your personal health information or to have your record corrected (or a statement of disagreement added to the record). [link to PHIA]

When a public body asks me for personal information, can it give that information to someone else without my knowledge?

FIPPA limits the disclosure of personal information without the consent of the individual. However, it does authorize disclosure in certain circumstances such as verification of an individual’s eligibility in a program, collection of a debt or fine, or enforcement of maintenance orders.

What can I do if I think that a public body has misused or improperly disclosed my personal information?

Contact the Access and Privacy Coordinator of the public body to discuss your concerns. If you are dissatisfied with the public body’s response or explanation, you may make a complaint to the Manitoba Ombudsman.

How do I request a correction to my personal information?

If you have been given access to your own personal information and you believe there is an error or omission in the information, you may request that the public body correct the record.

You must make the request for correction in writing, but there is no prescribed form for this. Send your request to the Access and Privacy Coordinator of the public body which has the personal information.

Within 30 days after receiving the request, the public body will:

      • make the requested correction and notify you of the correction, or
      • notify you that it will not make the correction and the reason for refusal.

If the public body has refused to make the correction, it should add your
request for correction to that record.

You have the right to submit a complaint to the Manitoba Ombudsman about a refusal to correct a record

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