Access to Information
I want to obtain information about the latest public sector program, how do I make an access request? How long do I have to wait for the information?
You first need to fill out an Access to Information Request Form, found on our website and submit it to the appropriate public body:
- Requests to Provincial Government Institutions: send the request to the appropriate office in the ministry you are seeking information from. For a complete list of access and privacy officers for each provincial government institution please contact the Access and Privacy Branch within the Ministry of Justice at 306-787-5473 or AccessPrivacyJustice@gov.sk.ca.
- Requests to a local authority (i.e. Saskatchewan Health Authority, school divisions, cities, police services or towns): send the request to the head office of each public body so that the request can be forwarded to the appropriate team or individual. If you are still unsure of where to send your request, you may contact our office and we can point you in the right direction.
Please note that access requests do not have to be made on a form. In other words, an access request can be in the form of an email, but must include all of the elements listed on the form.
Once the public body has received your request it has 30 days to respond. If your request is for a large amount of records, or requires a substantial amount of time to process, the public body may extend your request an additional 30 days; you should be provided with notice from the public body of any extension of time needed.
For your information, access to information does not require the public body to answer questions or create new records that do not already exist at the time the access request is made.
For more information on how to submit an Access to Information Request, please click here.
I have asked my doctor for my medical record; they have yet to provide it to me. What should I do?
You can make your request for your medical record verbally. However, if you are having issues receiving your medical record, we recommend making a written request or submitting a formal Access to Information Request Form available on the Forms tab on our website.
If you have made a formal request and it has been 30 days or more without a response, attempt to contact the public body or trustee to whom you made your request. I that is unsuccessful, please contact our office for a follow-up: 306-787-8350 or toll free at 1-877-748-2298.
I am a small public body and I have received my first freedom of information request or privacy complaint ever! Where can I find help?
Receiving your first formal freedom of information request or privacy complaint can be overwhelming. Certainly you may contact our office at 306-787-8350 or 1-877-748-2298 for assistance or by taking a look at some of our Resources available on the Resources tab on our website.
The Access and Privacy Branch of the Ministry of Justice can also help. The Access and Privacy Branch:
- Plays a leadership role on access and privacy in government;
- Provides or supports training and awareness of access and privacy within government and local authorities; and
- Provides privacy and access officers in government and local authorities with tools (e.g. guidelines, checklists, etc.) to help with compliance and consistency.
To learn more about the Access and Privacy Branch contact 306-787-5473 or email AccessPrivacyJustice@gov.sk.ca.
Protection of Privacy
I recently discovered a coworker has been viewing patient records without any need-to-know; who would I report this to?
If you suspect or have proof that a coworker has been viewing patient records without any need-to-know, see what your internal policies and procedures say regarding reporting such incidents. If you are not sure, speak to your supervisor or Privacy Officer to learn the proper procedure. For more information on responding to privacy breaches, please refer to our website: https://oipc.sk.ca/resources/privacy/ under the privacy tab.
I feel my privacy has been breached and I would like your office to look into it because I don't feel that the public body will thoroughly investigate the breach.
The Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner is an office of last resort and our office would not normally become involved with a breach of privacy complaint until the public body first has the opportunity to investigate. Public bodies must comply with the access and privacy legislation to which they are subject. Once the internal investigation is complete, if you are not satisfied with the outcome of the investigation, you may contact our office.
If you would like our office to look into a privacy matter, please include a copy of the written complaint you made to the public body and the response you received from the public body.
I work in the public sector; why is my salary not considered my personal information?
When you work for a public body where your salary is paid with tax-payer dollars, there is a legal responsibility of the public body to make public expenditures more transparent. Under subsection 24(2)(a) of The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) and subsection 23(2)(a) of The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (LA FOIP) “salary” of employees is not considered personal information. For more information on this topic, please refer to our blog “When Salary is Open to Public Scrutiny”.
I work in the public sector and there has been an access request for information which is contained in my work emails. Is it a breach of my privacy to release information from my email?
This is one of those questions that begins with, “that depends”. It depends on the email itself – was it sent from your work email? Who is the email to? What is the content of the email? Review Report 096-2015 and 097-2015 provides very good examples of how emails in possession of a public body are not the property of that public body.
Just because you are emailing your spouse or family members from your work email does not mean that those emails would be considered releasable. If it is an email from one coworker to another, discussing only their weekend plans, that email may not be considered releasable. If the content of emails constitutes work product, no privacy interests are engaged.
To protect yourself, send personal emails form your personal email account and work related emails from your work account.
I am concerned that my family doctor breached my privacy. How do I make a complaint?
If you feel that your personal health information has been breached (improperly collected, used, disclosed or disposed of) by your doctor, first make your complaint in writing to your family doctor as he/she is most likely a trustee of your personal health information under The Health Information Protection Act. Be sure to outline the reason you believe your privacy was breached and include evidence or proof you have that the breach occurred. Keep a copy of the written complaint. You should allow the doctor around 30 days to respond to you.
If you do not receive a response or are not satisfied by the response you receive, forward your concern to the appropriate regulatory body and make a formal complaint using their processes. In the case of a family doctor, that would be The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan. Include, as background information, the original complaint and the response you received from your doctor.
If you are not satisfied with the response you receive from the College, you can then bring your complaint to our office. We will require the complaint to be in writing. We will also ask for the background information you have on the complaint, such as the original complaint made to the doctor and College and any responses you received back.
If you feel the breach was extremely egregious or harmful, you may wish to contact our office first at 306-787-8350 or 1-877-748-2298 to discuss.
I work in a special care home. I am worried about families of my patients secretly taping me at work. Are they allowed to do that?
The laws that this office oversees only apply to organizations and their employees, not individuals. This office does not have the power to force an individual to stop recording or to investigate after the fact.
Nevertheless, if the special care home is a trustee for the purposes of The Health Information Protection Act, it does have a duty to protect the personal health information of those in its care. If family members are making recordings, it may compromise the privacy of its patients. First, discuss the issue with your supervisor who can determine whether the organization is a trustee and can do anything to safeguard personal health information. Also, see our blog Surveillance in Personal Care Homes: A Case Study.
If you can't help me, who can?
Our office is the oversight body for three Saskatchewan laws: The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and The Health Information Protection Act. If you do not have an access or privacy issue that falls under one of those three statutes, there are other oversight bodies available to assist with any other concerns you may be facing:
- Saskatchewan Ombudsman: takes complaints about government services that include decisions/actions, failure to act and a delay in service.
- The Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner: deals with issues, receives disclosures and investigates matters surrounding complaints of wrongdoings made by public servants against his or her employer under The Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA).
- The Provincial Auditor: provides independent assurance and advice on the Government’s management, governance, and effective use of public resources.
- Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada: deals with privacy issues related to the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).
- Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada: investigates complaints about federal institutions’ handling of access requests under the Access to Information Act.
- Health Professional Associations: if you have a concern about a regulated health professional you should contact the appropriate Health Professional Association to learn the appropriate steps for you to take to make a complaint.
I work for a privately owned business in Saskatchewan and my employer is refusing me access to my personnel file.
There is very limited access to information and privacy protection laws in Saskatchewan that extend to employees of private businesses owned and operated in Saskatchewan.
If you work for an employer of a privately owned business that is also listed as a trustee under The Health Information Protection Act (HIPA) your personal health information within your employee file would most likely be protected under HIPA. If you are an employee in federal works, undertakings or businesses in Saskatchewan you may be covered under the federal law, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). To learn more about the application of PIPEDA, read this Fact Sheet, found on the website of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
Unfortunately, these two laws would not apply to the majority of private sector employees. In order for access and privacy laws to apply to employees of the private sector in Saskatchewan, new legislation would need to be enacted to cover private sector employees, as has been done in B.C. and Alberta.
You may wish to contact the Human Resources area of your company to see if there are any written policies in place for access to your personnel or employee file. In addition, you can learn more about employee rights in Saskatchewan by clicking here.
Do the police fall under access and privacy legislation?
In 2017, amendments were made to The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. One of these amendments brought police services in Saskatchewan under this access and privacy legislation. The amendments were in force on January 1, 2018.
If you would like information about how to access information or make a privacy complaint about a police service, it is no different than the process for any other local authorities. Please click here for our resource on the access to information process and here for the privacy complaint process.
Please note, the RCMP is subject to the federal Access to Information Act and Privacy Act. Please visit the RCMP’s Access to Information and Privacy Branch website to learn more. The oversight bodies for the federal legislation are the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
I work with a private organization that is not engaged in commercial activity. As such, we are not covered by any federal privacy statutes or any of the statutes that the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner oversees. What are some best practices to follow in relation to the collection, use and disclosure of member information?
Our office receives this question frequently when it comes time to establish member directories, emergency contact lists for parents, etc. The first step is to ensure the individuals who will be involved understand what information of theirs is being collected, why it is being collected, and how it will be used/disclosed. Examples of information include an individual’s name, telephone number, address and even photographs. Once they understand this, written consent should be obtained as to what information of theirs, if any, they are comfortable having disclosed. If an individual is a child, their parent or legal guardian can provide or decline consent on their behalf. Common methods of gathering consent include forms which update contact information that indicate what information may be disclosed, why it is being disclosed, where it will be disclosed and for how long. Lastly, ensure that individuals are able to opt out of having their information disclosed, and ensure you have a person who is responsible for addressing privacy concerns and correcting/removing information.