Access to Information FAQ
What kinds of information can I request from a provincial government institution or local authority?
You can request access to any records in the possession or under the control of a provincial government institution or local authority. Both The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) and The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (LA FOIP) define a “record” as, “… a record of information in any form and includes information that is written, photographed, recorded or stored in any manner…” Although this list is non-exhaustive, a record can include emails, paper records, draft and final reports, handwritten meeting notes, information written on a sticky note, pictures, video and tape recordings … and the list goes on.
Someone has filed an access to information request with a government institution seeking information about a business that I own or operate. The government institution has refused to disclose the information, but the requester has filed a request for a review with the IPC. Do I have a right to participate in the review?
When your business is affected by a review conducted by the IPC, you have a right to participate in the review. Your business will receive a notice from this office asking you to indicate if you consent to the release of the information. If you do not consent to the release, you will be invited to provide a submission setting out your views as to whether the information should be released to the requester. For further information, see What to Expect During a Review with the IPC and A Guide to Submissions.
Who can make an access request to a provincial government institution or local authority?
Under The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) and The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (LA FOIP) any person may make an access request. Those who make an access request under FOIP and LA FOIP are considered an applicant. The definition of applicant in both statutes does not restrict who can make a request – in other words it does not matter if you are a citizen of Saskatchewan, Canada, or another country, you can make a request for records in the possession or under the control of a provincial government institution or local authority.
Can a government institution release information about a private business to access to information requesters?
The government institution is obliged to release information in its possession or control under FOIP, including information about private businesses, unless the information is exempt from disclosure.
A record containing information about a private business may be exempt from disclosure if, for example, section 19(1) of FOIP applies.
If a government institution decides to release information about a private business and you disagree with the decision, within 20 days of receiving that decision, you can file a request for a review of the decision on behalf of the business with the IPC. For further information, see Guide to Requesting a Review from the IPC.
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?
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 refer to Government Institution Contacts.
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.
Requests to a trustee (i.e. doctor’s office, pharmacy, health clinic): send the request directly to the doctor’s office, pharmacy, or health clinic and address to the individual (typically the Dr., Pharmacist) who you believe has custody and/or control of the records.
It is recommended that an access request be completed on the prescribed form found here: Access to Information Request Forms.
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 a good Access to Information Request, please refer to the following:
I have verbally requested my medical records from my doctor; they have yet to provide them to me. What should I do?
You should make the same request in writing to your doctor’s office. Our office can only become involved when an access to information request has been made in writing. If you have submitted a written access to information request for your medical records to your doctor under The Health Information Protection Act (HIPA) and have not received a response within the legislated timeline of 30 days, you can request a review by our office. Please see here for an overview on the access to information and request for review process. Additionally, you may wish to review the following blog on what makes a good access request.
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 in our Resource Directory.
The Access and Privacy Branch of the Ministry of Justice can also help. The Access and Privacy Branch:
To find out more about the Access and Privacy Branch contact 306-787-5473 or email AccessPrivacyJustice@gov.sk.ca.
I am not satisfied with the response I received to my access to information request, can your office conduct a review and force the public body to release the records to me? How do I request a review by your office?
Our office has the power to review/investigate, comment and make recommendations, but we do not have order-making power and cannot force compliance with our recommendations.
In order to initiate a review we require:
• A copy of an access to information request, which was made using the prescribed form.
• A copy of the response (letter or email) from the public body, which states:
access had been denied, or
information does not exist.
• A completed request for review form, using the prescribed form.
If you have not received a response, you will need to provide evidence that it has been over 30 days since the access to information request was submitted to the public body or trustee and no response has been provided.
The completed forms can be emailed to our office at email@example.com or mailed to:
Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Saskatchewan
503-1801 Hamilton Street
Regina, SK S4P 4B4
Once we receive this information we will determine whether we have jurisdiction and advise you of whether there is anything further that we require.
After we have conducted a review and issued the report outlining our findings and recommendations, the decision of the public body to either comply or not comply with our recommendations, if you do not agree, can be appealed to the Court of Queen’s Bench. For more information on this process, please refer to our office’s resource guide to appealing the decision of a head.
I have requested access to the meeting minutes from the RM that should be available to the public pursuant to section 117 of The Municipalities Act but have not received access. What should I do?
You can call the Administrator and indicate you are asking for the Minutes under section 117 of The Municipalities Act. If that does not work, you can call Government Relations and indicate the Municipality is not complying with section 117. If that does not yield results, you can make an access request under LA FOIP requesting the Minutes. Be sure to be as clear as you can regarding the dates of the meeting Minutes that you want. The Municipality has 30 days to provide you with the Minutes. If they fail to do so, you can request a review by our office.
Remember Minutes of a particular meeting are usually not approved until the next meeting. The Minutes don’t become “Minutes” until they are approved.
Can I issue a fee estimate after initial 30 days?
Please refer to report 160-2020 where the Commissioner found that if the intention is to issue a fee estimate, it should be done within 30 days of receiving the access to information request. This only applies if the fee is over $100. There is no mechanism within the legislation that allows the issuance of a fee estimate beyond the first 30 days. Additionally, without a fee estimate, a public body would be unable to charge fees for search, preparation and reproduction of records.