Section 14 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP Act) sets out the circumstances under which the 30-day time limit for responding to an access/correction request may be extended. Unfortunately, these circumstances do not include unanticipated circumstances, such as when records cannot be accessed or processed due to a disaster or a pandemic, such as COVID-19.
Extensions can only be granted if one of the circumstances under section 14(1) applies. A public body does not have authority to grant itself a 30-day extension under section 14(1) if unable to access or process records due to a disaster or pandemic. Furthermore, the Commissioner has no ability to grant an extension in such circumstances.
In the meantime, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner suggests that public bodies inform applicants that they are unable to access or process responsive records due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Applicants should also be told that records will be processed as soon as circumstances allow, and that they may ask the Commissioner for a review under section 65(1) of the FOIP Act if this is an issue for them. This is the only option given the wording of the legislation and the current situation.
Public bodies can continue to email requests for time extensions. Here is a link to the “Request for Time Extension for Public Bodies Only” form.