Freedom of Information
The Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) came into effect on January 1, 1991. The legislation applies to all municipalities in Ontario and to various other local government institutions such as the Wawa Public Library. The Act does not apply to private companies, credit bureaus, hospitals, doctors’ records or to federal government institutions. There is also a separate act that applies specifically to Ontario’s Provincial Ministries and agencies.
Premise of the Act
Access to information rights balanced with privacy protection.
All paper documents, microfilm/fiche, computer disk data, e-mail and other forms of stored data are considered to be RECORDS of the “institution” (i.e., the Municipality of Wawa).
Subject to certain limitations, there is a right of access to information in records.
Subject again to certain limitations, the personal information of individuals has to be protected and is not accessible to others.
General Operation of the Act
Requesters must complete a request form (available from Clerk’s Office or online here) or write a letter stating that they are asking for information under the Act.
Requesters must send completed request form or letter to the “Clerk – MFIPPA” in the Clerk’s Office. There is a $5.00 application fee that must be paid for all requests. Cheques should be made payable to “Municipality of Wawa.” Additional fees may be charged and fees information is available online here.
The Clerk locates the records being requested and within 30 days of receiving the request makes a decision to either release the records entirely, in part or to deny access to them. This decision is based on the provisions of the Act and on relevant Orders that have been issued by the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC).
The Clerk issues a decision letter to the requester enclosing the records that are being released and explaining why access is being denied to other records in part or entirely.
The decision letter will also explain the appeal process to the IPC, which the requester can pursue if not satisfied with the decision made by the Clerk.
The IPC will first attempt to achieve a mediated settlement of the appeal between the appellant and the institution. If this is unsuccessful then the appeal will go to an inquiry and the IPC will issue an Order either upholding the decision of the local Clerk or directing that some or all of the denied records be released to the requester. (Rulings of the IPC may, in some instances, be reviewed by the Courts)
The Municipality of Wawa promotes open government, and fosters an organizational structure that advances the fundamental principles of the Act:
- Information (general records) should be available to the public;
- Individuals should have access to their own personal information;
- Exemptions to access should be limited and specific;
- Institutions should protect the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information held by institutions.
If the request is on the official request form from the Act (available from Clerk’s Office or online here) or if it is only a letter but the letter refers to the Act, then the matter must be processed in accordance with the Act. Fortunately, the legislation does have a feature in it that allows requesters to withdraw requests; and Wawa’s experience has been that in some cases people are willing to withdraw formal requests when they discover that the information they are looking for is readily available to them. This “informal route” is usually faster and less expensive.
Examples of Public Versus Private Information
Below are some examples – by department – of information that’s public (accessible) and information that’s private (not accessible).
Corporate Services Department (Administration/Finance)
- Staff Reports to Committees, once accepted by council = public
- Labour relations reports = private
- Confidential legal opinions = private
- Standing Committee Reports = public
- Confidential in camera Minutes = private
- Human Resources files = private
- Financial statements = public
- Unit prices in tenders = private
Infrastructure Services Department
- Sewer records = public
- Confidential report with advice from consultants or legal counsel = private
Planning & Development Department
- rezoning application files = public
- complainants’ names re by-law enforcement = private
Community Services and Tourism Department
- community service grant applications = public
- budgets for arenas = public
- registration lists for programs = private
Need Additional Information?
For additional advice about the Act and how it works, please contact:
Municipality of Wawa
40 Broadway Avenue, P.O. Box 500
Wawa, ON P0S 1K0