Provides general information on access to information in municipalities. Municipalities are advised to consult all applicable laws including The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act when responding to access requests.
The municipal statutes - Section 117 in The Municipalities Act, Section 91 in The Cities Act and Section 133 in The Northern Municipalities Act, 2010 - give you the statutory right to inspect documents such as the minutes of council meetings after they have been approved as well as contracts approved by council, audited financial statements and other designated documents.
The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act provides a statutory right of access to any record in the possession or control of a municipality with limited exceptions such as records that are already in the public record (see council minutes above). You may submit an access request for records to the municipality that has possession or control of the records you are seeking. Certain information may be protected by an exemption to the right of access found in the Act.
Types of Information
Any type of record held by the municipality which contains information relevant to the request can be accessed. A record is defined as a record of information in any form and includes information that is written, photographed, recorded or stored in any manner but does not include computer programs or other mechanisms used to produce records. This includes records such as documents, letters, notes, emails, drawings, photographs, electronic files and so forth.
The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act provides a statutory right of access to records however; some information is exempt from release. The Act prohibits the head from releasing certain information such as records obtained in confidence from other governments, third party information subject to notification of the third party and personal information. In other cases, the Act provides the head with discretionary authority to withhold information such as that received in confidence from another municipality, information regarding law enforcement and investigations or advice from municipal officials. This list of exemptions is not exhaustive.
If the head is denying access to certain records or portions of records, reference will be made to the legislative provision which requires or authorizes non-disclosure.
The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act requires the mayor or the reeve of the municipality formally respond to an application to access a record. The Act refers to this person as "the head".
The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act empowers the mayor or the reeve of the municipality to delegate powers and duties to one or more other municipal officers. However, while this ensures that someone other than the mayor or reeve can make many of the decisions required by the Act, the mayor or reeve still retain ultimate responsibility as the "head".
The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act requires the head to provide a written response to the applicant within 30 days of the application being filed with the municipality. This time frame includes weekends and holidays. The response must be made in writing and satisfy requirements in the Act. This includes, but is not limited to providing access to the record, upon payment of any applicable fees; informing the applicant that the record is published and indicating where it is available; refusing access to the record and citing the provisions in the Act which allow the head to refuse access; or other responses available in the Act.
Within the 30 days the head can extend the deadline by a further 30 days under certain conditions such as there are a large number of records to search through; there are a large number of requests; there is a necessity to undertake consultations which may result in necessary delays; or where third parties must be consulted. The deadline may be adjusted if the municipality requires clarification regarding the requested records or if the municipality provides an estimate of costs to provide the records.
Upon receiving an application to access a record pursuant to The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act the municipal administrator should inform the head that a request has been filed. Work should begin quickly to respond to the request as required by the Act. If the administrator and the head have not already done so they should review the courses below and other information found in Services for Local Authorities provided by the Ministry of Justice, Access and Privacy Branch.
- Access and Privacy Training Course for Saskatchewan Local Authorities
This course is designed for employees in all municipalities and other local authorities.
- In the Door, Out the Door: A How-to Process an Access to Information Request Course
This course provides guidance on processing an access to information request from receiving the request to getting the finalized response to the applicant. The course provides links to additional tools and resources to help process access to information requests.
- The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act
The Act provides access rights to "records that are in the possession or under the control" of the municipality. In other words, the access provisions are "record-driven" and not "information-driven." There is no responsibility under the Act to create records that do not exist.
If access to a record or part of a record is refused or the decision of the municipality is unsatisfactory, the Information and Privacy Commissioner can be asked to review the decision.