British Columbia’s privacy watchdog has identified significant problems with how the City of Vancouver handles Freedom of Information requests, including questionable fee estimates, inadequate searches and unjustified delays. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham issued a report on Thursday that detailed how city staff are falling short on nearly every step of the process for responding to requests made under B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Those shortcomings included staff treating e-mails and other records as “transitory” – and therefore not required to be retained for a potential Freedom of Information request – even when they were not, and then deleting them. As well, Ms. Denham found indications that, on at least one occasion, staff changed the names of files to stymie information requests.
She also found that the city failed to meet legislative timelines for requests from media applicants nearly four times more often than requests from other applicants.
Ms. Denham has previously flagged the deletion of records as a serious concern at the provincial level, most notably in a 2015 report that found Premier Christy Clark’s government routinely thwarted Freedom of Information requests through tactics such as “triple-deleting” e-mails.