Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

At the May 1 meeting of the Gabriola Fire Protection Improvement District, Chair Paul Giffin expressed concern with an article printed in last week’s Sounder.

The article, entitled, “Accessing historical RDN and most Trust records does not require a FOIPP request” appeared on page 3 of the May 1  Sounder.

It outlined how members of the public can access historical records of the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) and the Islands Trust, and whether the public is required to make applications for those records through a Freedom of Information (FOIPP) request.

At the May 1 meeting, Giffin said, “with respect to article in the Sounder, if you’re going to compare apples, compare to other apples.”

He explained that Improvement Districts fall under a different section of the Local Government Act, than the RDN or Trust, and pointed out that both those government agencies have full-time staff assigned to deal with FOIPP requests

“The [Fire] District doesn’t have that luxury.”

Giffin said the Fire District tried for 18 months to deal with FOIPP requests, but when that became untenable, the District contracted the company Privacy Works.

“That is the reason why we are the way we are today.”

Matt Dow is the Corporate Officer for the Fire District.

Speaking to the Sounder after the Fire Board meeting, Dow said his interest is in getting the District to the point where the records being asked for are available to the public. And that FOIPP requests will not have to be made.

“Most of the FOIs we are getting are not necessary. I would stress to the Gabriola community that patience is needed. The [Gabriola Fire Department] and the Trustees, the District, we’re in the midst of a transition period.

“The documents people want can be hard to find because they are not being specific enough and digitized, but we are coming up with a brand new web site. We will put as much as we can on this web site, for the public.”

Dow said the documents people want are sometimes not specific enough to be searched for or the time stretches back more than twenty years ago.

Therefore, the documents can be hard to find and digitized.

“But we are coming up with a brand-new web site. We will put as much as we can on this web site, for the public.”

He said all branches of government have policy retention for a reason.

“We are starting to develop our own. As we don’t have any more room in the Fire Hall #1 to maintain the 50+ years of documents.”

He provided a draft of the retention policy that is currently being debated – published below this article.

Dow said that over the past year, the District has been saying it is, “understaffed to deal with FOIs.

“There is not the history nor specific training of dealing with FOIs, nor has there historically been staffing or a budget to deal with FOIs.”

Training/Context matters. Dow said, “unless you are a specific type of lawyer or know the precise details of what can and cannot be redacted and why that information should be redacted – no one can simply comply with FOIs – that’s why we have hired Privacy Works.”

In some cases, FOIPP requests are being made for records and documents that don’t exist.

Dow said when a FOIPP request is made, even if a document doesn’t exist, the process still costs the District money because it has to go through Privacy Works, and then the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC), who then render a decision that says the District is not required to produce a document that never existed.

Dow said he is fully willing to sit down with the individuals – during business hours – to have conversations about the records, and how to obtain them.

Draft* of proposed Policy# 24-11
Retention Policy for the Gabriola Fire Protection Improvement District


The purpose of this policy is to set out what records must be retained and for how long so as to comply with various pieces of legislation, and so the Corporate Officer and the Fire Chief can have a clear understanding of what records to keep and when records are to be destroyed.

General Correspondence:

• Keep for seven years.

Financial and Payroll Records:

• Accounting records such as balance sheets and income statements, the general ledger, accounts payable files, cheques, bank statements, bank reconciliations and so on should be kept for six years after the year in which they were created to comply with the Income Tax Act. The same applies to payroll records.

Personnel Records:

BC’s Employment Standards Act requires an employer to keep the following records:

• Employees name, date of birth, occupation, telephone number and residential address

• The date employment began.

• The employee’s wage rate, whether paid hourly or on a salary basis or on a flat rate, piece rate, commission, etc.

• The benefits paid to the employee.

• The employees gross and net wages for each pay period.

• Each deduction from the employee’s wage and the reason for it.

• Dates of statutory holidays taken and the amounts paid by the employer.

These records must be retained for two years after the record is made or work performed and two years after employment terminates.

Causes of Action

• Normally an action cannot be initiated after six years from the date the event occurred. Therefore, it is not necessary to keep records on these matters for more than six years.


• Bylaws are legal documents that form part of the historical record of the improvement district and must be kept safe by the corporate officer.


• Minutes of all meetings of the board of trustees must be kept by the corporate officer.

* this version of the proposed policy is currently in draft form. Changes may still be made by the Fire Board Trustees prior to approving the policy for adoption.

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