Searching for Responsive Records

This document provides detailed instructions on how to perform searches and provide records that are responsive to an access to information request made to the University’s Access to Information and Privacy Office (AIPO) under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

Before beginning your search, here are some important points to consider

  • A record includes any record of information, however recorded (e.g., paper record, electronic record, handwritten notes, audio, voicemail, text messages, video and photographs).
  • The search should be performed by an experienced employee knowledgeable in the subject matter of the request aware of the location of the responsive records. This is important, to ensure a thorough search and minimize the time spent on the search.
  • Inform AIPO if you anticipate that the search will produce a voluminous amount of records.
  • Retrieve records from the Archives of the University of Ottawa if necessary.
  • Complete the search form as accurately as possible. If the matter is appealed to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, you may have to provide an affidavit detailing your search.
  • Provide AIPO with the search form and the responsive records in the allotted time. Under FIPPA, we are required to provide the requester with our decision within 30 days of receiving the request, and we need time to process the records and/or information you provide to AIPO beforehand. If necessary, you can contact the AIPO to arrange to extend this deadline. Such extension requests should be made as early as possible.
  • You must maintain the confidentiality of the requester, including the requester’s identity, at all times. As stated in the Information and Privacy Commissioners’ Practices on Maintaining the Confidentiality of Requesters and Privacy Complainants, “the disclosure of another individual’s personal information to employees within an institution is permitted only in limited circumstances.  Outside of these circumstances, the disclosure of the identity of a requester or privacy complainant is improper.
  • FIPPA does not require that records be translated into the language of the requester.
  • You do not have to create a new record to respond to a request, but in some cases it may be simpler or less costly to do so.
  • It is an offence under FIPPA to alter, conceal or destroy a record in order to deny a right of access.
  • As specified at section 16 of the  University’s Policy 90 you “must cooperate and assist AIPO as required in the fulfillment of the University’s obligations under the Policy, related procedures and Applicable Access and Privacy Legislation”
  • For additional information, see University of Ottawa Procedure 20-5 – Handling Access to Information Requests.

Locating and retrieving responsive records

  • Review the request carefully and contact AIPO if you have any questions regarding its wording or interpretation.
  • Determine where the records are located and what kinds of records exist (e.g., shared drive, Outlook, filing cabinets, notepads, etc.).
  • Use all relevant keywords to perform your search (e.g., acronyms, nicknames, ID numbers).
  • Ensure that you have searched all applicable areas as indicated on the search form attached to AIPO’s initial search request.
  • Calculate the search time by determining every action necessary to locate, retrieve and assemble the requested records, taking into consideration how the records are stored and maintained and the actual amount of time needed at each step. Note: the University cannot charge a fee for manually searching for a record containing the requester’s own personal information.

Preparing and transmitting the records to AIPO

  • AIPO prefers to receive records electronically. The best method of transmitting the responsive records is  via Liquidfiles, a University of Ottawa online secure file transfer service to facilitate sending large and/or confidential and sensitive files/folders to any email address securely and quickly.
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