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Freedom of Information

With some exceptions, the public has the right to see records in the hands of provincial or municipal governments and government institutions. Government institutions include government boards or commissions and crown corporations. Ministries, cities, municipalities, universities, boards of education, libraries and police services are also governed by freedom of information laws.

Access to Information

Information that can be accessed must be something that already exists. There is no duty for governments or government institutions to create new documents or compile existing documents. Information that can be accessed includes anything that is recorded or stored in any way. For example, it could be a print document, electronic document, photograph, or a video.

Exemptions

Some information cannot or will not be disclosed. Below are some guidelines intended to give you a general idea about the type of information that will not or cannot be disclosed. If a request you make is denied, the specific reason for the denial must be provided.

Other Governments’ Documents

Documents that governments or government institutions have received in confidence from other governments cannot be disclosed without the consent of the government that provided the documents. Documents can be considered to be in confidence because the supplying government specified this. There are other situations in which these types of documents can be considered confidential, such as where there is a mutual, but not expressly stated, understating that it is supplied in confidence.

Cabinet Documents

Generally speaking, cabinet documents cannot be disclosed. They can, however, be disclosed with consent or if they are at least 25 years old.

Third Party Documents

Documents that governments or government institutions have received from someone else can only be disclosed in certain situations. Generally documents that contain trade secrets or documents that could, if revealed, harm the person’s business cannot be disclosed without their consent. These types of documents can be disclosed if the need to protect the public’s health or safety or the environment outweighs any potential harm to the third party’s interests.

Discretionary Exemptions

There are also a number of other situations when access to information can be refused, but does not need to be refused. These include...

  • Documents that could harm relationships between governments or impact national security.
  • Documents that could interfere with law enforcement investigations.
  • Documents from municipal governments, such as draft bylaws.
  • Documents that include advice a government or government official has been given.
  • Documents that contain financial, commercial, scientific or technical information the government or a government institution has a right to and that has a monetary value.
  • Documents that reveal auditing procedures or techniques that could affect the usefulness of the procedure or technique.
  • Documents that if disclosed could threaten the safety or physical or mental health of an individual.
  • Documents that are protected by solicitor-client privilege.

Access Requests

A request for information must be in writing. There are forms that you can use. You should be as specific as possible and also make sure that the government or government institution you are making the request to holds the information you want.

The government or government institution has 30 days to respond. They can charge a fee for searching for or copying the information. If you are not satisfied with their response you can ask the Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner to review your case.

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About PLEA

PLEA gratefully acknowledges our primary core funder the Law Foundation of Saskatchewan for their continuing and generous support of our organization.