Discussion #1: Welcome



Thank you for visiting B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA) review website.
There are many different perspectives on Freedom of Information (FOI) and Privacy. We want to hear from people and organizations across our Province who have an interest in access to information and privacy and have thoughts to share on how to make change.

This is the first time that government has directly engaged British Columbians in a discussion about potential improvements to the rules that govern both FOI and the protection of your personal information.
We hope you’ll take the time to explore the site and share your thoughts. You’ll be able to read submissions from others about changes they would like to see, as well as blog posts that will focus on what we know are some of the key issues. You can participate by commenting on the blog, or by writing down your own ideas and submitting them.
Maybe your idea is about the information we make available online, or maybe it’s about the FOI process. Maybe your idea is about FOIPPA and a way to improve the rules that are set out in it. This is your chance to join the discussion.

The website will be live until April 9, 2018. Then we’ll use all the ideas we gathered to inform a report on recommended improvements.
Government is the steward of important information that belongs to British Columbians. That information can be used to support public transparency and accountability, provide effective service delivery, and preserve the historical record of the Province.
It’s important to recognize that some of that information is your personal information. And we need to make sure we protect it.

Thanks for participating. We look forward to hearing from you about how we can make real improvements that will strike the right balance between making information available so that you can engage with government on topics that interest you, and ensuring that we protect your personal information.

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21 responses to “Discussion #1: Welcome

    User avatar
    [-] Bob

    My initial comment is this. Why further delay needed reforms, when, as opposition, the NDP tabled a suite of democratic reform private members’ bills? All were rejected by the BC Liberal government. Why waste any more time? Dust-off those private members’ bills, table them as government bills and fulfil your promise to make B.C. better. To refresh your memory, Minister Sims, here is the link to those private members’ bills -> http://bcndpcaucus.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2017/02/Backgrounder-Democratic-reform-suite.pdf

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    [-] Bob

    On April 27, 2017, the B.C. NDP responded to the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association’s election questionnaire. (The link to the NDP response is at bottom.) Below are key questions posed by FIPA and the corresponding NDP responses (edited for brevity).
    Why delay long overdue FOI reforms, when you have already made promises?

    Q: Do you accept the April 2017 report of the Ombudsperson into the firings at the Ministry of Health, and will you bring in whistleblower protection legislation by March 2018 as recommended?
    A: Yes.

    Q: Will your government support the creation of penalties against those who interfere with information rights?
    A: Yes.

    Q: Will your government act on the Commissioner’s recommendations to put a “duty to document” in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act?
    A: Yes.

    Q: In 2017, the Special Legislative Committee reviewing FIPPA repeated the recommendation from the 2010 Committee that subsidiaries created by educational public bodies like colleges and universities should be made subject to the Act. Will your government make this change and if not, why?
    A: We support the Act being expanded to capture subsidiaries created by public bodies and will consult with affected organizations.

    Q: The BC government now posts the texts of Freedom of Information requests it receives even before releasing any information the requester. This practice has been criticized by FIPA and many others as measure that can intimidate requesters while providing no additional transparency on government operations.
    A. Do you agree with this policy, and if so, why?
    No.
    B. If not, will your government end this practice?
    Yes.

    https://fipa.bc.ca/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/BC-NDP-Response.pdf

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    User avatar
    [-] A.

    Municipalities as well hold back studies and information that belongs to the public. If not released quickly to public, ever more advantage naturally accrues to insiders who can potentially profit from advance knowledge. Default should be, if a public institution, its public info, with as few, only truly necessary exceptions as possible.

    I think the news media will still find plenty of shocking information in just helping the public understand the ramifications of releases. And please keep growing real investigative reporting wherever it takes you.

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    [-] Dylan

    Thanks for creating this opportunity to for the public to comment on this critical issue.

    I think this consultation provides a tremendous opportunity to finally rid the Act of the ineffectual and counterproductive data residency requirement (FIPPA section 30.1). On its surface, the requirement might seem to protect Canadian residents against the boogeymen of Homeland Security and the Patriot Act; however, most information security experts will tell that’s just not how the internet works and locating servers in Canada provides almost no protection (in and of itself) against foreign governments accessing our residents’ data.

    The data residency requirement is not benign either – it creates a situation in which large multinational IM/IT companies that can source access to Canadian server farms (primarily located outside of British Columbia) are able to compete on government contracts, while smaller British Columbian companies are locked out because of their dependence on U.S. cloud-based services (primarily the ubiquitous Amazon Web Services cloud). British Columbian taxpayers also pay an extra premium on all government IM/IT contracts because of data residency requirements, without meaningful extra protections as a result.

    Higher costs for taxpayers, local companies locked out of government procurement, and no meaningful privacy protections for our residents – the data residency requirement should be considered for repeal.

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    [-] Mike

    Completely agree with this. One of the fundamental barriers to maximizing productivity based technologies is the archaic restriction on using services that have international servers. Products from Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are critical to modern workplace efficiency and FOIPPA is an outright barrier. This aspect of FOIPPA should be aligned with PIPA.

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    [-] Adrian

    I support retaining the data residency requirements. The US PATRIOT Act (and successors) give so many rights to government, including access to all data held by US-based corporations, that I would not trust our government to hold the data securely if a strong residency requirement is not retained.

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    [-] John

    We used to be world leaders in FOI legislation and practices; now we are an embarrassing backwater of delays and inflated costs.

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    [-] Chris

    As an experienced archivist I find the access rules and fees with regards to research on individual surveys and land titles to be problematic. In researching an 1880’s land survey of an individual land title within a block where the original posts have long since disappeared, the modern title holder is expected to hire a professional researcher, a lawyer or surveyor for a fee to research the early surveys and land titles. Pre 1921 the Lands Office has Absolute Fee Books (AFB) which record individual titles which are presently not indexed and not accessible except perhaps by a researcher at great expense to the individual property owner. (Land Titles staff do not even acknowledge that these books exist.) Furthermore, where highways were involved in expropriating land all pre 1960’s records have been removed from records and it difficult to access records through FOIPIP unless you can find the record series numbers at the B.C. Archives. As an archivist and researcher I was able to access the historical surveys under a special arrangement and get copies for a fee. But I was not able to access the AFB for our lot. A modern survey had changed boundary of our lot resulting a loss or 1/3 of the property and situation where a neighbour asked us to move our house. We tried to find the evidence that the survey was mistaken but without on the ground evidence we could not convince the LTSA about the location of the original boundary. The only way to do that would have been to access the AFB which are only now going to begin to be digitized in 2018. It took more than 2 years to access the Highway records. These also did not provide the evidence we needed. In the end we were forced to negotiate an easement with the neighbour costing us about $5,000 and decided to sell the house. As an archivist I think access to the early public records in Highways and the LTSA should be free and that they should have to have a knowledgeable archivists to service these records.

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    [-] Ryan

    Hi,
    I have had a very hard time obtaining any information from public bodies in BC using these laws, which seem almost designed to assist in avoiding being legally forced to disclose documents through broad interpretation of the acts, while appearing on first glance to be the opposite. I volunteer my case for the government to use to audit the entire system of seeking disclosure and information from a public body, as it demonstrates the many pitfalls of the system and legislation as they are.

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    [-] Ian

    I believe that all information that the government creates or uses is the property of the people of British Columbia. It is financed from our taxes and it should be our right to see everything that the government generates.

    The current level of secrecy allows special interests to operate in secret and permits corruption to go unpunished.

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    [-] Patricia

    I support the CCPA-BC’s submission.

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    [-] Lars

    Open and transparent governments are the only hope for Citizens to actually “make a difference” in OUR World of Today. So form this Legislation with “making a difference” uppermost in your Minds, and don’t cheapen IT with political stagecraft.

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    [-] Glen

    Start living up to the issue of FREEDOM of information-the whole government concept is an absolute joke.

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    [-] Mike

    A portion of my work involves managing litigation in front of administrative tribunals (labour arbitration, the Labour Relations Board, and the Human Rights Tribunal). On occasion, FOIPPA has been used to end-run the litigation disclosure process which interferes with the ability to resolve disputes. Parties to litigation should not be able to use privacy legislation for disclosure purposes.

    FOIPPA should be amended such that it does not apply to a live matter before a court or administrative tribunal. Once adjudicated or settled, no such restriction should exist, but FOIPPA should not be available to be used as an obstructionist tool to parties in litigation.

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    [-] Ellen

    I would like to see the NDP stand by their pre-election committments to:

    Include “duty to document” in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
    Create penalties for those who interfere with information rights.

    Create a duty to investigate instances of unauthorized destruction of government information and remove legal immunity from officials who fail to disclose documents, making contraventions of the act an offence subject to punitive fines

    Place limitations on the use of Section 13, which allows government to refuse to release anything it considers policy advice.

    Make the use of Section 12 of the legislation, which now requires government to refuse to release anything that might reveal cabinet discussions, “including any advice, recommendations, policy considerations or draft legislation or regulations” discretionary. This is already done in Nova Scotia.

    Extend coverage of the legislation to capture subsidiaries created by public bodies.
    Amend Section 25 (public interest override) of the legislation to remove the requirement of “urgent circumstances” before disclosure of information which is clearly in the public interest.
    Require mandatory notification of data breaches.

    End the practice of posting the texts of Freedom of Information requests it receives even before releasing any information to the requester.

    Ensure the retention of B.C.’s domestic data storage requirements in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

    Require that private corporations delivering public services to be subject to Freedom of Information legislation.

    Reduce costs and delays in using FOI.

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    [-] Chris

    The person should hold the highest value of privacy, any data collected off a person should not be used without consent and payment.
    Goverment should have No privacy, you are public empolyees and need to be held accountable to insure private interest do not get involved
    Business are not people and their books should be open too, they are operating in public domain

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    [-] Gisela

    I wholeheartedly support the excellent recommendations of the CCPA. I hope that this government will take bold action to restore public faith in the transparency of government–it is sorely needed.

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    [-] M.E.

    Hello,
    I am writing to the committee in support of the 21 well-considered recommendations submitted by the CCPA. Access to information supports the public accountability of our governments, and is therefore fundamental to democracy. I urge the committee to take steps to ensure British Columbia has a robust democratic foundation as regards Information Access and Privacy. For that reason I support the 21 recommendations of the CCPA:

    Recommendation 1 Add to Part 2 of FIPPA a duty for public bodies to document key actions and decisions based on the definition of “government information” in the Information Management Act
    Recommendation 2 In the event that a public body fails to meet legislative timelines any fees connected to the request should be waived with the funds immediately returned to the requester if funds have been paid.
    Recommendation 3 The Committee should recommend penalties of $500 per day for failing to meet the obligations of section 7. These penalties would commence when a public body was in breach of timelines for five days. Revenues obtained from this penalty should be directed to the Office of the Information Commissioner to assist the office in dealing with backlogs. Heads of public bodies should also receive financial penalties for failing to carry out their duties in compliance with the legislation
    Recommendation 4 The Committee should endorse the recommendation of the Information and Privacy Commissioner that Government define and implement steps to eliminate the backlog of access to information requests and, in the forthcoming budget cycle, give priority to providing more resources to dealing with the greatly increased volume of access requests.
    Recommendation 5 The BC Legislature should be encouraged to provide additional resources to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner to reduce the backlog of reviews in her office.
    Recommendation 6 The Committee should endorse the recommendation of the Information and Privacy Commissioner that the minister responsible for FIPPA should develop a system to proactively disclose calendar information of ministers, deputy ministers, assistant deputy ministers as well as certain other staff whose calendars are routinely subject to FOI requests. This release should, at a minimum, contain the names of participants, the subject and date of meetings and be published on a monthly basis.
    Recommendation 7 The timeline for response to requests should be reduced from 30 working days to 20 working days
    Recommendation 8 Section 10 should be amended so that the public body must not only inform the applicant of a decision to take an extension, they must inform the applicant at the time the extension is taken and provide reasons for the extension.

    Recommendation 9 Section 10 should be amended to require that a public body making application for an extension under section 10(2) make the application at least seven business days before the expiry of the time limit under section 7(1) and that a copy of this request must be provided to the applicant at the time the application for extension is made. The Commissioner’s response to such a request should also be provided to the applicant.

    Recommendation 10 The BC Government should adopt the discretionary standard for release of information covered by Cabinet confidentiality used in the Nova Scotia legislation.

    Recommendation 11 The BC government should adopt the standard of 10 years for the release of information covered by Cabinet confidentiality rather than the current standard of 15 years.

    Recommendation 12
    The recommendations from the 2004 Committee remain valid today and we urge the current Committee to repeat the following items: Recommendation No. 11 — Amend section 13(1) to clarify the following: (a) “advice” and “recommendations” are similar terms often used interchangeably that set out suggested actions for acceptance or rejection during a deliberative process, (b) the “advice” or “recommendations” exception is not available for the facts upon which advised or recommended action is based; or for factual, investigative or background material; or for the assessment or analysis of such material; or for professional or technical opinions and, Recommendation No. 12 — Amend section 13(2) to require the head of a public body to release on a routine and timely basis the information listed in paragraphs (a) to (n) to the public.
    Recommendation 13 The Committee should recommend that section 13(3) be amended to reduce the time limit on section 13(1) from ten to five years.
    Recommendation 14 Public bodies change the manner in which briefing books are assembled, so that policy advice and Cabinet confidences are easily separable from factual information.
    Recommendation 15 Government should increase the hours of free search time under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act with consideration being given to adopting the standard now current in legislation in Newfoundland and Labrador
    Recommendation 16 The Committee should recommend amendments to the legislation waiving fees where more than 20% of the material provided is blanked out
    Recommendation 17 Section 10 should be amended to require that fees be waived in cases where the public body has failed to meet timelines under the legislation.
    Recommendation 18 The Committee should recommend creation of an expedited process in which the Commissioner could make a ruling as to whether or not fees should be waived. This would eliminate the possibility of fee demands being made solely to delay the process.
    Recommendation 19 Add to Schedule 1 of the legislation private bodies paid by a public body to exercise functions of a public nature or to provide services which are the function of a public body. The application of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act would only apply to those public functions provided by the private company and paid for by a public body.
    Recommendation 20 In Schedule 1 the definition of “educational body,” “health care body,” “local government public body” and “public body” should be changed to include similar provisions for the treatment of bodies created, owned or controlled by the public body. The provision should be expanded from the definition currently in “local government public body” so that the legislation covers “any board, committee, commission, panel, agency or corporation that is created, controlled or owned by a public body or group of public bodies.”
    Recommendation 21 The section of the legislation requiring public bodies to store personal information in their custody or control in Canada subject to existing exceptions should not be changed.

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    [-] Judith

    Without transparency, true democracy is not only improbable, it is impossible. It is therefore critical that the legislation be amended in accordance with the exhaustive recommendations already long proposed. The unconscionable delays and prohibitive costs that have previously and routinely confounded ordinary citizens attempting to access information that rightfully belongs to all of us as citizens must be addressed immediately. This gaping structural inequality affects how effectively we can be an informed electorate, holding our legislators to account for their decisions on policy and governance that daily affect our lives.

    I would endorse the submission from CCPA- BC, as well as the entirely of the exhaustive and compelling presentation by Mr. Stanley Tromp, with particular emphasis on the following key points…

    “The Act needs to be amended to clarify and emphasize that Section 13 cannot be applied for facts and analysis, only for genuine advice. The section also requires a harms test, wherein a policy advice record can be withheld only if disclosing it could cause “serious” or “significant” harm to the deliberative process. The best models can be found in the FOI laws of South Africa (Sec. 44), and the United Kingdom (Sec. 36).
    The second problem is that public bodies – such as UBC and BC Hydro – have been creating wholly-owned and controlled puppet shell companies to perform many of their functions, and manage billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money, whilst claiming these companies are not covered by FOI laws because they are private and independent – a form of “information laundering.”
    The Act needs amendment to state that the its coverage extends to any institution that is controlled by a public body; or performs a public function, and/or is vested with public powers; or has a majority of its board members appointed by it; or is 50 percent or more publicly funded; or is 50 percent or more publicly owned. This includes public foundations and all crown corporations and all their subsidiaries.
    The third problem is that of “oral government” – whereby government officials do not create or preserve records of their decisions, actions or policy development because they do not wish such records to be publicized through the FOI process.
    The case of the triple deletion of emails related to the missing women on the Highway of Tears was expertly analyzed in the report Access Denied in 2015 by the B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham. Then former Commissioner David Loukidelis thoroughly reviewed the matter in a new report, with exemplary recommendations for future record best practices – all of which should be implemented.
    The B.C. FOIPP Act should be amended to add a duty for public bodies to document key actions and decisions based on the definition of “government information” found in the Information Management Act.”

    Please, at long last, just fix this.

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    [-] Elizabeth

    I want to see more timely and less reluctant release of information by the BC government upon request. I’d also like to see an end to the destruction of documents that have or may be requested. That is behavior worthy of a dictatorship, not BC.

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    [-] Stanley

    This is Stanley Tromp, BC FOI advocate and journalist for 20 years. You can view my report on the BC law, “The Vanishing Record,” with my 67 recommendations for reform, at my FOI website – http://www3.telus.net/index100/foi

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