Proposed Override to the FOIP Act Not Necessary

November 7, 2007

Information and Privacy Commissioner Frank Work says a proposal in Bill 212 to over-ride the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) is not necessary.

The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act (Bill 212) is a private member’s bill that enables a person to make a complaint to a provincial government body about suspected illegal activities in their community or neighbourhood. That body would have authority to investigate the complaints and take action accordingly.

Bill 212 contains a provision that states the identity of the complainant would be confidential and cannot be disclosed without the written consent of the complainant. Section 30(2) of Bill 212 proposes that the provision regarding the confidentiality of the complainant’s identity over-ride the FOIP Act.

The Commissioner said section 30(2) of Bill 212 is not necessary as there is sufficient protection in the FOIP Act to safeguard the confidentiality of a complainant’s identity. A person would not be able to obtain access to the identity of the complainant through an access request. Under the FOIP Act, public bodies must refuse to disclose personal information if the disclosure is an unreasonable invasion of a third party’s privacy. Circumstances such as information supplied in confidence and where disclosure could result in harm to an individual would be relevant in a refusal to disclose personal information.

The FOIP Act sets out the Alberta Government’s commitment for openness, accountability and protection of privacy. The Commissioner is concerned that over- ride provisions which are unnecessary fail to recognize the purpose and objectives of the FOIP Act.