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Manitoba Ombudsman releases 2004 Annual Report under FIPPA and PHIA

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Oct 14, 2005

Manitoba Ombudsman Irene Hamilton has reported on the activities of the Ombudsman Office relating to The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and The Personal Health Information Act (PHIA) during the calendar year 2004. This was the last full year of the office's operation under the leadership of former Ombudsman Barry Tuckett.

The year was marked by the receipt of more formal complaints about access to information under the Acts than in any previous reporting period. Of the 369 cases opened, 71% concerned access-to-information requests and 23% concerned privacy complaints. The remaining files reflected auditing, monitoring, informing, or commenting activities such as the provision of the office's opinions when the Manitoba Government undertook public consultations as part of the comprehensive review of the legislation required by both FIPPA and PHIA.

Highlighted in the 2004 report are the findings of a review of responses by public bodies to access to information requests under FIPPA. Of particular note was the low rate of compliance with the requirement to provide reasons for the refusal of access beyond simply citing applicable exceptions.

“The issues brought forward by the review are receiving my close attention,” said the Ombudsman. “Implementing the kinds of improvements suggested by our examination should improve the quality of the responses to access requests,” she said “and may even reduce the number of complaints to our office and the time taken to resolve them.” The report and a practice note on providing reasons are available on the office's web site.

The report also looks at various comments from Court of Queen's Bench decisions on access appeals under FIPPA and its predecessor statute which help in understanding the legislation and its application.

Hamilton commented that the format and style of the annual report have begun to change and that the 2005 report will see further changes with the hope that it will be used as an educational tool for Manitobans. To encourage that, there will be wide distribution of upcoming reports to groups and organizations that do not normally receive communication from her office.

Created in 1970, the Office of the Manitoba Ombudsman exists to promote fairness, equity and administrative accountability through independent impartial, non-partisan, and thorough investigation of complaints and legislative compliance reviews.

The Ombudsman investigates access to information and privacy complaints and reviews compliance under The Personal Health Information Act and The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act . The Personal Health Information Act came into effect on December 11, 1997 . The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act became law on May 4, 1998 , encompassed the City of Winnipeg on August 31, 1998 , and was proclaimed on April 3, 2000 , for more than 390 local government, educational and health care bodies.

The Ombudsman also has responsibilities under The Ombudsman Act to investigate complaints concerning any act, decision, recommendation or omission relating to a matter of administration by any department or agency of the provincial government or a municipal government. On January 1, 1997 , The Ombudsman Act was expanded to include more than 200 municipalities and has encompassed the City of Winnipeg since January 1, 2003 . The Manitoba Ombudsman issues a separate annual report involving matters of administration investigated under The Ombudsman Act .

For more information, contact: Irene Hamilton, Manitoba Ombudsman at (204) 982-9130 or 1-800-665-0531 (in Manitoba).

Copies of the 2004 Annual Report of the Ombudsman are available at Information Services, Room 29 – Legislative Building , the Office of the Manitoba Ombudsman, and at