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When We Cannot Help You

March 27, 2024 - Ron Kruzeniski, Information and Privacy Commissioner

My office gets calls from residents when they are expecting us to solve their problem. We receive approximately 1300 calls a year. Some of those citizens have called other agencies or public bodies. They may have called the Ombudsman or the Advocate for Children and Youth office, the Ministry of Social Services, Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, MLA’s office or Ministry of Justice and Attorney General. I understand they may be frustrated and would just like a solution to their problem. I need to say we probably cannot help you unless the issue is access or privacy related, and the proper processes have been followed. We have a narrow mandate.

Here is what we can do. If you have asked a public body for records and they have refused to provide those records to you, we might be able to help. You need to know that those public bodies have the right to withhold certain information from you. Parts III and IV of The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) and The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (LA FOIP) sets out those exemptions. If we find the exemptions apply, we will not recommend those records be released to you.

If the public body wants to charge you a fee that appears to be unreasonable, we can review that fee.

If a public body fails to respond appropriately to your access request within 30 days, we can review their refusal.

If you feel your personal information or personal health information has been improperly collected, used or disclosed, you can ask my office to investigate the public body’s actions to determine whether there was a privacy breach.

These are some of the things we can do.

You might have staff in my office saying to you “we don’t have jurisdiction, or we don’t have grounds to proceed with a review or an investigation.” The Legislative Assembly has given my office certain powers, and it is only those powers that we can exercise. So, if we say, “we cannot help you”, that is another way of saying we do not have the legislative authority to help you.

We might suggest you contact another office but that is just trying to be helpful.

So, before you call, think about what you expect us to do for you. We might recommend you get some records, get a reduced fee or help to ensure a public body appropriately responds to a privacy breach involving your personal information, but we won’t be able to solve any other problem.

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