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New West fire department generates most Freedom of Information requests in the city

Council in brief
Inquiring minds want to know: New Westminster Fire and Rescue Services generated the most Freedom of Information requests to city hall in 2020 and 2019. File

The New Westminster Fire and Rescue Service continues to garner the most requests for information of all city departments.

A report about Freedom of Information requests made to the city in 2020 states the city received 88 requests for records last year, which compared to 86 in 2019 and 87 in 2018.

“The majority of the requests were for the fire department (e.g. MVA reports, photos and firefighter notes),” said the report to council. “There was an increase in the public requesting land or building records.”

According to the report, there were 20 requests for records from the fire department (down from 24 in 2019), 17 from building permit and inspections, 15 from parks and recreation and 11 from planning. Trailing behind were requests for information from: bylaw and licensing (seven); engineering and engineering operations (six); finance (six); animal services (six); human resources (five); legislative services (four); the mayor’s office (three); and administration (three).

The bulk of the requests for information in 2020 came from the public (50) and law firms (28), with other requests coming from insurance adjusters (six), and companies and media (two each).

“As a result of these inquiries in 2020, 4,029 electronic pages were released. Only one request was responded to with paper documents, nine pages in total,” said the report by Brooke Holtz, the city’s FOI and privacy coordinator. “In 2020, there were two requests forwarded to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC). This compares to two in 2019 and one in 2018. The city current has three cases pending with the OIPC.)”

The OIPC provides independent oversight and enforcement of B.C.'s access and privacy laws. The commissioner’s role includes investigating and resolving privacy complaints.

Supporting MP

New Westminster city council is backing their local member of Parliament’s efforts to tackle hate and discrimination.

New Westminster-Burnaby MP Peter Julian wrote to city council seeking its endorsement of Motion M-84 anti-hate crime and incidents and private member’s bill C-313 banning symbols of hate. At its June 28 meeting, council approved a motion to have the mayor send a letter of endorsement for the motion and private member’s bill, on behalf of the city’s 71,000 residents.

On June 17, Julian tabled Bill C-313 – an act to amend the Criminal Code (banning symbols of hate) in the House of Commons. It would broaden provisions in the Criminal Code relating to hate propaganda, by making it an offence to publicly display visual representations that promote or incite hatred or violence against an identifiable group, such as the Nazi swastika, the Ku Klux Klan’s insignia, hood and robe, and the Confederate flag from the United States.

On May 11, Julian tabled motion M-84, which proposes a “hate neutralization strategy” to address the rise in hate crimes in Canada. His motion calls on the federal government to immediately counteract all forms of hate and all forms of discrimination, hate crimes and incidents of hate through a number of initiatives, including: the implementation of a system reporting and tracking system of hate crimes and incidents; the launch of a public education campaign; and the provision of victim services for victims of hate crimes or hate incidents.

Follow Theresa McManus on Twitter @TheresaMcManus