Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Freedom Of Information Act Versus By-Law Dept Unable To Obtain License Info

Back in August, I made a report to 311 regarding the illegal dumping of construction material into the dumpster behind my residence. I sent a photograph, showing the white half ton truck, the Manitoba License plate number, and the individual doing the illegal dumping. I also provided a photo of the lumber, metal, and door that the individual deposited in the dumpster.
I explained that the individual was asked if they lived in the area, and if they were aware that it was illegal to dump the construction material in the dumpster. I also said the dumpster was for residents of the area, which he said he was not. And I also told the individual that I took a photo and would be submitting it to the By-Law department and he would be fined for performing the illegal dumping of the construction material. I gave him the opportunity to remove the items from the dumpster, but the individual declined the offer, and said I should clean up my back lane. The individual said I should be happy that he was at least cleaning up.
So, I sent the information to 311. They in turn forwarded it to the By-Law department for investigation. A week later the By-Law department said they could not proceed further, as they did not have access to the MPI database to get the information on the owner of the vehicle. They said it was because of the Privacy Act.
Now today I happened to be reading through the Privacy Act, or rather, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. In it, I noticed a section that would allow information to be provided if it was needed for law enforcement.
Division 3
Mandatory Exceptions To Disclosure
Privacy of a Third party
Disclosure harmful to a third party's privacy
17(1) The head of a public body shall refuse to disclose personal information to an applicant if the disclosure would be an unreasonable invasion of a third party's privacy.
Disclosures deemed to be an unreasonable invasion of privacy
17(2) A disclosure of personal information about a third party is deemed to be an unreasonable invasion of the third party's privacy if
(a) the personal information is personal health information;
(b) the personal information was compiled and is identifiable as part of an investigation into a possible violation of a law, except to the extent that disclosure is necessary to prosecute the violation or continue the investigation;
As far as I can see 17(2) (b) should give the By-Law people the right to request this needed information. There should be no reason that the By-Law department is not allowed to gain access to information from the Manitoba Public Insurance, when requested, if they are requesting the information to "prosecute the violation or continue the investigation".
Or am I missing something?


  1. Why don't you try filing a complaint against the By-Law department with the Ombudsman's Office.

    Here's the form:

    The Access and Privacy Division is responsible for investigating complaints and reviewing compliance with access to information and protection of privacy rights under FIPPA. They are the owner of the Act and would be in a better position to interpret it in this situation.

    It's worth a try :)

    Here's their website:

  2. Sometimes its easier to go around something than through it.

  3. I think the 7:33 poster has it right. This should definitely be taken up with the Ombudsman since there is no reason for the information to be withheld.

  4. You're not missing anything, this information should not be withheld.

    Take it up with the Ombudsman and get this guy ticketed finally.

    Hopefully this will set precedence for future information requests between MPI and the By-Law department and provide you with a stream-lined process for responding to illegal dumping.

    I'm sorry you have to experience this in your neighborhood.

  5. Unless I'm reading it wrong, the "legalese" in 17(2)(b) is saying that you cannot receive information that has been complied as a result of a criminal investigation. ie. They can't release information from an investigation that preceeded laying charges. (At least that's what I make of it). I felt from day one that FIPA was going to be used as a tool for civil servant pinheads to further sluff off doing their jobs... and I was right. I still thing it's a Highway Traffic Act violation since they were using a vehicle to commit the crime of littering.

  6. My take on 17(2)(b) is that you cannot request private information regarding a crime that occurred in the past, but if you need the information for a current investigation or criminal proceeding, then you may request it. I also agree with the Highway Traffic Act violation, as a crime was committed using a motor vehicle.