What is FOIPOP?
Dalhousie University is committed to making every reasonable effort to assist persons seeking information concerning the university, to help them with Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPOP) applications and to respond without delay in an open, accurate and complete manner. Internal procedures have been developed and are constantly reviewed and revised to ensure that we remain compliant with the requirements of the Act and make appropriate decisions about our records in the spirit of the Act.
This section outlines Dalhousie FOIPOP procedures and describes FOIPOP issues relevant to Dalhousie.
The purpose of the FOIPOP Act is twofold:
- To make public bodies more open and accountable to the public by providing access to information contained in records under the custody or control of the public body. (The Act provides that certain information is or may be exempted from disclosure).
- To protect the privacy of personal information in the records of the public body and to prevent their improper disclosure.
As of November 23, 2000 the provisions of the FOIPOP Act are extended to Universities in Nova Scotia and specific provisions are included in the Act and regulations which affect the rights of the public to access to university information.
What is covered under FOIPOP and what is not?
The FOIPOP Act allows individuals access to records containing their own personal information and gives them the right to request corrections to that personal information. In addition, it allows the public the right to access university records in the custody and control of the University subject to a limited number of specific exemptions from disclosure which are either mandatory or discretionary. Decisions taken by the University to claim an exemption from disclosure are subject to review by an independent body to ensure there has been compliance with the Act.
The Act contains certain specific situations when it does not apply. These include requests for material that is already available for purchase by the public or that is already on the public record. Insofar as the Act is in addition to and does not replace existing procedures for access to information of records within the University, attempts should be made obtain the information through internal informal procedures rather than by making a formal FOIPOP application. The FOIPOP Coordinator may be contacted to determine whether university records may be disclosed without the necessity of a FOIPOP application. The University will be endeavoring to make as much publically releasable information available as is possible in order to avoid the complexity of a FOIPOP application.
At Dalhousie University any written FOIPOP application received anywhere on campus will be directed to the Dalhousie FOIPOP Coordinator who will also be available to answer any inquiries regarding the application of the FOIPOP Act to Dalhousie University. All inquiries or FOIPOP Applications should be directed to the Dalhousie FOIPOP Coordinator.
There are some aspects of the FOIPOP Act that might require the university or departments to reconsider the manner in which they create, handle, store or dispose of records and the use to which they are made. Units are encouraged to consider implementing a comprehensive records management policy which deals with the creation, access and retention or disposal of records in order to make better use of available space and to ensure that only necessary and/or appropriate records are retained. Contact the Dalhousie FOIPOP Coordinator for further information.
Because of the prohibition in the Act concerning the collection, use and disclosure of personal information except in specified circumstances, some practices such as the posting of grades in a manner which identifies a student will have to be changed. Additionally references for students may not be able to be made without the written consent of the student. University personnel are encouraged to become familiar with the Act and to direct their inquiries to or discuss any possible concerns regarding their practices with the FOIPOP Coordinator.
The FOIPOP Act contains section 24(4) which requires the University to retain for one year any personal information concerning an individual which has been used "to make a decision that directly affects the individual". This will affect the manner in which the university handles certain records that are used to make decisions and units will have to determine whether they have records which must be retained for this required one year period.
Since any record under the custody or control of the University is potentially accessible under the Act, university members should be aware that any record they create may be read or disclosed to others in accordance with the Act. Although some records are subject to exemption from disclosure, the fact that someone may be embarrassed by the disclosure is not grounds for a valid non-disclosure of the record. Thus it is important to have an appropriate records management policy in place to ensure that only permanent records are maintained. The Act does not require that any records actually be created but, where they are, they may be subject to the Act. Records of a purely transitory nature (such as voice mail messages) need not be maintained unless it is important that they form part of a permanent record.
Records which no longer are of any value or use to the institution and of no historical interest should be disposed of in accordance with the unit's records management policy. Older records that are of use or value or historical interest should be maintained in accordance with the policy or, if appropriate, transferred to the University Archives. If a record is requested under the FOIPOP Act, however, there must not be any intentional destruction or alteration of such a record in order to evade its disclosure under the Act since such an action would constitute an offence under the Act and may lead to personal fines and/or imprisonment.
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