NEW – OIPC Decision – Coquitlam School District

A New OIPC Decision was posted on April 15th involving the Coquitlam School District. Order F24-30

This is quite a unique decision involving a school district, compared with other decisions I have read. Particularly because I have never seen this section of the FIPPA used before. Section 14 – Solicitor-client privilege.

In some decisions involving all sorts of organizations, the respondents will suddenly be willing to disclose some of the previously withheld documents, only when the inquiry with the adjudicator starts. This is also the case here.

Do organizations just do that kind of stuff in hopes the applicant doesn’t have the stamina to last through these processes?

The summary by the OIPC is clear.

“An applicant made an access request and a privacy complaint to the Board of Education of School District No. 43 (School District) regarding a single email communication between the School District and an independent school. Initially, the School District withheld the email under s. 14 (solicitor-client privilege) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and disagreed with the applicant’s privacy complaint. However, during the inquiry, the School District determined that s. 14 did not apply and it disclosed the email to the applicant. It also acknowledged that it disclosed the applicant’s personal information without authority under FIPPA. The adjudicator determined that the issues in dispute were moot and there were no factors that warranted continuing the inquiry. Therefore, the adjudicator cancelled the inquiry.” (

What do you think of this?

Keep in mind, that this process takes years to wait for an inquiry. Years.

The school district was then paying lawyers to defend them through all of this.

When you think of it…. this parent’s tax dollars were going towards a school district that was paying lawyers to fight them over documents they should have had access to and their privacy was compromised.

Don’t we have school districts complaining of lack of funding?

When reading the details of this inquiry. It’s very interesting….

[11] The applicant’s child transferred from an Independent School to a school within the School District (Public School).

[12] In 2019, the applicant asked the principal of the Public School if any staff from the Public School and the Independent School had communicated about his child. The applicant and the principal exchanged several emails on the subject.

[13] In May 2021, legal counsel for the Independent School contacted the principal of the Public School to get information about whether the Independent School and the Public School had communicated about the applicant’s child. The Public School’s principal responded by email on May 12, 2021. In this email, the principal summarized his efforts to determine whether the communications took place and included a copy of the emails that he and the applicant exchanged in 2019.

[22] The parties agree that s. 14 does not apply to the information in dispute and the School District disclosed the email to the applicant.13 Given that all the information in dispute in this inquiry has been released to the applicant, I find that any order I make would not have a practical effect on the applicant’s right to access the information in dispute. As a result, I find that the issue of whether the School District is authorized to refuse the applicant access to the May 2021 email is moot.

Very interesting. I have so many questions.

[31] The parties agree that the 2021 email constituted a disclosure of the applicant’s personal information that was not authorized by FIPPA.17 The School District submits the unauthorized disclosure was quickly contained because the Independent School’s legal counsel recognized there may be privacy concerns about her receiving the email and immediately deleted it.18 The applicant does not challenge the veracity of the School District’s claim that the legal counsel immediately deleted the email in question.

So…if I am understanding this decision correctly.. lawyers from one school cannot contact another school and obtain information about a student/parents without the consent of the parent, even though they are lawyers?

Good to know.

As always, a big thank you to the parents who saw this through to hold the district accountable and provide us with an opportunity for learning and understanding the system. I am happy to see they had an outcome in their favour.

Ok parent(s)/guardians, keep this in mind for custody disputes, family court matters, human rights complaints, etc.

For anyone going through this process, the OIPC has a guide for completing written submissions.