DISTRICT HALL FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the “Act”) helps promote good municipal government by balancing the following principles:
Freedom of Information (FOI):
- The public has the right to access government information.
- Whenever possible, information held by the District of Kent should be available to the public.
Protection of Privacy (POP):
- Individuals have the right to have their personal information protected.
- The District of Kent should not improperly collect or disclose personal information.
Frequently asked questions about information requests:
- What information can I request?
- How do I make a request?
- Is there a fee to process my request?
- How will the District respond to my request?
- How long does the request process take?
- Will I get everything that I ask for?
- How is my personal information protected?
1. What information can I request?
The Act applies to all records (i.e. all recorded information) that are under the custody or control of a public body. The Act defines records as follows:
“record” includes books, documents, maps, drawings, photographs, letters, vouchers, papers and any other thing on which information is recorded or stored by graphic, electronic, mechanical or other means, but does not include a computer program or any other mechanism that produces records;
It is important to note that the Act covers access to records, and the information contained therein. It is NOT the intention of the Act that staff undertake compiled and summarized research in order to answer specific questions. Applicants are expected to conduct their own research from any records received from the District.
2. How do I make a request?
There are two ways to request information from the District of Kent:
Informal Request via Routine Channels:
Since the majority of all of the District ’s information is available through routine channels, you should always start by making an informal request. To do this, contact the department that you think might have the information you are looking for.
Formal FOI Requests:
If the information you are seeking is not available through routine channels, then you may make a FOI request for records containing the information.
Unlike routine requests, formal FOI requests must be made in writing. Your request must provide sufficient detail to assist staff in locating and retrieving the records. You must also indicate whether you want to receive copies of the records or to view the records in person.
You may use our FOI Application Form , although it is not required to make a formal request. You may deliver, mail, fax or e-mail your FOI request to:
Information and Privacy Coordinator
7170 Cheam Ave,
Agassiz, BC, V0M 1A0
3. Is there a fee to process my request?
When you make an informal request for information, the department that has the information may charge you a fee to cover its costs in processing your request. Departments charge in accordance with our Fees and Charges Bylaw No. 1492.
Formal FOI Requests:
We may charge you fees to cover the cost of processing your FOI request. We will not charge you fees for access to your own personal information or for the first three hours spent searching for and retrieving the records.
If we are going to charge you any fees, we will send you a fee estimate before processing your request. We may also require you to provide us with a deposit.
Our fees are charged in accordance with our Freedom of Information Bylaw No. 1071 (Amendments: Bylaw 1090, Bylaw 1187) and the Schedule of Maximum Fees as established by British Columbia Regulation 155/2012.
For example, the following fees apply for non-commercial applicants (i.e. private individuals):
- $7.50 per ¼ hour ($30/hour) after the first 3 hours spent locating, retrieving and producing the requested records;
- $7.50 per ¼ hour ($30/hour) to prepare records for disclosure (includes the time spent photocopying and reassembling files)
- $0.25 per page of regular photocopies provided; and
- Shipping and handling charges (method chosen by applicant)
To help reduce fees and to minimize taxpayer expense, please narrow the scope of your request as much as possible. Also, you should try to specify a date range as our records date back more than a century!
4. How will the District respond to my request?
When you make an informal request, the department you approach will respond to you as quickly as possible. Depending on the kind of information you are requesting, you may be able to get an answer over the phone.
The Act requires us to respond to your FOI request within 30 business days of receiving it, although we will respond sooner if possible. If your request is especially complicated, we may extend our response time by an additional 30 business days.
The Act allows us to withhold information if release would be an invasion of privacy or cause harm by one of the means listed in the Act, such as harming a law enforcement investigation or threatening anyone’s health or safety. If the District withholds any information, we will tell you which section or sections of the Act were used in making this decision.
If we deny you access to any record or part of a record, you have the right to ask for a review by the British Columbia Information and Privacy Commissioner, an officer of the legislature who is independent of the government. A decision of the Commissioner is final, subject to certain limited judicial reviews.
5. How long does it take to process the request?
The Act requires that we respond to your request within 30 business days of our receipt of your request. We will make every effort to make the records available to you sooner, if possible.
If your request is broad in scope, or if a large volume of records respond to your request, we may extend the time limit for responding under Section 10 of the Act for an additional 30 business days. For particularly large and difficult requests, we may apply to the British Columbia Information and Privacy Commissioner for an additional time extension.
The majority of requests are processed within 30 business days of us receiving your request.
6. Will I get everything that I ask for?
Depending on what you ask for, you may not get access to all information contained within the records that respond to your request.
The Act includes several specific exemptions to disclosure, which means that, by law, certain types of records and information is to be protected and not made available to the public. Some exemptions are mandatory while others are exercised at the discretion of the Information and Privacy Coordinator(as defined in our Freedom of Information Bylaw No. 1071 based on the relevant circumstances surrounding the request.
For example, reasons for refusing access to information held by the District of Kent are generally related to the protection of:
- personal privacy;
- businesses trade secrets or unit pricing;
- solicitor-client privilege;
- deliberations of Council and Council Committees that are authorized to be held in the absence of the public (i.e. Closed or “in camera” meetings);
- policy advice, staff recommendations or draft regulations not yet made public;
- information that may harm a law enforcement matter (this includes bylaw enforcement matters);
- information that may harm the financial interests of the District or other public body.
If you do not get access to all information you requested, you will be advised of the reasons for the refusal and the provision(s) of the Act on which the refusal is based. If you are not satisfied with how the District responds to your FOI request, you have the right to ask the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia to review the District ’s response.
7. How is my personal information protected?
The Act protects personal privacy by restricting the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. Please note that personal privacy rights extend only to private individuals; not businesses, societies, corporations, etc.
When an individual makes an FOI request to the District of Kent, their personal information is protected and is not made public.
We only collect personal information when we have the clear authority to do so, or when the collection is related directly to and is necessary for an operating program. When we are collecting personal information, we must do so directly from you, unless we have legal authority to collect the information from another source. These rules apply even if the personal information is held by another government body.
Use and Disclosure:
The personal information must only be used for the purpose it was collected or for a use consistent with the reason it was collected. We may also use or disclose personal information in other ways, but only if we have legal authority to do so. We have security arrangements to protect personal information from unauthorized use or disclosure.
For example, if you make a bylaw enforcement complaint, we ask for your personal information (name, address, telephone number) in order for us to keep you informed of our handling of your complaint. As a complainant, your personal information is protected and is not made public. The only time that your identity as a complainant would be disclosed to another public body is to comply with Court proceedings.
For more information, contact:
Information and Privacy Coordinator
7170 Cheam Ave,
Agassiz, BC, V0M 1A0