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McMaster University

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Link to PDF of all FAQs PDF


1. If a request is made for detailed legal invoices, what information on the invoices would be released?

If a legal bill contains only basic information such as the dates the billing covers and the amount, it should be released. If the invoice contains material that falls under exemption in FIPPA s.19 (solicitor-client exemption), it can be severed. Any request for these invoices involves a potential irrevocable waiver of solicitor- client privilege. All such requests should be reviewed with legal counsel.

2. Can suppliers have access to evaluation documents of bidders' proposals?

Once a decision has been made, the evaluation documents would be accessible, with the proviso that any material that would be exempt from disclosure under FIPPA s.17 (third party information) would be severed. The University would have to provide advance notice to any third party regarding the release of information.

3. Can copies of contracts with consultants, engineers, and contractors be released?

Generally, copies of contracts will be released after they have been awarded. However, there is some information which may be contained in a contract which would not be released. If the contract details include unit pricing or proprietary information, this information could be severed according to FIPPA s.17 (third party information). If it contains competitive financial information of the University (s.18) it may also be withheld. The University would have to provide advanced notice to the third party regarding the release of information.

4. Is the University obliged under FIPPA to release examination questions and answers? If so, when and under what circumstances?

FIPPA s.18 (h)(exam/test questions) allows a head to refuse to disclose information "relating to specific tests or testing procedures or techniques that are to be used for an educational purpose, if disclosure could reasonably be expected to prejudice the use or results of the tests or testing procedures or technique".

5. What steps should the libraries take to protect the privacy of patron information displayed (for staff use) on computer screens at Circulation Desks in campus libraries?

The Library must ensure that screens are turned away from the general line of sight of library patrons and that all computers have password-protected screen- savers activated.

6. Are the student governments, MSU, MAPS, GSA, subject to FIPPA?

Strictly speaking, given that same are separately incorporated entities which do not specifically fall within the definition of “institution” under FIPPA, they are not. Information received by the University from any of them is however subject to FIPPA in the University’s hands.

7. What needs to be done about permissions for video conferencing and archiving of same for later viewing on the web (participants are often in other countries, and there are often Q&A sessions where people get up and identify themselves)?

Notice must be given at the outset of the recording that the video conference is being recorded and will be available for general viewing afterwards. Thus, it may later be disclosed pursuant to section 42(c)(purpose for which it was obtained).

8. What is the status of non-disclosure agreements with Investment Fund Managers?

Such agreements are enforceable under sections 17(1)(c)(undue loss of gain) and 18(1)(c)(prejudice to economic interests).

9. Are we required to disclose information (i.e. applicant ranking and comments/opinions) to unsuccessful applicants to programs which require the completion of a supplementary application?

Subject to any exceptions in Part II of FIPPA which may apply, there is a general requirement to disclose such information to the unsuccessful applicant, so long as personal information of a third party is not improperly disclosed by doing so.

10. Whose responsibility is it to ensure that personal information on file is kept up to date?

There is no obligation under FIPPA for an institution to actively update personal information in its custody and control. An institution is generally required to update such information only at the request of the party to whom the information relates.


PLEASE NOTE: These Frequently Asked Questions are intended to provide general information only, not legal advice. Given the general nature of these questions, the materials herein cannot be entirely accurate, complete, reliable, or error-free in specific circumstances. Please refer specific questions in relation to your particular circumstances to the University Secretariat for specific responses.