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British Columbians are more FOI-hungry than all other Western provinces combined

The B.C. government wants to know what you think about freedom of information and protection of privacy in the province.
FOI engagement
The province receives between 9,000 and 10,000 FOI requests each year, more than the governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba combined.

The B.C. government wants to know what you think about freedom of information and protection of privacy in the province.

The province recently announced the launch of a new website providing residents with an opportunity to provide input on how the government can improve how Freedom of Information requests and privacy protection operate in B.C.

“During my time as minister, we have been meeting with stakeholders, executive staff and the acting information and privacy commissioner,” Minister of Citizens’ Services Jinny Sims said in a press release. “Now we want to hear your ideas on how government can improve access to information and continue to maintain rigorous protections of your personal information. Making meaningful improvements to the way British Columbians access their information is something we want to get right, and now it’s your turn to help guide this process.”

The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act covers about 2,900 pubic bodies in the province. It helps to ensure people’s personal information is protected and gives anyone the right to access records of a public body, including their own personal information.

According to the ministry, the provincial government alone receives between 9,000 and 10,000 FOI requests each year, more than the governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba combined. That number does not include requests received by other entities, like school boards, ICBC, BC Hydro or other public bodies.

Ministry staff spends about 182,000 hours a year processing FOI requests, and according to the ministry it would take one person working non-stop 24 hours a day more than 51 years to process all of the requests for information the government receives.

The ministry said that about half the requests are made by individuals looking for personal information, including adoption records, income assistance and incarceration records. The other half of requests are general in nature, including many from members of the media. The ministry said commonly requested records include briefing notes, investigations, audit reports, calendars and policy discussions.

The province is looking for feedback on topics related to privacy and access to information, including what records should be released without an FOI request, timelines for responding to access requests and fees that can be charged, and what should happens when someone’s privacy is breached.

“If you are someone who is interested in these critical government services, I want to hear your ideas,” Sims said. “The engagement website will be updated regularly, so be sure to keep checking back for new topics and new opportunities to submit your thoughts.”

The public engagement website is at engage.gov.bc.ca/infoaccess.

@JessicaEKerr

jkerr@vancourier.com

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