Freedom of Information

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Responsive Records

The British Columbia Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act Globe (the Act) helps promote good city government by balancing the following principles:

  • Freedom of Information (FOI): Whenever possible, information held by the City of Vancouver should be available to the public.
  • Protection of Privacy: The City of Vancouver should not improperly collect or disclose personal information.

View procedure for access to information

Freedom of information requests

You have the right to request any record in the custody or control of the City of Vancouver. Please read our frequently asked questions on how to make a freedom of information request to the City. You will also find information on how the City protects your privacy.

The City's processes all FOI requests in a consistent manner. View General Procedure for City of Vancouver Access to Information Requests under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act of British Columbia.

Frequently asked questions

  1. What kinds of information can I request?
  2. How do I make a request?
  3. Is there a fee to process my FOI request?
  4. How will the City respond to my request?
  5. What is personal information?
  6. How do I request access to my personal information?
  7. Is my personal information protected?
  8. What if I think the City has incorrect information about me?
  9. What is a Personal Information Bank?
  10. What is a Personal Information Bank Directory?
  11. Where can I get more information about the Act?

1. What kinds of information can I request?

You have the right to request any record in the custody or control of the City of Vancouver. The City does not process requests for the following public bodies:

  • Metro Vancouver/ Greater Vancouver Regional District (604.432.6338)
  • Vancouver Board of Variance (604.873.7723)
  • Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (604.708.5338)
  • Vancouver Police Department (604.717.3071)
  • Vancouver Public Library (604.331.4000)
  • Vancouver School Board (604.713.5004)

To request records from the organizations above, you must contact them directly.

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2. How do I make a request?

Informal requests:

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.

View City government directory

FOI requests:

You may make an FOI request for records containing the information you requested if you are told it is not routinely available by the department. Your FOI request must be made in writing (e-mails are acceptable) and must specify whether you want to receive copies of the records or to view the records in person.

If you wish, you may use our FOI Application Form PDF (59 kb).

You may deliver, mail, fax or e-mail your FOI request to the following address:

Corporate Information and Privacy Office
City Clerk's Office
453 West 12th Avenue
Vancouver BC V5Y 1V4

Tel: 604.873.7275
Fax: 604.873.7419

E-mail: foi@vancouver.ca

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3. Is there a fee to process my FOI request?

Informal requests:

When you make an informal request for information, the department that has this information may charge you a fee to cover its costs in processing your request. Each department is responsible for setting its own fees.

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 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 send us a deposit.

Our fees are set out in the Schedule of Maximum Fees in our Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy By-law PDF. They include the following for non-commercial applicants:

$7.50 per 1/4 hour ($30/hour) spent locating, retrieving and producing the records

$0.25 per regular photocopy

To reduce fees and to minimize taxpayer expense, please narrow your request as much as possible. If possible, let us know what department has the records you are requesting. Also, please try to specify a date range -- keep in mind that our records go back more than a century!

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4. How will the City respond to my request?

Informal requests:

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.

FOI requests:

The Act requires us to respond to your FOI request within 30 days of receiving it (we may extend this time if your request is especially complicated). The Act allows us to withhold information if the 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 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 judicial review.

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5. What is personal information?

Personal information is defined as any information about an identifiable individual, including their name. Examples of personal information include (but are not limited to): address, phone number, Social Insurance Number, driver's license number, health information, employment history, educational background, financial status, opinions expressed by a person, political affiliation, religion, etc.

An exception to this is the work contact information for public employees, including City staff. A list consisting of names of City employees and their work phone numbers would not be considered personal information. However, a list of City employees and their home phone numbers would be considered personal information, because this information is not relevant to contacting them at work.

The City collects personal information only if it is required to do so by law, if the collection is necessary as part of a law enforcement activity, or if the collection of the personal information is necessary to the operation of a mandated City activity or program. The legal authority for collecting the personal information is outlined in Section 26 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, [RSBC 1996] Chapter 165.

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6. How do I request access to my personal information?

The City of Vancouver does not have one big file for each person. If we have your personal information, it may be contained in a number of different files or databases. If you believe that we have personal information about you, you should contact the department where you think this personal information is located and ask for that information. To minimize taxpayer expense, please specify what kind of information you are requesting. You should not make an FOI request for your personal information unless you are unable to get what you need through informal channels.

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7. Is my personal information protected?

The Act protects personal privacy by restricting the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. Please note that only private individuals have personal privacy rights; businesses or other organizations do not.

Collection:

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 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, we will usually disclose copies of any letters you send to the City after removing your name, address, telephone number and any information that may reasonably be used to identify you. We will make an exception to this rule when we deem that releasing your name and address would not be an unreasonable invasion of your privacy. For example, we will usually release your name and address if you sent a copy of your letter to Mayor and Council, or to any person or organization outside of the City.

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8. What if I think the City has incorrect information about me?

If you believe there is an error or omission in your personal information, you have the right to ask us to correct it. We will carefully consider your request and respond to you as soon as possible.

For more information, contact:
Corporate Information and Privacy Office
City Clerk's Office
453 West 12th Avenue
Vancouver BC V5Y 1V4

Tel: 604.873.7275
Fax: 604.873.7419

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9. What is a Personal Information Bank?

A Personal Information Bank (PIB) is any collection of personal information that is either organized or retrievable by a name, identity number, or any other unique identifier assigned to an individual. Not all collections of personal information qualify as PIB's. In order to be considered a PIB, the information must either be organized or retrievable by names or other unique identifiers. Some examples:

Example 1:

A collection of correspondence received from the public, filed alphabetically by the sender's name, would be considered a PIB because:

  • The collection contains personal information: senders' names and addresses, and possibly other personal information.
  • The collection is organized by personal identifier - the senders' names.

If the same set of correspondence was filed chronologically by the date received, it would not be a PIB, because the letters are ordered by date, not by a personal identifier. Nor could someone readily retrieve a letter by the name of the sender. To do this, they would have to leaf through each piece of correspondence until they found the name they were looking for.

Example 2:

A list of property owners that is ordered by property address would not be considered a PIB because a property address is not a unique identifier assigned to an individual.

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10. What is the PIB Directory?

Under the Act, the City is required to create and publish a directory of all its Personal Information Banks (PIB's). The purpose of the directory is to promote transparency and accountability in the way government collects, uses and discloses the personal information of its citizens by describing why personal information is collected, how it is used, and who it is shared with.

Pursuant to Section 69(6) of the Act, a PIB directory must include the following information about each PIB:

(a) its title and location;
(b) a description of the kind of personal information and the categories of individuals whose personal information is included;
(c) the authority for collecting the personal information;
(d) the purposes for which the personal information was obtained or compiled and the purposes for which it is used or disclosed;
(e) the categories of persons who use the personal information or to whom it is disclosed.

Access the City of Vancouver's PIB Directory PDF (342 kb)

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11. Where can I get more information about the Act?

The following are some of the most useful sources of information:

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) is responsible for enforcing the Act by reviewing the decisions and other actions of public bodies.

The Provincial Knowledge and Information Services Branch. This branch maintains cross-government policy and procedures, standards and guidelines on access to information and protection of privacy; and provides support to public bodies to assist them in complying with the Act.

Finally, questions about how the City administers its obligations under the Act may be directed to:

Corporate Information and Privacy Office
City Clerk's Office
453 West 12th Avenue
Vancouver BC V5Y 1V4

Tel: 604.873.7275
Fax: 604.873.7419

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