Municipal Freedom of Information & Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA)
The Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) came into effect on January 1, 1991. The legislation provides access to information rights balanced with privacy protection. It applies to all municipalities in Ontario and to various other local government institutions including the London Public Library and London Police Services. The Act does not apply to private companies, credit bureaus, hospitals, doctors' records or to federal government institutions. There is a separate act that applies to Ontario's Provincial Ministries and agencies.
Premise of the Act
- All paper documents, microfilm/fiche, computer disk data, e-mail and other forms of stored data are considered to be RECORDS of the institution
- There is a right of access to information in records, subject to certain limitations
- The personal information of individuals has to be protected and is not accessible to others, subject to certain limitations
The City of London 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 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 City 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.
Downtown Camera Program
In November 2001, the City of London established a closed circuit television (CCTV) system with 16 cameras in downtown public areas (see map here). The CCTV system is operated under the Code of Practice. Information obtained through video monitoring is used exclusively for security and law enforcement purposes and released according to the standards set by MFIPPA. All information is retained for a 72 hour period unless a record has been requisitioned for use.
Withdrawing a Request
Legislation allows requesters to withdraw requests. 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.
General Operation of the Act
Making a request:
- Complete a request form (available from City Clerk's Office or online) or write a letter stating that they are asking for information under the Act.
- Send the completed request form or letter to the "MFIPPA Co-ordinator" in the City Clerk's Office.
- Please include the mandatory $5.00 application fee that must be paid for all requests. Cheques should be made payable to "Treasurer, City of London." Additional fees may be charged.
What happens next:
- The Co-ordinator 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 Co-ordinator 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.
How to appeal:
- The decision letter will explain the appeal process to the IPC, which the requester can pursue if not satisfied with the decision made by the institution's Co-ordinator.
- 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 Co-ordinator 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)
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).
Chief Administrative Officer's Department
Reports from Civic Administration to Committees = public
Labour relations reports from Civic Administration to Board of Control = private
Writs = public
Confidential legal opinions = private
Finance & Corporate Services (& City Clerk's) Department
Standing Committee Reports = public
Confidential in camera Minutes = private
Human Resources files = private
Financial statements = public
Unit prices in tenders = private
Environmental & Engineering Services Department
Sewer records = public
Confidential report with advice from City = private
Planning & Development Department
Rezoning application files = public
Complainants' names re by-law enforcement = private
Community Services Department
Community service grant applications = public
Names of Ontario Works clients = private.
Budgets for arenas = public