Casual Legal: Transferring requests for information to another public body

By Tamara Korassa
Reynolds Mirth Richards Farmer LLP
Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Service Provider

The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the “Act”) contemplates that a request for access to information (a “Request”) may be transferred from one public body to another in certain circumstances.

An applicant under section 7(1) is only required to make their request to the “public body that the person believes has custody or control of the record” (emphasis added) which leaves the onus on the public body receiving the Request to determine if it or another public body has custody or control of the requested record.

Where the public body receiving the Request determines the requested record is in the custody or control of another public body, it can transfer the Request to the other public body under section 15 of the Act. The receiving public body is permitted to transfer the Request if the record was produced by or for the other public body, was first obtained by the other public body, or is in the custody or control of the other public body. A transfer of the Request must be done within 15 days of the date the Request was received.

The head of the public body who received the Request is required to notify the applicant of the transfer as soon as possible and the head of the public body who is receiving the transfer must make reasonable effort to respond to the Request no later than 30 days after the transfer unless the time limit for a response is extended under section 14.

When conducting a transfer of a Request (particularly when transferring part of a request), a public body will also need to consider what information is given to the other public body as part of the transfer. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (the “OIPC”) considered this issue in Order F2022-42 (Re) City of Calgary. In that case, an applicant had directed her Request to the City of Calgary, who transferred the Request to the Kensington Business Improvement Area (the “KBIA”) upon determining the KBIA was the proper public body to respond to it.

The applicant complained the City of Calgary had contravened the Act when transferring her Request by disclosing her personal information. The information disclosed included the applicant’s name and contact information, as well as correspondence submitted by the applicant with the initial Request. The OIPC found that the personal information was permitted to be disclosed as the disclosure was consistent with the purpose of which the personal information was disclosed (i.e., to allow the public body to respond to the Request). The OIPC further found the City of Calgary was permitted to disclose the correspondence on the basis the disclosure was reasonable under section 40(4) to allow the KBIA to understand the Request and carry out the purpose of responding to the Request.

However, the OIPC also noted that a public body does not have full rights to disclose personal information when transferring a Request and the public body will need to carefully consider whether the information is clearly intended only for the public body who receives the Request or whether the information is of a sensitive nature that would require consultation with the applicant before disclosing to the other public body.

To access Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Helpline, Alberta Municipalities members can call toll-free to 1-800-661-7673 or send an casuallegal [at] (email) to reach the municipal legal experts at Reynolds Mirth Richards and Farmer LLP. For more information on the Casual Legal Service, please call 310-MUNI (6864) or send an riskcontrol [at] (email) to speak to Alberta Municipalities Risk Management staff. Any Regular or Associate member of Alberta Municipalities can access the Casual Legal Service.

DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should seek the advice of legal counsel to address your specific set of circumstances. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this article to be outdated.