When the Media Calls
Just the other day, a journalist called me and asked whether a review had been started on a particular request for information. I indicated to him that a request for review had been received. I indicated it was the policy of this office, to confirm or not that a request for review had been received but as far as any further details, I would provide no further information. The reason for this is that The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act requires my office to release the least amount of information possible when doing a review (ss. 46 and 53).
He certainly understood our position but went on to ask me to outline the process my office generally follows. Briefly, when Early Resolution Officers of the office receive a request for review, they contact the parties and attempt to see if the matter can be settled. Will the applicant narrow his or her request? Will the public body re-visit part or all of its decision to withhold information, reduce a fee or take any steps to provide the applicants with some or part of the information requested? If the matter cannot be settled, a letter notifying the public body and the applicant that a review has started is sent and an Analyst is assigned. Staff request the public body to provide a copy of the records at issue, index of the record and its submission as to why it is withholding records. Upon receipt of those documents, the Analyst proceeds with the review, asks questions of the public body and if necessary interviews people and makes a site visit. A draft report is prepared and shared with the public body to ensure factual accuracy. Once this stage is completed, the final report is prepared, sent to the parties and posted on our web site. The public body has 30 days to advise me whether it will comply with the recommendations or not. After that, the applicant or a third party involved in the matter has 30 days to appeal to the court of Queen’s Bench.
You can see a diagram showing the process by clicking here.
It is a pretty simple process and my office makes every attempt to move the process along quickly so that parties get their decisions as soon as possible. Our goal is to resolve matters or reach a decision, on average, within 33 days 80% of the time. I ask all that work with us to help us reach that goal.