Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

Overview

The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (RSBC 1996 c 165) protects public servants who have disclosed a wrongdoing regarding citizen privacy and data management to the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The Act also protects against any reprisal.

What kind of disclosure is protected?

The Act protects any public sector employee who, while acting in good faith and on the basis of reasonable belief, has disclosed information to the Information and Privacy Commissioner regarding a past contravention or future potential contravention of this Act s.30.3(b).

The Act does not define “wrongdoing” or “protected disclosure.”

Who is eligible for protection?

The Act protects public sector employees, including volunteers or service providers who have disclosed information regarding wrongdoing. 

Under the Act, a service provider is defined as persons retained under a contract to perform services for a public body Schedule 1

Under the Act, a public body encompasses a ministry of the government of British Columbia, an agency, board, commission, corporation, office or other body designated by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, or a local public body Schedule 1

This Act does not apply to the following public bodies: the office of a person who is a member or officer of the Legislative Assembly, the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court or Provincial Court s.3(1); Schedule 1.

How are whistleblowers protected?

The Act prohibits any person from taking any kind of reprisal against an employee who has disclosed information to the Information and Privacy Commissioner in relation to a contravention of this Act  s.30.3(b), have followed the law as prescribed by the Act s.30.3(c) or have refused to do anything in contravention of the Act 30.3(d).

Under the Act, a reprisal s.30.3 includes disciplinary measures, demotion, suspension, termination of employment or any measures that adversely affect the employment or working conditions of the employee. 

If an employee has made a protected disclosure, any person who knowingly takes any kind of reprisal against them is guilty of an offence s.74.1(2)(c) and may be liable to a fine up to $2000 s.74.1(5)(a)

If an employee has made a protected disclosure, a partnership who knowingly takes any kind of reprisal against them is guilty of an offence s.74.1(2)(c) and may be liable to a fine up to $25 000 s.74.1(5)(b)

If an employee has made a protected disclosure, a corporation who knowingly takes any kind of reprisal against them is guilty of an offence s.74.1(2)(c) and may be liable to a fine up to $500 000 s.74.1(5)(c).

Employees, officers or directors of a public body or employees or associates of a service provider who have access to personal information in the custody or control of a public body must not disclose that information except as authorized under this Act s. 30.4.

How should disclosures be made?

Be careful! Despite presenting some challenges for follow ups, one of the best protections for whistleblowers is their anonymity. Be cautious when providing any information through electronic means, especially emails! Read the security tips section.

In order to make a complaint to the Commissioner’s Office, an employee must try to resolve their complaint directly with the public body or organization.

The Commissioner’s Office will not accept complaints until employees have waited at least 30 business days for a response from the public body or organization. 

In order to submit a complaint, an employee may fill and submit the following form by email, fax or by mailing it to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner at the address below.  

Fax: (250) 387-1696

Email: info@oipc.bc.ca

Mail:
Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Colombia
P.O. Box 9038, Stn. Prov. Govt.
Victoria, B.C. V8W 9A4

If an employee’s complaint is accepted, please note that their name and contact information, as well as a copy of the complaint, will be shared with the public body or organization that they are making a complaint about.

For additional information on how to disclose a wrongdoing and submitting a complaint regarding a reprisal, please follow the instructions found at:  https://www.oipc.bc.ca/for-the-public/how-do-i-make-a-complaint/