Municipal Personal Information Banks required in Ontario

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| Published , updated March 6, 2024

Section 34 of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) requires municipalities to keep an updated Personal Information Bank and to make it available for the public to view.

In Ontario, every individual has a right of access to, and correction of:

  • any personal information about the individual contained in a personal information bank in the custody or under the control of an institution
  • any other personal information about the individual in the custody or under the control of an institution with respect to which the individual is able to provide sufficiently specific information to render it reasonably retrievable by the institution.

I believe it is important that this index be available to the public so that they can refer to it when exercising their right to access or correct their own personal information, and better understand how their personal information is stored and used by their government institutions.

What is a Personal Information Bank Index?

Personal Information Bank (PIB) is personal information under a municipalities control that can be retrieved using an individual’s name or identifier, such as

A PIB index or register is a list of databases that include records maintained by a municipality for the purposes of supporting programs and activities that contain this personal information about one or more individuals. The index or register is often organized by department or activity and must include the following details for each database:

  • Name
  • Where it is located
  • Type(s) of personal information maintained
  • How it is used
  • Who is it disclosed to
  • The legal authority for its collection
  • How long it is retained

For example, see Durham Region’s Directory of Records and Personal Information Banks (PIBs).

The purpose of the PIB index is to help residents understand what records are held by their municipality and what personal information they include, which helps residents keep that information up-to-date and be more specific when accessing it via a Freedom of Information Act request.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents have a right to request information from public-sector institutions in Ontario including provincial ministries, agencies, boards, commissions, and hospitals and personal information is frequently requested as can be seen in the requests databases of Toronto, Kingston and Burlington.

Documents commonly requested include:

  • Property records, such as building records, plans and permits (available to the property owner or their legal representative)
  • Ambulance call reports (records are made available to the patient or their legal representative)
  • Court records
  • Social services files
  • Investigator/inspector notes
  • Noise complaint records
  • Animal control files

What is personal information?

As defined in the Act, personal information is recorded information about an identifiable individual, including:

  • race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation or marital or family status
  • education or the medical, psychiatric, psychological, criminal or employment history
  • financial transactions in which the individual has been involved
  • any identifying number, symbol or other particular assigned
  • address, telephone number, fingerprints or blood type
  • the personal opinions or views of the individual except if they relate to another individual
  • correspondence sent to an institution by the individual that is implicitly or explicitly of a private or confidential nature, and replies to that correspondence that would reveal the contents of the original correspondence
  • the views or opinions of another individual about the individual
  • the individual’s name if it appears with other personal information relating to the individual or where the disclosure of the name would reveal other personal information about the individual

Examples of Personal Information Bank Indexes in Ontario

Here are municipal PIBs I could find that are easily accessible online:

Ontario’s directory of personal information banks (PIBs) lists the collections of personal information held by public provincial institutions.

What if my municipality does not have a Personal Information Bank Index?

If you can’t find a copy of your municipality’s Personal Information Bank, contact your members of council and/or municipal clerk and politely ask where you might access the Personal Information Bank Index and if does not exist, noting that it is required under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

If they do not produce one, the next step is to submit a Freedom of Information request under MFIPPA for a copy of your own personal information records.

This approach has provided successful in the past. In 2022, a resident of the Township of South Glengarry submitted a Freedom of Information Act request MO-4159 asking for access to their “personal information records” as follows:

  1. Please identify and provide access to inspect and correct all of my personal information records which I have not previously requested.
  2. Please identify and provide all S34 [section 34  of the Act] Personal Information Bank index or records relating to my personal information records which I have not previously requested.

After the request was received, the township initially told the appellant that it did not maintain any personal information banks or the corresponding index.

After discussing the matter, the township reformulated the request and issued a decision, in which it disclosed some records.

The resident appealed to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC), pointing to the township’s failure to maintain a personal information bank index and its corresponding failure to search for records within its personal information banks.

During the adjudication stage, the township published, on its website, a personal information bank index.

The adjudicator found that because the township had now published its personal information bank index, it was now in compliance with section 34 of the Act and therefore concerns about whether the township is in breach were moot.

My experience with the City of Belleville

I first tried inquiring about the status of the registry with the Deputy Clerk, who is responsible for handling FOI requests.

  1. June 28, 2022 – Emailed the Deputy Clerk Christine Stewart, no response
  2. July 11, 2022 – Emailed the Director of Corporate Services/Clerk Matt MacDonald, no response
  3. April 11, 2023 – Emailed the Administrative Assistant – Corporate Services Department who response to FOI requests, no response

April 2023 – FOI Request template for Personal Information Bank

After receiving no response from any of my inquiries, I found and followed the approach described above, filing the following Freedom of Information request with the City. My cheque was cashed April 21, 2023. Here is request I sent:

Please identify and provide access to inspect Belleville’s Personal information bank index as described in Section 34 of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, which states:

Personal information bank index
34 (1) A head shall make available for inspection by the public an index of all personal information banks in the custody or under the control of the institution setting forth, in respect of each personal information bank,

(a) its name and location;

(b) the legal authority for its establishment;

(c) the types of personal information maintained in it;

(d) how the personal information is used on a regular basis;

(e) to whom the personal information is disclosed on a regular basis;

(f) the categories of individuals about whom personal information is maintained; and

(g) the policies and practices applicable to the retention and disposal of the personal information.

Ensure accuracy

(2) The head shall ensure that the index is amended as required to ensure its accuracy.  R.S.O. 1990, c. M.56, s. 34.

https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90m56#BK47

It would look something like these:

In addition,

  1. Please identify and provide access to inspect and correct all of my personal information records which I have not previously requested.
  2. Please identify and provide all S34 [section 34 of the Act] Personal Information Bank index or records relating to my personal information records which I have not previously requested.

May 2023 – Belleville’s response to the FOI request

May 19, 2023 – Coming up on 1 year since I first emailed the City about the missing Index, I received the response to the FOI request from the Director of Corporate Services/Clerk, stating that they do not have a Personal Information Bank Index and that they are working on one to have “near future”.

June 2023 – FOI request appeal

Following the lead of the resident of the Township of South Glengarry, I have filled out the IPC Appeal Form and included with it the following appeal:

My request to the City of Belleville to “identify and provide access to inspect and correct all of my personal information records which I have not previously requested” was denied as they were “unable to grant my request as no records are available”.

The City has failed to maintain a personal information bank index and failed to search for records within its personal information banks, in violation of Section 34 of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) –  a serious and significant omission on the part of the City.

I have the right to access any personal information about the individual contained in a personal information bank in the custody or under the control of an institution; and any other personal information about the individual in the custody or under the control of an institution with respect to which the individual is able to provide sufficiently specific information to render it reasonably retrievable by the institution.

I first emailed the City’s Clerk and Deputy Clerk about this on June 28, 2022 and have not received a response. It has been almost a year since then and the response from the City that “we are working on one to have in the near future” is unacceptable.

February 2023 – Personal Information Bank created and records provided

Belleville now has a Personal Information Bank:

The retention by-law will be updated, and the index – a living document – will be updated when processes change or updates to by-laws are approved.

A search of the records they had on me personally contained:

  • Parking ticket
  • Garbage bag tag purchases
  • Bulky goods pickup order
  • Property taxes
  • Emails to a department regarding a specific project

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