Information for the Public
Who is subject to the Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act?
All New Brunswick public bodies are subject to the Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. New Brunswick public bodies include:
- Provincial departments, secretariats and offices, including Crown corporations and commissions;
- Horizon Health Network, Vitalité Health Network, EM/ANB Inc. (formerly Ambulance New Brunswick), the New Brunswick Health Council;
- Public Anglophone and Francophone schools and school districts;
- Municipalities and their respective offices, including municipal police forces;
- Local Service Districts, rural communities, and regional service commissions;
- Public universities, NBCC, CCNB, and the NB College of Craft and Design; and
- other specifically designated government bodies in Schedule A of the Act, which include:
- Algonquin Properties Limited;
- District Education Councils;
- Opportunities New Brunswick;
- Service New Brunswick; and
- Recycle New Brunswick.
Who is not subject to the Act?
The Act covers Provincial and municipal entities and public universities, but does not apply to:
- the offices of Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs);
- the offices of officers of the Legislative Assembly (the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, and statutory officers including the Chief Electoral Officer, the Ombudsman, the Child, Youth and Senior Advocate, the Consumer Advocate for Insurance, the Integrity Commissioner, the Official Languages Commissioner, and the Auditor General);
- New Brunswick courts, including the Court of Appeal, the Court of Queen’s Bench, the Provincial Court, and the Small Claims Court; and
- private sector businesses and entities.
There are also certain types of records that the Act does not apply to, including information in a court records, a record made by or for an Officer of the Legislative Assembly, etc. To see a full list of the record to which the Act does not apply, you can refer to s.4 of the Act.
Access to Information and Correction of Personal Information
How to make a request for information or request a correction to a record held by a public body
You can make these kinds of requests directly to the public body that holds the information you are seeking or are seeking to correct. To do so, you may submit either a written letter or a completed form. To assist with these kinds of requests, the Province has prepared standard forms for the public to use:
If you submit a written letter instead of completing a form, please be sure to indicate the following:
- your name and contact information (including mailing address, telephone number, and email address);
- date of the request;
- that you are making the request for access to a record or correction of a records under the Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act;
- the name of the business or organization on behalf of which you are making the request, if applicable; and
- whether you are asking to examine the record or to receive a paper or electronic copy of the record.
You may find it helpful keep a copy of the request in case the public body has questions or needs to clarify your request or in the event that you are not satisfied with the public body’s response and wish to exercise your right to file a complaint with our Office or refer the matter to the Court of Queen’s Bench.
If you have any questions when filling out your request or during the processing of your request, you may contact the Right to Information Coordinator of the public body in question. A list of public bodies and their Right to Information Coordinators can be found at the following link: List of Public Bodies
Duty to assist
Under section 9 of the Act, public bodies are required to “make every reasonable effort to assist an applicant, without delay, fully and in an open and accurate manner”. This means that public bodies are obligated to:
- Work with you to ensure that it understands what information you are seeking
- Conduct an adequate search for all relevant information
- Keep you informed about the status of your request and when you can expect to receive a response
- Provide you with a meaningful response that contains helpful explanations if access to any of the information is being refused or does not exist
- Inform you of your rights if you are not satisfied with the public body’s decision in relation to your access request.
Time limit for the public body to respond to a request for information or request for correction of a record
The Act allows a public body 30 business days to respond to a request for information, and 20 business days to respond to a request for correction of a record. In certain situations described below, the public body can self-extend this timeline of its own accord by up to an additional 30 business days for a request for information, or an additional 20 business days for a request for correction of a record:
(a) the applicant does not give enough detail to enable the public body to identify the requested record,
(b) the applicant does not respond to a public body’s request for clarification as soon as practicable,
(c) a large number of records is requested/must be searched or responding within the time limit would interfere unreasonably with the public body’s operations,
(d) the public body needs additional time to notify and receive representations from a third party (an external person, association, or private entity) or to consult with another public body before deciding whether or not to grant access to a record,
(e) a third party refers the matter to a judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench of New Brunswick under subsection 65(1) or files a complaint with the Commissioner under paragraph 67(1)(b), or
(f) the applicant requests records that relate to a proceeding commenced by a Notice of Action or a Notice of Application.
If a public body extends the time limit to respond of its own accord (i.e., without the Commissioner’s approval), you have the right to complain to our Office about the extension.
If the public body is unable to respond to a request within its own timeline, it may apply to our Office for a further extension of time, based on the same criteria as above. If our Office grants the public body additional time to respond, you do not have a right to complain to our Office about the extension.
If public body does not respond by the time limit to respond (either the original or extended time limit, as the case may be), you then have the right to either file a complaint with our Office or refer the matter to the Court of Queen’s Bench.
If you are not satisfied with how a public body has handled or responded to your request for information, you can either file a complaint with our Office or refer the matter to a judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench, but you cannot do both.
If you are not satisfied with how a public body has handled or responded to your request to correct personal information, you can only file a complaint with our Office.
How to file a complaint
A complaint must be received by our Office within 40 business days after you received the public body’s response to your request for information or request for correction of information. If you did not receive a response by either the original or extended time limit to respond, you can file a complaint with our Office within 40 business days after the expiry of the time for responding to the request.
If you choose to file a complaint, you must submit the following documentation to our Office:
- a completed Complaint form (Form 2): (click here),
- a copy of your request, and
- a description of why you are dissatisfied with the public body’s response.
In submitting your complaint, it is also helpful to provide us with a copy of the public body’s response at that time, as it will help us better understand your complaint.
How to refer a matter to the court
If you wish to refer your access matter directly to the court, you must do so within 40 business days of receiving the public body’s response. To do so, you must submit the following information to the Clerk of the Court of Queen’s Bench:
- a completed Referral form (Form 1: click here),
- a copy of your request, and
- a written description of why you are dissatisfied with the public body’s response.
If you have further questions about referring a matter to the court, you may contact the Clerk’s Office in the region where you live. Contact information for Clerks’ Offices in the Province is available at the following link: Court Locations
Complaint investigation process
As indicated above, the Act allows a person who has made an access request or a request for correction to his or her personal information to a public body to file a complaint with our Office if he or she is not satisfied with how the public body handled or responded to the request, or if the public body failed to reply to the request.
The first step when we receive a complaint is to determine whether we have received all the required information to accept a complaint and whether we have jurisdiction to investigate the complaint. Where this is the case, we will then notify the public body involved and provide it with a copy of the complaint. At that time, we will also ask the public body to provide us with the relevant information and to provide us with a written reply to the complaint, including explanations as to why access to information was refused, the steps taken to search for relevant records, etc. Public bodies have 10 business days to provide our Office with any records that we require be produced for our review.
Informal resolution process
Once we receive the public body’s reply, we will take appropriate steps to resolve the complaint informally to the satisfaction of the applicant and the public body, and in a manner consistent with the purposes of the Act. Depending on the circumstances, this may include the public body providing further disclosure of information and accompanying explanations, or where we find the public body has provided access to all of the information the applicant was entitled to receive, we will provide the applicant with explanations to support our findings. In both cases, we will seek the applicant’s input as to whether this is satisfactory to resolve the complaint, and where this is so, this will conclude our investigation and the file will be closed. The Act allows us 45 business days to reach an informal resolution of a complaint. The 45 business days begin on the day that we receive the public body’s reply to the access complaint, i.e., within 10 business days of the public body receiving notice of the complaint.
Where a complaint is not resolved within 45 business days, the matter will be remitted to the Commissioner to determine if the circumstances merit a formal investigation.
In some cases, the Commissioner may decide to cease the investigation if the Commissioner believes the public body has provided the applicant with all of the information he or she was entitled to receive under the Act. If the Commissioner ceases the investigation at that point, our Office will inform the applicant and the public body of this decision and the reasons why.
Formal investigation process
If the Commissioner finds that further action is to be taken by the public body to uphold the applicant’s access rights and proceeds with a formal investigation, the Commissioner will conclude the investigation with a report of findings. The Commissioner may recommend that the public body:
- grant the access request, in whole or part;
- grant the request for correction of personal information;
- reconsider an access request that was deemed abandoned under section 12(1) of the Act.
The Act states that the Commissioner has 90 business days from receipt of an access complaint to issue a report of findings; however, the Commissioner has the authority to extend this time limit by giving notice to the parties to the complaint of the anticipated date for providing the report.
When the Commissioner issues a report of findings with recommendations, the public body has 20 business days from the date it received the report to decide whether it will accept the Commissioner’s recommendations or not and give notice of its decision to the parties, with a copy to our Office. The public body’s notice must include the reasons for its decision, and where applicable, of the applicant’s appeal rights and time limits to file an appeal with the Court of Queen’s Bench.
If you have received a notice from a public body that it intends to disclose information that relates to you in response to an access request and you do not agree, you have the right to file a complaint with our Office. If you choose to file a complaint, you must submit the following documentation to our Office within 15 business days after the date of the public body’s notice to you:
- a completed Complaint form (Form 5: click here),
- a copy of the public body’s decision on the disclosure of your information.
Our investigation process for third party complaints is the same as explained above for access complaints.
If you wish to refer the matter directly to the courts, you must do so within 15 business days after the date of the public body’s notice to you. To do so, you must submit the following information to the Court Clerk:
- a completed Referral form (Form 4: click here), and
- a copy of the public body’s decision on the disclosure of your information.
If you have further questions about referring a matter to the courts, you may contact the Clerk’s Office in the region where you live. Contact information for Clerks’ Offices in the Province is available at the following link: click here
Public bodies are required to follow the obligations set out in Part 3 of the Act whenever they collect, use or disclose personal information. The Act defines personal information as “recorded information about an identifiable individual,” and includes everything that a public body holds in its records about you in your personal capacity, such as:
- your name,
- your home contact information, including your civic address, email address, home telephone, mobile, and facsimile number,
- information about your age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or family status,
- information about your ancestry, race, colour, nationality or national or ethnic origin,
- information about your religion or creed or religious belief, association or activity,
- your personal health information,
- your blood type, fingerprints or other hereditary characteristics,
- information about your political belief, association or activity,
- information about your education, employment or occupation or educational, employment or occupational history,
- information about your source of income or financial circumstances, activities or history,
- information about your criminal history, including regulatory offences,
- your personal views or opinions, except if they are about another person (as this is considered that other person’s personal information),
- the views or opinions expressed about you by another person, and
- an identifying number, symbol or other particular assigned you (for example, driver’s license number, Medicare number, etc.).
It is important to note that Part 3 of the Act only applies to information that is personal in nature, and does not apply to information about businesses or other organizations.
Collection, use and disclosure of personal information
Under the Act, public bodies are only lawfully allowed to collect your personal information where:
- the collection is authorized or required by a Provincial or federal law;
- the information relates directly to and is necessary for a public body service, program or activity, or
- the information is collected for law enforcement purposes.
Public bodies can only collect the least amount of your personal information as is reasonably necessary to accomplish the purpose for which it is collected. For example, if you are applying for a driver’s licence, the public body is not allowed to collect information about your income, as it has nothing to do with granting a driver’s licence.
As a general rule, public bodies must collect your personal information directly from you, unless it is specifically authorized to collect it from another source in certain circumstances.
As for the use and disclosure of personal information, the following general principles apply:
- public bodies can only use and disclose personal information as authorized under Division B of Part 3 of the Act;
- every use and disclosure of personal information must be limited to the minimum amount of personal information as is necessary to accomplish the purpose for which it is used or collected; and
- public bodies must limit the use and disclosure of personal information to those who need to know it in order to carry out their duties.
If you are concerned about how a public body has handled your personal information or if you have been notified by a public body of a privacy breach involving your personal information, you have the right to file a complaint with our Office. Please download and complete our Privacy Complaint form found here and submit it to our Office.
Privacy complaint investigation process
When we receive a privacy complaint, we will notify the public body involved and provide it with a copy of your complaint. If you have any concerns about our Office sharing your complaint with the public body, please let us know so that we can discuss this with you as soon as possible.
When we notify the public body of your complaint, we will ask the public body to provide a written reply to the concerns raised in your complaint and any other information that may be relevant to the matter.
Once we have received the public body’s response to your privacy complaint, we will review the information provided, along with the applicable provisions of the Act, and determine if the public body handled your personal information inappropriately. If we find this to be the case, and the public body acknowledges its error and agrees to undertake appropriate corrective measures, we will then provide you with the reasons as to why the privacy breach occurred and invite your input as to whether the corrective measures undertaken by the public body are satisfactory to resolve your complaint.
Where we find that the public body has not handled your personal information in keeping with the Act and the public body does not agree or does not wish to take appropriate steps to undertake appropriate corrective measures, the matter will be referred to the Commissioner for review and final disposition, and will likely result in our Office issuing formal recommendations to the public body. If we issue recommendations to the public body they will be limited to improving compliance with the Act. Our Office cannot recommend that someone be fired, recommend financial compensation for any mishandling of your personal information, or investigate or assess criminal or civil culpability on the part of the public body.
It is important to note that while our Office is mandated to investigate privacy complaints and issue recommendations to public bodies where the Commissioner deems it necessary, our mandate is limited to ensuring that public bodies implement appropriate practices, policies, and safeguards to reduce the risk of a similar situation occurring again in the future.