Donate money to help us cover the cost of a freedom of information request (FOI).
FOIs are usually inexpensive (about $15 each), but sometimes the cost of accessing information can be exorbitant (like in the thousands of dollars!). Without access to funds, we’ve had to abandon pricey information requests, but now we’re changing our approach and are instead asking for help to raise the money so that we can access and share this important information.
For FOIs that go over the initial $15 because the material that is dug up is extensive/many pages, fees are $30 per hour for the time it takes to do the search and process the documents. The person making the FOI request is given a cost estimate in advance, to allow them to decide if they want to proceed with a costly request. The cost estimate only includes the initial processing (identifying the material to be included); it does not include the cost of removing pages and blacking out/redacting information that is exempt under the Act (like people’s personal information). Every page that includes information that is exempt from the Act costs an additional $1. For example, we have an important request for which 9,800 pages of material has been located and the initial cost estimate is $1,950; as this material will almost certainly contain people’s personal information (which is exempt under the Act), the cost of accessing this material could go up by hundreds of dollars, depending on the number of pages within the 9,800 that contain exempt information.
Also means, when a fee estimate is received, the requestor only has 90 days to provide half the money. So, in the example above, $975 has to be provided to the city in a month or the request is considered abandoned. The remainder of the cost is paid after the fact, once the full cost is calculated based on the actual time it took to prepare the FOI and the pages that were removed/blacked out. Costs may be reduced on appeal sometimes.1 Appeals may be appropriate for some inquiries, but for others, timely data is needed as quickly as possible if it is to be useful in challenging the City’s misleading statements and outright lies.
Share information with us!
If you have information that you think we would find useful, please send it to us.
Do you work for the City? Are you a front-line worker whose boss is keeping you quiet? Send us that briefing note, those policy documents or that shelter-hotel contract. Keep in mind that we need to verify the authenticity of what we get, so random documents sent anonymously are not useful to us. That said, we will do what is in our power to protect your privacy2 and we promise we won’t publish your name.
Do not send personal, private information about other people. We aren’t concerned about who an email is sent to (that information is considered public and is included in the information the City releases in Freedom of Information requests). We are concerned about people’s privacy of their personal information (and that includes City staff, politicians, and members of the public). If you aren’t sure if there are privacy concerns with the information you want to send us, check in with us first via email.
- Appeals can be dismissed or resolved at intake but, in our experience, it can take well over a month to get to intake; also see: Wallace, Kenyon. (2018, March 30). What it takes to get the results of a Freedom-of-Information request. Toronto Star.
- At the request of any source, we will keep their identity confidential. The likelihood is incredibly small but it is possible that the police could obtain a warrant and get the information from G-Mail without our knowledge. The courts could also make a civil production order on these documents; this is also very unlikely. We will actively resist any attempts we to obtain the identity of any of our sources are aware of.