How to ‘FOIP’ the OIPC (Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner)

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I was introduced to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner in September 2016 when I called to inquire about how to submit a privacy breach complaint. Since 2016, I have gotten to know the OIPC like a good friend.  However, as the majority of my dozen complaints against Alberta’s only health authority, Alberta Health Services, come to a closure letter (How the OIPC breaks up with you), I wanted to know what Alberta’s access to information and privacy authority with quasi-judicial powers, had on little old me.

I have a number of “contacts” within the OIPC. I emailed one of them, the communications director. I said, “Hello, I am not sure who to ask this question to so, I’m sending it to you, but if it is rather suited elsewhere, please let me know. Am I able to obtain my personal information held by the OIPC under any current privacy Legislation? Ie: FOIP or PIPA? I am confused as you are not a public body…right? Also, if there is Legislation for this request, would it all just be redacted due to it being related to investigations? Thank you for your time”.

Within the hour, I had a response, but it was exactly what I had expected. “Hi Shannyn,” he said, “The OIPC is a pubic body under the FOIP Act. However, certain records are excluded. Section 4(1)(d) states that the Act does not apply to “a record that is created by or for or is in the custody or under the control of an officer of the Legislature and relates to the exercise of that officers functions under an Act of Alberta. The OIPC receives access requests on occasion. I will double check our process for receiving access requests, and let you know who to contact”.

I felt like I had read what he had wrote on the webpage already and did not understand it, so I took the time to email him and asked to get his response, hoping it would arrive in simpler terms, however, that is not what I had, so I replied, “Hi, can you please spell out what the act states in layman’s terms?” He made the move to get me in touch with the appropriate person, I thanked him and was email introduced to someone new. She elaborated by saying, “Your email was forwarded to me to provide you with direction on “how to make an access request. As explained, OIPC is a public body under the FOIP Act. As such, a formal access to information request would be made under the FOIP Act. If you wish to make an access request for information held by the OIPC, your request must be in writing. I suggest that you use and complete the form, Request to Access Information form. Your request (form) is forwarded to OIPC at: (address to OIPC Calgary or Edmonton). This information and more can be found at OIPC’s website. I trust the information I provided will be of assistance”.

I printed the form immediately. To the question: What records are you requesting? I answered, “Information held by the OIPC regarding “MY NAME”.  Please include all records except those excluded under section 4(1)(d) of the FOIP Act. Please include my own communication with employees of the OIPC from 2016 to 2019″.

It is most helpful to be as specific as you can with dates and details. Also, take photo copies of the entire package you mail to the OIPC and track the post to ensure your envelop arrived without issue.

On November 1, 2019 I received a letter which answered my original question much more expensively to the public purse. Yes, you can request the OIPC provide you with your personal information held under their control under the FOIP Act, however, records which relate exclusively to matters concerning the Commissioner’s functions conducting investigations are exempt under Section 4 of the FOIP Act. The letter proceeded, as it is legislated to do so, to provide me with steps to follow should I not accept the answer provided. Formally stated, “The records you have requested relate to the Commissioner’s functions of conducting investigations and reviews under the FOIP Act. The records are excluded from the application of the FOIP Act and our office will not be providing you with access to them under the FOIP Act”.

There you have it, you can’t really FOIP the OIPC of Alberta.

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