Citizen Tools

How to file a Freedom of Information request

Did you know that you have the right to access the records of any public body in British Columbia? There are some exceptions, but B.C.‘s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act is a key tool for learning about how government decisions are made. The Q&A below is taken directly from the government website of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

How do I request access to information or my personal information?

Write to the information and privacy office of the public body that you think has the records you want. Describe the records as clearly and completely as possible and request access to them. Click here to go to the government website to request a form you may use to request access to information.

Is there a time limit for a public body to respond to my request?

Normally, a public body must respond to your request within 30 days. If a public body needs additional time to respond, it must tell you so and explain why. It also must tell you when you can expect its full response. You have the right to complain to us about a public body’s extension of time.

What kind of response can I expect?

If a public body does not have the records you requested, it will tell you and may transfer or refer your request to the public body that does. If a public body does have the records you requested, it may release all or parts of them to you. If a public body refuses to release all or parts of records to you, it must tell you why. It also must tell you that you have the right to request a review of its decision by the Information and Privacy Commissioner within 30 working days. Contact the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner to find our how to request a review by emailing info@oipc.bc.ca or calling (250) 387-5629.

Does it cost money to request records?

A public body cannot charge you for access to your own personal information. It may, however, charge you for access to non-personal information if it takes more than three hours to find or prepare the records for release. It also may charge you for the cost of copying and sending records to you. If a public body intends to charge a fee for records, it must first give you a fee estimate. It also has the authority to excuse a fee. If you want a fee waived, you have to ask the public body and should give reasons why. You have the right to complain to the Information and Privacy Commissioner about a fee.