Access to information and privacy
The Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) gives you the right to access information held by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, including your personal information (Section I - MFIPPA). There are certain limitations that may exclude records from being accessible: the records may be exempt, confidentiality provisions may apply, or the request may be considered frivolous or vexatious.
If you wish to access the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) records, you must begin by filling out the Freedom of Information request form. To determine if the request should be submitted formally under the Act or if the information will be provided under business as usual, contact the Privacy Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is important to note that the rules governing access and privacy under MFIPPA apply to both formal and informal requests for information.
Routine Disclosure and Active Dissemination Plans
One of the key principles of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) is that “information should be available to the public”. The practice of Routine Disclosure and Active Dissemination is a cost-effective and client-friendly way of providing information to the public. Information held by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) is made available to the public, and any exceptions to this principle are limited and specific.
Examples of the types of information the WECHU provides the public are:
- Annual Reports
- Board of Health Meeting Documents
- IPAC Reports
- The Windsor-Essex Health Status Indicator Dashboard
Access and correction form
All formal freedom of information requests under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) or the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) must be received by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) using the Freedom of Information Request Form. All other forms of request will not be processed.
See a list of fees for information requests.
The Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act allows individuals to appeal decisions about access to records made by municipal institutions and local boards. You can appeal any decision made by the head of an institution. The appeal must be filed within thirty (30) calendar days after the notice of the decision is given by the municipality or local board for any of the following reasons:
- A decision to extend the time limit for responding to a request.
- A refusal to grant access to a record on the grounds that the record does not exist.
- A refusal to grant access to a record on the grounds that the record is exempt from disclosure.
- Granting access to only part of a record.
- A refusal to confirm or deny the existence of a record that deals with law enforcement or would, if disclosed, be an unjustified invasion of personal privacy.
- Granting a request for access to a record or part that may contain information where the disclosure may be an unjustified invasion of personal privacy.
- A deemed refusal to grant access to records.
- A refusal to make a correction to personal information.
- The amount of a fee charged.
- A refusal to waive a fee or a refusal to allow the requester to examine the original record.
The written notice of appeal should be directed to:
Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario
2 Bloor Street East, Suite 1400
If a requester wishes to launch an appeal, the Information and Privacy Commissioner's Office must be provided with a copy of the request, the file number, a copy of the decision letter and the appeal fee. There is a $25 appeal fee for general information requests and a $10.00 appeal fee for personal information requests. All fees should be in the form of either a cheque or a money order made payable to the Minister of Finance.
Frequently asked questions
What are the principles or intent of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act?
There are five basic principles of this legislation aimed to provide an individual with an appropriate balance between access to government information and protection of the individual’s personal information. These principles are:
- You, the “public”, have a right of access to records held by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU).
- The WECHU must protect your personal privacy and follow rules and guidelines in collecting, using, and disclosing, to others, your personal information.
- It is your right to see your personal information held by the WECHU about yourself.
- You have the right to request corrections to your personal information that is held by the WECHU. However, opinions cannot be changed or removed.
- You have the right to an independent review of decisions made by the WECHU. This independent review is conducted by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario’s office.
Do I have to make a Freedom of Information request to obtain all information from the WECHU?
No. The WECHU routinely releases information without a formal MFIPPA or PHIPA request provided the information:
- Is not subject to exemption from disclosure.
- Is for a reasonable number of records.
- Does not contain personal information about other individuals.
What is personal information?
Personal information is recorded information on an identifiable individual including, but not limited to:
- The individual’s name, home address, or telephone number.
- The individual’s race, national or ethnic origin, colour, or religious or political beliefs or associations.
- The individual’s age, sex, marital status, or family status.
- Information about the individual’s health and health care history, including information about a physical or mental disability.
- Information about the individual’s educational, financial, employment, or criminal history, including criminal records where a pardon has been given.
- Anyone else’s opinions about the individual.
- The individual’s personal views or opinions, except if they are about someone else.
If I make a formal request, will I get all the information I requested?
You will receive all information that is releasable under MFIPPA or PHIPA. Some information may not be released if an exception to release exists in the Acts. When an exemption to disclosure exists, you will be informed under which section of the Acts the information is exempt.
There are two types of exemptions
- Mandatory Exemptions: If applicable, the WECHU cannot release information related to these exemptions without violating the Act.
- Discretionary Exemptions: The WECHU may apply its discretion to the information when deciding whether to release information.
Is there a cost to make a formal request?
When submitting a request, you must pay an initial application fee of $5.00 for MFIPPA requests. It is the policy of the WECHU not to charge for PHIPA requests. A request requiring this fee will not be processed until the fee is received. The fee may be received in the form of credit card, cash, or certified cheque made out to the “The Windsor Essex County Health Unit” or “WECHU”.
Are there additional fees charged after the initial fee?
A personal request will have a fee assessed for photocopies if the cost of the copies requested exceeds $5.00. The charge for photocopies is $0.20 per page. Computer Programming fees are $15.00 per ¼ hour to develop a program to retrieve information. Electronic medium e.g., USB’s are $10.00 each.
For other MFIPPA requests, fees are charged as follows:
- Search Time: $7.50 per ¼ hour required to search and retrieve the records.
- Record Preparation: $7.50 per ¼ hour required to prepare records for release.
- Photocopying: $0.20 per page.
- Computer Programming: $15.00 per ¼ hour to develop program to retrieve information.
- Disks/CD: $10.00 for each.
You will be given an estimated fee if anticipated fees are $25.00 or more. If the estimate of fees to be paid is $100.00 or more, you will be required to pay a 50% deposit. Please note that the fee charges are prescribed by Section 45 of the MFIPPA and section 6 of the Regulations and Guidelines for Municipalities and Local Boards. All monies are payable by credit card, cash, money order, or certified cheque.
What if I don’t pay the $5 initial application fee required for an MFIPPA request?
Your request will be opened, but processing will not begin until the initial fee has been received by the Finance Department.
How do I pay the fee for my MFIPPA request?
The Finance Department will contact you to process your payment and provide you with an invoice.
If paying by cheque, send to the address below, and include the MFIPPA tracking number you received via invoice.
Please mail your cheque to:
Windsor-Essex County Health Unit
1005 Ouellette Ave
Windsor, ON N9A 4J8
Attn: Finance Department
Re: MFIPPA Request (include the number assigned)
Do I have to give the WECHU my personal information?
To obtain services from the WECHU, you may have to provide your personal information to the WECHU. However, the WECHU can collect only the personal information that is needed to provide the service.
Does the WECHU have to tell me for what purpose they will use my personal information?
When personal information is collected from an individual, notice should be given about what use is made of their personal information, the authority for collecting this information, and the name and contact information of the employee who can answer additional questions a person may have on this collection. Also, the information is to be collected directly from the individual in most circumstances but there are a few exceptions to this in the Act.
What can I do if the WECHU breaches my privacy?
If you feel that the WECHU has breached your privacy, you have the right to request an investigation into the matter by the WECHU Privacy Officer and, if not satisfied with the result of the investigation, you may request the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario to investigate the potential breach.
What is meant by the “duty to assist”?
Employees of the WECHU, including the Privacy Officer, must make every “reasonable” effort to help applicants and to respond to each applicant openly, accurately, and completely subject to the restrictions and exemptions of MFIPPA.
What is clarification of request?
If it is unclear what records are being required, the Privacy Officer will contact the applicant for more details on the information being requested as a part of “duty to assist”. This clarification enables more accurate and complete processing of a request.
Do I have to tell the WECHU why I want the information?
However, under certain circumstances, it may be helpful to provide the reason, as it would enable the WECHU to process your request more efficiently. The WECHU may request additional information to ensure that the search and records provided address your request appropriately.
What is the role of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario?
Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, who is appointed by the Provincial Legislature, oversees all aspects of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act for all public bodies affected by the Act including the WECHU. The Office of the Commissioner is the independent body that reviews the application of the legislation including:
- Conducting reviews of decisions made by the WECHU under MFIPPA, at the request of an applicant or affected third party.
- Conducting investigations into complaints regarding privacy breaches, to ensure compliance with provisions of MFIPPA and compliance with rules relating to the destruction of records.
- Making Orders because of investigations, reviews and inquiries.
- Informing the public about the Act.