The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the Act) promotes two general principles:
- Freedom of Information - which is the idea that people ought to have access to records held by public bodies (with a few limited exceptions); and
- Protection of Privacy - which is the idea that a person has the right to expect that information about oneself will not be collected, used or disclosed without their consent.
These concepts are described in further detail below.
Freedom of Information
What is FOI?
In accordance with the Act, any person (or organization/entity) may request access to records held by the City of Coquitlam. An applicant may only request access to records that are within the City’s custody and/or control. The Act also provides an appeal procedure involving an independent (British Columbia) Information and Privacy Commissioner should the applicant believe that the response the City has provided is incomplete or incorrect.
The general right of access to records is restricted by certain specified and limited exceptions. For example, an applicant will not gain access to someone else's personal information without their permission or information which would harm third party business interests.
What is not an FOI?
The majority of records held by the City of Coquitlam can be accessed without a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. Prior to initiating a formal FOI request you should contact the appropriate Department to ask whether the record you are seeking is available through a routine request. For example, front line staff, the City website, and various City publications provide a variety of public information. Examples of the types of documents that are available through routine requests are agendas, minutes, bylaws, property related information, publications, policies and procedures.
It is also important to note that the FOI process is not a method to request that City staff research a particular topic. The City does not have researchers on stand-by and any requests for the production of a significant amount of records, or involving a significant amount of staff time, will likely result in the City providing you with a quote for services and requesting a deposit prior to any work being completed.
The only requests for records that will be put through the FOI process are those that may involve sensitive or confidential information. Requests for all other types of records will be referred to the appropriate Department for response.
The City can also only process requests for records that are under our control. For example, requests for policing records must be made directly to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
How do I make an FOI request?
All FOI requests must be made in writing and provide sufficient detail to assist staff in locating/retrieving the records sought. You may use the standard Freedom of Information Request Form or you may submit your request in your own format (with the required information). To ensure your request is processed without delay please submit it to the attention of the City Clerk’s Office. Requests can be submitted in the following manner:
- By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- By Standard Mail: 3000 Guildford Way, Coquitlam, BC V3B 7N2
- By Fax: 604-927-3015
- In person: City Clerk’s Office – 2nd Floor - 3000 Guildford Way, Coquitlam, BC V3B 7N2
Section 75 of the Act provides that the City may charge a fee for certain limited costs of providing applicants with records. If there are costs involved in processing a formal request, the applicant will be provided with a fee estimate before the application is fully processed.
To determine if a formal request is required consult with the appropriate City Department directly or email email@example.com.
Protection of Privacy
In the most basic form, privacy is an individual’s right to live without being observed or disturbed by others. In modern society, privacy also covers what is called informational privacy. Informational privacy is the idea that a person has the right to expect that information about oneself will not be collected without their consent, or without them voluntarily disclosing the information.
Protection of Privacy is one of the key concepts underlying Fair Information Practices. These practices guide public bodies like the City of Coquitlam in determining what personal information should be collected, how the information can be used and to whom the information should be disclosed or shared.
The ‘Protection of Privacy’ regulations contained in the Act hold the City to very strict standards around the collection, storage, use and disclosure of personal information. Should you have any concerns regarding the City’s collection of information and your privacy please contact the City Clerk’s Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
City Clerks Office