How do I make a complaint?

This page has information about:

  • The types of complaints our office can investigate
  • What to do if you have a complaint
  • How to make a complaint to the Commissioner
  • What to expect after you submit a complaint

Types of complaints

The OIPC investigates two types of complaints.

  1. Privacy Complaints

A privacy complaint may result when you have concerns about the way a "public body" or a private sector "organization" has handled or processed your personal information. Privacy complaints may include:

  • Unauthorized collection of your personal information,
  • Unauthorized use of your personal information,
  • Unauthorized disclosure of your personal information,
  • Inadequate security of your personal information; or
  • Refusal to correct or annotate records containing your personal information.

     2.   Access Complaints

Access complaints may result when you are concerned about an act, or failure to act, by a public body or organization that is related to your access request.  Access complaints are different than a request for review of a public body or organization's response to a request for records.  Access complaints may include:

  • A failure to make a reasonable effort to assist you;
  • An inadequate search for records in response to your request for records ,
  • An inappropriate fee assessment;
  • A refusal to waive an assessed fee; or
  • An unauthorized extension of time taken by the public body or organization to respond to your access request.

There is no fee for making a complaint to the Commissioner's office.

What to do if you have a complaint 

  1. The first step is to attempt to resolve your complaint directly with the public body or organization.  Submit your complaint in writing directly to the public body or to an organization's privacy officer. Provide as much detail as you can in order to assist them to understand the nature of your complaint. Ask the public body or organization to explain their legal authority to do what they did.
  2. Give the public body or organization at least 30 business days to respond.  We generally do not accept complaints until you have waited at least 30 business days for a response.  Keep copies of your correspondence with the public body or organization as we will need to see them.
  3. If after 30 business days you have not received a response from the public body or organization you can make a complaint to our office.
  4. Or, if you are unsatisfied with how the public body or organization addressed your complaint, you can make a complaint to our office.

How to complain to the Commissioner's Office

If you have tried to resolve your complaint directly with a public body or organization and remain unsatisfied with the resolution, or if they did not respond to your complaint, you can complain to the Commissioner's office. There is no fee for filing a complaint with the Commissioner.

To make a complaint to the Commissioner:

  1. Put your complaint in writing. You can use our forms or you can write us a letter or e-mail that concisely explains the details of your case.  Include with your complaint the documentation listed below.  If you are unable to make a written complaint, please call us at (250) 387-5629.  Phone numbers can also be found on our "Contact Us" web page.
  2. When complaining to our office, it is important to be specific about what happened and what your concerns are.  If you make broad or general allegations, processing of your complaint may be delayed while we contact you for clarification.
  3. When you make a privacy complaint, send us the following documents:
  • Documentation that supports your complaint;
  • A copy of your written complaint to the public body or organization;
  • A copy of the public body's or organization's response (if there was one); and
  • Any other correspondence with the public body or organization about your complaint.

      4.   If you are making an access related complaint, send the following documentation:

  • A copy of your original request for records;
  • A copy of the public body or organization's response (if there was one); and
  • Copies of correspondence with the public body or organization documenting your attempts to resolve the complaint.. 

What to Expect

Our Intake Team will review your complaint and documentation according to our policies and criteria in order to determine whether a complaint file will be opened. If we decline to investigate your complaint, you will receive a letter explaining why we are not investigating.

If your complaint is accepted, you will receive a notification letter to this effect. Your file may be assigned to an intake officer if it appears there is an opportunity to resolve your complaint without delay. Otherwise your file will be queued for assignment to an investigator.  Due to the high volume of requests and complaints received by our office it may be some time before your file is assigned to an investigator.  When an investigator begins work on your file you will receive a notice by mail that the file has been assigned, which will include the investigator's name and contact information.

If you have more information you want included with the file, please send it to us and reference the OIPC file number.  This information will be added to your file.

The investigator will investigate your complaint and, after considering the evidence and the law, will make a finding, which may indicate whether or not the public body or organization complied with the legislation.  In some cases the investigator may be able to mediate a resolution to your complaint. In certain circumstances the OIPC may consider a matter resolved and decline to continue with an investigation.  

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner ensures that privacy and access legislation is properly applied in the circumstances.  Our approach to resolving disputes between individuals and public bodies or organizations is remedial.  In other words, we try to help public bodies and organizations be compliant with the law rather than punish them.  We do not award damages or assess penalties the way that a court does.  

If you wish to know the status of your complaint file before it has been assigned to an investigator please call the intake officer who signed the notice letter.

For more information regarding the complaints process, check out the Guidance Document section of our website.