Nanaimo city hall

Nanaimo city hall

Complaint gets City of Nanaimo council video restored

NANAIMO – City of Nanaimo staff claim proper Freedom of Information policy often not followed correctly.

The City of Nanaimo has restored a blacked-out council meeting video after a complaint to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commission for B.C.

For two years, city watcher Ron Bolin has fought a decision by the city to black out a video recording of a notice of motion from a council meeting July 14, 2014. He said it was the first time he’d seen the city redact a video and he believed it would set precedent.

Bolin took his complaint twice to the privacy commissioner, which enforces privacy and access laws, with the first inquiry costing the city more than $20,000 in legal costs, according to a Freedom of Information request made by Bolin. The initial process was dismissed after it found Bolin hadn’t filed a required FOI request with the city. He tried again and by late September, the city voluntarily restored the video online and gave Bolin a copy, ending an OIPC process that appeared to be heading toward a second inquiry.

But it wasn’t the last time council retracted council video  and the city’s FOI coordinator Sheila Gurrie doesn’t believe process was followed in either case.

Gurrie and Tracy Samra, the city’s chief administrative officer, claim there’s been a history of interference by staff in what’s supposed to be a process handled independently by those designated to handle FOI requests.

Samra said she raised concerns in 2013 when she was manager of legislative services about the independency of the FOI head and that other staff have no authority under the bylaw, or law, to make decisions that have been delegated to that FOI head.

“What she’s saying is basically there’s been struggles throughout the years sometimes with staff interfering in the FOI process,” said Gurrie.

The City of Nanaimo records its council meetings, allowing the public to view the decision-making process in-person, live on television and online, or through recorded video.

Bradley Weldon, senior policy analyst for the privacy commissioner, said in the case of a recorded video, the city isn’t obligated to disclose it in the first place, under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act, and can retract under sections of that same act, in cases where disclosure of information invades a third party’s privacy.

According to legal documents posted on Bolin’s blog, the city initially claimed it retracted video from a July 14, 2014, meeting under two sections of the act, because statements were made about city employees and their employment history.

Gurrie said if there was a privacy breach it would have gone through her office but it did not. She is not aware of anyone other than herself who can redact information and said she was concerned that process wasn’t followed.

“In my speaking with the investigator at the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, if it had gone through me and had been considered a privacy breach we would have had the authority to redact the video after the fact. This isn’t, however, how it was done,” she said.

The city has restored the video online. The minutes of the meeting also did not include the full motion and is expected to be restored as well.

Video was severed again from a June 22, 2015 meeting, where city council talked about the Colliery dam, under the same sections of the act used in 2014. Gurrie said she had no knowledge of that redaction, either.

“Again, it wasn’t handled properly. It should have been a privacy breach. Should have been redacted as such after the fact, but it wasn’t and they redacted it based on some not-so-nice quotes they felt against our city lawyer at the time,” she said.

On the second retraction, Gurrie said she hasn’t been asked to review it.

Bolin said he pursued the video because it was the right thing to do. It should concern the public because it’s like a person and their word.

“To me, redaction in a case like this is the equivalent of a lie because something happened and all of a sudden you say, no that didn’t happen,” he said.

To see the restored video, please visit https://goo.gl/x9U7ED.

Just Posted

Nanaimo is the first city in Canada to subscribe to the Chonolog environment photo-monitoring system, which allow residents to contribute photos of habitat restoration projects that are converted to time lapse sequences showing environmental changes. (Chris Bush/ News Bulletin)
Nanaimo residents invited to be citizen scientists by sharing habitat restoration photos

Nanaimo first city in Canada to sign up for Chronolog environment photo monitoring service

Regional District of Nanaimo is seeking input from the public for its transit redevelopment strategy. (News Bulletin file)
Public input sought as RDN works on transit redevelopment strategy

RDN wants to know where people want bus stops, shelters and pedestrian and cycling connections

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

(PQB News file photo)
Fireworks report highlights enforcement challenges for Regional District of Nanaimo

Director: ‘I just think it’s wasting everybody’s time’

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Nanaimo residents on edge of city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps near Nanaimo

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read