How to make a Freedom of Information request

How to request access to university records

1. Identify the records you want to access and contact the department that holds them

Start by contacting the university department or office that has the records you want to access. Discuss your request with a staff member to determine 1) if records exist that respond to your request, and 2) if those records can be disclosed to you directly by the department.

Records that contain confidential or third party personal information (for example, personal information about other people) are subject to exceptions to your right of access under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), which means they can’t be disclosed directly by departments. Those records are sent by the department to the Archives and Records Management Department for a formal review in accordance with "Division 2 - Exceptions" of FIPPA.

2. Submit a formal Access to Information request

If the department you contact is unable or unwilling to disclose records to you for any reason, submit your request in writing to the Archives and Records Management Department.

3. Be specific about the records you’re requesting

Be as clear as possible when identifying which specific records you’re requesting, and for what time period. According to section 5(1)(a) of FIPPA, you need to provide sufficient detail in your request to enable an experienced University employee, with a reasonable effort, to identify the records you’ve asked for.

In short, keep the scope of your request narrow and specific. A clearly defined request with a narrow scope will assist the university in searching for records and responding to your request quickly.

4. Records review procedure

If all or part of your request is reviewed by the Archives and Records Management Department, you will receive an Acknowledgement Letter that may also notify you of any time extensions or fees that apply.

Once the Archives and Records Management Department has completed its formal review of the records, an Access Review Recommendation is submitted for approval to the appropriate decision-making authority in accordance with University Policy I10.02 - Head of the Institution and Delegation of Authority.

5. Outcome of your request

If any of the records to which you’ve requested access are subject to exceptions under FIPPA (i.e., you don’t have a right to access them, in part or in full), they may be withheld or you may receive them with portions of the document blacked out (or ‘severed’). An accompanying Decision Letter will explain in detail any exceptions applied and give reasons for them.

If you request access to records containing personal information about yourself, the university may ask you to provide sufficient evidence of your identity.

6. Complaint process

If you aren’t satisfied with a department's disclosure of records or the University's formal access decision, you have 30 business days from the date of a disclosure or formal Decision Letter to complain in writing to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia at:

Information and Privacy Commissioner
PO Box 9038, Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC
V8W 9A4

T: 250-387-5629
F: 250-387-1696

Processing information access requests

If your department receives a request for access to information, please contact archives@sfu.ca for guidance on how to fulfill the request.

Personal Information Directory

The Personal Information Directory (PID) contains descriptions of the Personal Information Banks (PIBs) created and maintained by SFU.

A PIB is a collection of personal information that’s organized and capable of being retrieved by using an individual's name or some other personal identifier. Each time a new PIB is created by a department or program collecting personal information, it's added to the Directory.

In accordance with FIPPA, SFU is required to make available to the public a listing of the PIBs it creates and maintains. The PID is our way of making that listing accessible online.

A PIB entry in the Directory includes the following information:

  • Title: Gives the name of the records series constituting the PIB.
  • Location: Identifies the SFU department with primary responsibility for maintaining the records.
  • Types of personal information: Lists the main categories of personal information found in the records.
  • Purpose for which personal information obtained / compiled and used / disclosed: States the rationale for the collection, use and disclosure of the personal information in the records.
  • Individuals using personal information or to whom it is disclosed: Identifies the types of individuals who use or have access to the personal information in the records; individuals are described in terms of job titles (e.g., "patrol supervisors" or "payroll clerks").
  • Individuals included in the PIB: Indicates the types of individuals who are the subjects of the record, described in general terms (e.g., "students" or "employees").
  • Legal authorities for the collection of personal information: Enumerates the federal or provincial statutes and SFU policies that regulate the activities generating the records and govern the collection, use, disclosure, retention and disposition of the personal information contained in the PIB.
  • RRSDA number: Specifies the SFU Records Retention Schedule and Disposal Authority (RRSDA) governing the length of time records in the PIB are retained and their final disposition at the end of this period (destruction or transfer to Archives for permanent retention). A link to the full text of the relevant RRSDA is given in each PIB entry.

Publicly available information

Some information is available to the public without needing to file an FOI request. You can find a directory of those records here.

Have a question about accessing personal information records?

Visit our FAQ