Freedom of Information (FOI) requests
Under BC's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, you have the right to request any record in our control or custody. This includes personal records about yourself or someone you are responsible for, or general records that are not personal, but that could be released to anyone, in part or in whole.
There is a formal process that you need to follow to make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for information that is not routinely made available to the public.
Before you make a formal request
The information you're looking for may already routinely be made available to the public, in which case a formal request isn't required. You may be able to find it yourself online, or with the help of a member of staff.
Find documents and information online
To find available documents and information, you can check our website. Start by looking at these key pages:
- Council meeting documents
- Committee documents
- Finances, policies, reports
- Development applications
Get documents and information from staff
You may also be able to get information that is routinely made available by contacting staff in the relevant department. They can provide information such as:
- answers to questions related to departmental operations
- open agendas, open minutes, bylaws
- certain property related information, publications, policies and procedures
Staff will let you know if they have the information. If they do, but it's not routinely made available, they'll confirm that you need to submit a formal request for it. If a formal request is required, they can help you with the wording of your request so that the information can be easily found.
Here are key department email addresses to help you with staff enquiries:
- Building & Planning (email@example.com)
- Engineering (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- General/Other (email@example.com)
Making a formal request
If you can't find the information yourself, or if staff tell you that the information isn't routinely made available, you'll need to submit a formal request.
These are the steps:
- You submit your formal FOI request — Complete our online request form (recommended), download a paper form, or email us. To reduce processing time and potential fees, keep your request clear, concise, and focussed, and include appropriate date ranges.
- We review and acknowledge your request — We'll determine if the information you're looking for is routinely made available, or if we need to search for, compile, and review it. We'll contact you within five business days to confirm your request, provide you with a file number, and to advise if we expect any delays.
- We gather the information — We'll contact the appropriate department to retrieve the information you're looking for, and let you know if there is a large amount of records, or if there is likely to be a fee for your request. We'll keep your identity confidential throughout.
- We review the information — We'll review the information to make sure it's complete, and conforms with privacy regulations. If there's information that we can't provide, we'll sever (black-out) that information from the document and mark it with the relevant section(s) of the Act to explain why it has been withheld.
- We release the information — We'll prepare your information release and send it to you by email secured link (recommended) or mail, or advise you that it is ready to be picked up.
Important to know
How long it takes to respond to your request
The Act allows a maximum of 30 business days for us to respond to your request; we'll respond sooner if possible. In certain cases, the Act allows for the 30-day time period to be extended. We'll notify you as soon as possible if we need to extend the time limit for responding to your request.
Fees associated with your request
Section 75 of the Act allows us to charge an additional fee for locating, retrieving, producing, and preparing the records for disclosure. Depending on the nature of your request, there may be additional fees. We'll provide you with an estimate if your request may result in fees.
There's no fee for the first three hours spent locating and retrieving a record, or time spent removing sensitive personal information from a record, unless you are a seeking the information for commercial purposes.
What to do if you aren't satisfied with the response
If you're not satisfied with the response to your request, contact us to address your concerns. You can submit your complaint in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Provide as much detail as you can to help us understand the nature of your complaint. It may take at least five business days to respond.
Sometimes a request for information is subject to exceptions under the Act. If you're not satisfied with our response to your request you may contact the Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia. The Commissioner is an independent Officer of the Legislature of British Columbia who monitors how public bodies respond to your requests for access to information and how they protect the privacy of your personal information.
The Commissioner ensures that your rights under the Act are protected and that disputes are resolved in a fair and unbiased manner.