Can a student, in a FOIP request, gain access to a closed letter of reference of which s/he is the subject of the information?
Generally yes, since the letter would contain personal opinions about the student. In Order 200-029, the Information and Privacy Commissioner determined that letters of reference written in support of an application for admission to a graduate program should be disclosed because it affected a student's career opportunities, the third parties may refuse the student's request, and that the student already knows who the third parties are because they asked the third parties to write the letters in the first place. The Commissioner also found that the letters contained personal information about the student and the third parties but it would not be an unreasonable invasion of the third parties privacy to disclose their personal information contained in these letters. He also found that the letters did not constitute privileged information and that Section 19 (confidential evaluations) could not be applied as all the criteria of that section was not met.
However, under Section 19 of the FOIP Act, the Institute may refuse to disclose evaluative or opinion information collected for the purpose of conferring a benefit (e.g., a scholarship or other award) to an individual if the information was supplied in confidence. This is a narrow exception to disclosure of the information under the FOIP Act that would not apply to letters of reference in every situation.
Can the personal information of students be disclosed to potential employers who are making reference checks?
Only if the student consents in writing to the disclosure of opinions about his/her grades, performance and suitability for the job. This consent may take the form of permission to contact the Institute or a named individual as a part of the student's application for employment. The Institute should require a copy of the application or that part of it which authorizes the potential employer to seek information. The Institute should disclose only factual information or opinion information that the person answering the request is qualified to disclose. This information should be the minimum required to meet the request of the employer. For the convenience of NAIT's staff and students, a Student Record Reference Request form is available to obtain student consent for references to potential employers.
Can a student, in a FOIP request, gain access to evaluation forms completed by employers who accept students on placement?
Generally this would be released to the student since the evaluation form would be part of their educational history and would be the personal information of the student (Section 1(1)(n)(vii) and (viii)). However, if the evaluation contained personal information about other people, this might have to be severed first before release.
Can a professional body or local or provincial apprenticeship committee require their clients to sign a blanket release so that they can have access to Institute records on students they sponsor at the Institute?
The relationship between the student and his or her sponsor is not the concern of the Institute. The Institute has the discretion to disclose only specific information that the student has consented to release to the sponsor (Section 40(1)(d)). This consent must be in writing and it must specify to whom the personal information may be disclosed to and how the personal information may be used.