- What is The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA)?
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) is an information rights law that gives an individual a legal right of access to records held by Manitoba public bodies, subject to specific and limited exceptions. The act also requires that public bodies protect the privacy of an individual's personal information existing in records held by public bodies. FIPPA came into force on May 4, 1998 and replaced the Freedom of Information Act.
- Who falls under FIPPA?
FIPPA applies to public bodies, which include provincial government departments and agencies and local public bodies. Local public bodies include educational bodies (such as school divisions, universities and colleges), health-care bodies (such as hospitals and regional health authorities) and local government bodies (such as the City of Winnipeg, municipalities, local government districts, planning districts and conservation districts), and any other body in these categories designated in the regulations.
- What is a "record"?
FIPPA defines a "record" as "a record of information in any form, and includes information that is written, photographed, recorded or stored in any manner, on any storage medium or by any means including by graphic, electronic or mechanical means, but does not include electronic software or any mechanism that produces records".
- What is "personal information"?
Personal information is recorded information about an identifiable individual. This includes your name, address, telephone or fax number, information about your age, gender, ethnic origin, financial information, genetic information or any identifying number such as your Social Insurance Number, driver's license or credit card number, and so on.
- Who can see my personal information?
First and foremost, FIPPA gives you a legal right to see (and request corrections to) your own personal information. FIPPA limits the use and disclosure of your personal information by a public body. Within a public body, only an employee who needs to know your personal information to provide the program or service for which you provided the information may have access to it. FIPPA protects the privacy of your personal information by preventing public bodies from disclosing your information to third parties without your consent, although there are certain specific and limited situations in which a public body may disclose your personal information, such as for law enforcement purposes. For a complete list of these situations, see section 44(1) of FIPPA.
- Is FIPPA the only way to get access to records?
FIPPA does not replace existing procedures for access to records or information normally available to the public (section 3). The records you wish to access may be available informally, without requiring you to apply for access under FIPPA. Before you submit an application form, you should contact the access and privacy coordinator for the public body that has the records you are interested in, to see if they are available without having to fill out an application.
- How do I request access to general or personal information?
The process for requesting general information and personal information is the same. Requests for access to records should be directed to the public body that has custody or control of the records in question. Some records may be available without having to submit a formal application. The access and privacy coordinator for the relevant public body will be able to tell you if you can have access to the records without a formal application. If a formal application is required, you must use the prescribed application form and submit it to the access and privacy coordinator. You can find the contact information for access and privacy coordinators on the Manitoba government's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy website.
- Will I receive access to every record I request?
The right of access is subject to limited and specific exceptions to disclosure. The practice of severance, which involves removing information that falls within an exception to disclosure from a copy of the record to be released, enables the disclosure of as much information as possible. This means that your request may result in the disclosure of only parts of the record(s) you wish to access.
- How do I request corrections to my personal information?
If, after obtaining access to your personal information, you believe that there is an error or omission in the information, you may request a correction to that information. There is no prescribed form for this purpose, but the request must be in writing. Your letter should be sent to the access and privacy coordinator. You can find the contact information for access and privacy coordinators on the Manitoba government's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy website.
- Will I have to pay anything for access to records?
There is no charge to apply for access to records, and you are allotted two free hours for search and preparation time. Requests that will take more than two hours may require the payment of a fee for the additional search and preparation time. Regardless of the time it takes to complete a request, there may be a fee for any photocopying of records and for delivery services. If the public body believes that a fee will be required, they must provide you with an estimate of fees before completing the request. You will then have an opportunity to decide whether to proceed with the request, or to narrow the request as a way of lowering the fee involved. If the actual cost of completing the request is less than the estimate, the public body must refund the difference. They cannot charge more than the estimate, even if the actual cost is higher than the estimate. You may be eligible for a fee waiver in certain circumstances, which are outlined in section 9(1) of the regulation. Requests for a fee waiver should be sent to the access and privacy coordinator. You can find the contact information for access and privacy coordinators on the Manitoba government's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy website.