Canadian FOIA Office Shuts Down “Out-of-Scope” Responses

There has been a growing practice in Illinois and elsewhere of the government withholding portions of public records that are not exempt but that the government contends are outside the scope of the request.  For example, a request for records involving a study of issue X might turn up a study of X and Y, and some government officials are then redacting the portions of the record related to Y.  The Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner in British Columbia has shot down that practice: “In my view, regardless of whether the information the Ministry has marked as ‘out of scope of request’ is responsive to the substance of the applicant’s request, the Ministry cannot withhold this information for that reason. This is because the information is part of records that are responsive to the request.”

We believe that Illinois law requires the same conclusion here, but if you are making a FOIA request in Illinois and want to avoid this issue altogether, include the following statement in your request: “My request seeks the entire copy of any responsive records.  In other words, if a record discusses subject matter within the scope of my request and also other subject matter, my request seeks the entire record.”

For more information about the Loevy & Loevy FOIA practice, click here.

Read more about the B.C. Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner’s decision at



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