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Frequently Asked Questions

How to Request Information Under FOIPOP
 
1. What is the Nova Scotia Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPOP) Act and its municipal counterpart, Part XX of the Municipal Government Act (MGA)

The Acts give individuals access to information and privacy rights regarding information that is collected or controlled by public bodies in Nova Scotia. 

2. Which public bodies come under the Acts?
The FOIPOP Act applies to all provincial government departments and most provincial agencies, boards and commissions, as well as to community colleges, hospitals, universities, and school boards.
 
Part XX of the Municipal Government Act applies to all local government organizations, including regional municipalities, towns, county or district municipalities, villages and service commissions. This includes municipal fire departments and police forces.
 
Please view the FOIPOP Administrators List for a listing of public bodies who come under the Acts.
 
3. Who can make a request for information?
Any person can make a request for records in the custody or under the control of a public body. A 'person' may include: a private citizen, a legal representative, a society, or a company.
 
4. What kind of information may I request?
The Acts give everyone a right of access to most recorded information held by public bodies. This information may be contained in books, documents, maps, drawings, photographs, letters, vouchers, or any other source of recorded or stored source of information.
Additionally, you have the right to request access to and correction of personal information about you. Personal information includes such things as your name, address, telephone number, age, sex, education, marital status, health-care history, and financial history.
You may ask to examine the requested information, or ask to receive a copy of the record.
 
5. May I use the Acts to request information held by non-governmental organizations?
No. The Acts only apply to provincial and municipal bodies. They do not apply to private companies, banks, credit bureaus, doctors' records or federal public bodies.
 
Information held by federal public bodies can be accessed through the Federal Access to Information Act.
 
6. Where can I see copies of the Acts?
Copies of both Acts are available on our legislation page or you may purchase copies by telephoning Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations at 1-800-670-4357 or by visiting their Web site's publications page.
 
7. What are my information and privacy rights under the Acts?
You have two major rights under the Acts:
  • the right of access to records in the custody or under the control of a public body, including your own personal information; and
  • the right of protection of the privacy of your personal information in the custody or under the control of a public body.

8. How do I request information from a public body?
In some cases, the information can be obtained by calling, writing or visiting the appropriate government organization. Certain information is routinely released through each department's Routine Access Policy.

If the information you want is not available as a matter of routine, a formal application for access to information under one of the Acts may be necessary. At this point, you can speak to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPOP) Administrator for the public body. The FOIPOP Administrator may suggest an alternative information source or explain the application process.
 
To obtain contact information for the appropriate FOIPOP Administrator please click here.
The more specific, clear and complete your request is, the more quickly and accurately it can be answered.
 
The FOIPOP Administrator for each public body may help you complete an application form - Form 1 (Click here for Forms under FOIPOP Act and the Part XX of the MGA). The Acts require that all requests:
  • be in writing;
  • specify the subject-matter of the record requested with sufficient particulars to be identified; and
  • be accompanied by a $5 application fee (contact the Public Body to find out who the cheque should be made payable to)
  • no applicantion fee is required if you are requesting personal information

9. How do I find contact information for a public body?
First, decide on the information you wish to apply for. Then determine which provincial or municipal body likely has the information you seek.

This list contains the names, telephone numbers and mailing addresses for public bodies who are subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and Part XX of the Municipal Government Act.
 
10. Where can I get an application form?
You can get a copy of the application form (Form 1) by downloading a copy from our Forms page.
 
11. How much does it cost to apply for information?
There is no charge for applications for your own personal information or correction of your personal information. However, there is a mandatory $5 application fee for access to general records. If the application is for access to general records, you may also be charged for:
  • the cost of staff time to locate and retrieve information;
  • the cost of staff time to prepare the records; and
  • photocopying, mailing, and if applicable, fax charges.

If a public body intends to charge a fee for records it must provide a fee estimate. Under the regulations to the Acts, a public body is entitled to charge $15.00 per half hour of staff time and $0.20 for each photocopy. It also has the authority to waive a fee. You have the right to request a review by the Review Officer of a fee estimate by a public body.

12. How long does a typical access request take?
A public body must respond to your request within 30 days. However, the response time may be extended for one of three reasons:
  • your request is not detailed enough to clearly identify the information you requested;
  • a large number of records is requested or must be searched and more time is needed to gather the documents; and
  • the department or agency must consult with a third party or another public body before it can decide whether to release the information.

If the response time is extended, the public body must tell you and explain why. It also must tell you when you can expect its full response. You have a right to request a review by the Review Office of the extension.

13. What kind of response can I expect?
Typically, you will receive one of the following three responses to a request for access to information.
  • Your application has been granted in full. In this case, the public body has decided to release the information requested and you will receive a package containing the requested records.
  • Your application has been granted in part. In this case, the public body has decided to release part of the information requested and you will receive a package containing the records you requested, but with particular sections removed.
  • Your application has been denied. In this case, the public body has decided not to release any of the information requested.

In all three instances, you will receive a letter from the public body outlining its decision. If a public body refuses to release all or parts of records to you, it must tell you why. It must also tell you that you have the right to request a review of its decision by the Review Officer. You must request this review within 60 days of receiving the decision.

Also, if a public body does not have the records you requested, it will tell you and may 'transfer' or refer your request to the public body that does. The public body that receives the transferred request will then be responsible for processing your application.
 
14. What if I receive no response from a public body?
If after 30 days you receive no response to a request for access to information, it is considered that the public body has denied access. At that point, you may request in writing that the Information and Privacy Commissioner conduct a review of the public body's refusal.
 
15. Are there restrictions to the type of information I can obtain under the Acts?
Under section 2 of the FOIPOP Act, you have the right of access to government records subject to certain limited exceptions.
 
You may not get access to:
  • Cabinet confidences;
  • information subject to solicitor-client privilege;
  • someone else's personal information;
  • information that could significantly harm a third parties business interests;
  • information that could harm law enforcement; and
  • information that could harm the economic or financial interests of a public body, other individuals, or the public.

16. How much does it cost to request a Review?
There is no charge for requesting a review of a public body's decision.

17. When might I request a Review?
There are a number of reasons why you might decide to request a review:
  • access has been denied to some or all of the information you requested and you disagree with the reasons given by the public body;
  • you have been told 'no records exist' and you don't agree;
  • you do not agree with the amount of the fees being charged;
  • you did not receive a response to your request for information within the 30 day time limit;
  • you have been advised that an extension of the 30-day time period is required and you do not agree with the reason for the extension;
  • your request for correction of personal information has been denied; or
  • someone has requested your personal information or information in which you have an interest, the public body has decided to release this information and you disagree with the decision.

18. How do I make a request for review?
If you are the person who applied for access to information, you have 60 days from receiving the decision from the public body to request a review. To request a review you must:

  • Inform the OIPC of your intention to request a review. This must be done in writing either by filing out a Form 7 or by submitting a letter. Be sure to include all relevant information, such as the name of the public body and the date of the public body's decision.
  • Include a copy of the public body's decision.
  • Include a copy of your original access request, if it's available.
  • Include your address and telephone number so the staff of the OIPC can contact you.

If someone else applied for access to information and you are a third party to that information, you have 20 days from receiving notice of a decision to which you object to request a review. To request a review you must:

  • Inform the OIPC of your intention to request a review. This must be done in writing either by filing out a Form 8 or by submitting a letter. Be sure to include all relevant information, such as the name of the public body and the date of the public body's decision.
  • Include a copy of the public body's decision.
  • Include your address and telephone number so the staff of the OIPC can contact you.

19. What happens when the OIPC receives a request for review?
Please click here to read about the Review process.

20. What if I am not satisfied with a public body's response to the Commissioner's report?
If you are not satisfied with the response of the public body, you may appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. However, any appeal must be made within 30 days after receiving the public body's response to the recommendations contained in the Commissioner’s Report.
 
If you have any questions about how to file an appeal to the court, you will need to contact them directly. You can find the contact information for the Court location nearest to you by checking the Courts of Nova Scotia website.
 
You must fill out the appropriate form. Use:
  • Form 9 if you are applying for appeal directly to court without requesting a Review (as mentioned in Section 32(3) of FOIPOP or 487(3) of MGA)
  • Form 10 if you are the Applicant of the request (as mentioned in Section 41(1) of FOIPOP or 494(1) of MGA)
  • Form 11 if you are the Third Party of the request (as mentioned in Section 41(1) of FOIPOP or 494(1) of MGA)

You can get a copy of all form by downloading a copy from our forms page.

The Appeal is made directly to the Supreme Court, not the OIPC. The form must be filed with the Prothonotary. In accordance with Section 41(5) of FOIPOP and Section 494(5) of MGA, the Commissioner shall not be party to an appeal, therefore please do not include the OIPC or the Commissioner in any future correspondence regarding the matter.
 
21. How does the OIPC use my personal information?
Requests for Review
All complaints and requests for Review are investigated in confidence. However, when you request a review, a copy of your request (which includes some personal information) will be provided to the appropriate head of the public body.
 
If there are third parties involved, they are notified of the Review Request; however, third parties do not receive a copy of the request, nor are they informed of the requestor’s identity.
 
Although the OIPC does not disclose your identity or other personal information, this information may become known as a result of the information under Review.
 
Privacy Investigations 
During the privacy investigation process, all affected parties can expect full disclosure of relevant information. Therefore, any and all information you send to the OIPC may be shared with the affected public body any individuals the OIPC believes is affected by the request. If you wish any of your submitted information to remain confidential, you must explicitly inform the OIPC which information you wish remain undisclosed.
 
Records Retention 
The OIPC collects personal information in order to fulfill its mandate under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
In accordance with the Nova Scotia Government’s Record Management Policy, the OIPC uses the Standard for Operational Records (STOR). Personal information is retained for a period of five (5) years after the closing date of files, after which they are securely destroyed.
 
Please submit your complaint or request to:
PO Box 181
Halifax, NS B3J 2M4
Fax: 902-424-8303
 
22. If I have more questions, who can answer them?
If you have any further questions regarding access to information or protection of privacy in Nova Scotia, you may contact the staff of the OIPC.