CFFO: Recent freedom of information request & farmer privacy
By Marie Versteeg
It’s come to light that OMAFRA has recently received a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The unidentified party is asking for farm business names and FBR numbers for those registered between March 1, 2019, and February 28, 2020.
Under the Act, public sector organizations must respond to requests for information. However, requests may be defused on reasonable grounds. Currently, OMAFRA is canvassing a subset of just under 500 farm business owners for feedback.
The Freedom of Information request is causing concern because of suspicions that the request may be coming from an animal activist group or individual. It’s possible that the requester of FBR information could intend to broadcast the locations of farm properties in order to organize protests.
If this is the case, it obviously poses a potential threat to the wellbeing of farm families and employees. Activities resulting from the spread of FBR information could also interrupt the function of farm businesses. The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario has submitted our concerns to OMAFRA’s Freedom of Information and Privacy Coordinator, objecting to the release of this information to an unknown third party. Information collected through the FBR program must be considered private, not least of all because so many farm businesses are also the location of private homes.
Farmers who object to having their private information released to an unknown third party may wish to submit their concerns to OMAFRA, as well. OMAFRA is accepting responses at FOIaccess.firstname.lastname@example.org until July 17th.
In order to build a case against releasing this information, it’s important that concerned farmers
outline these specifics:
• What information you don’t want released (i.e., your farm business name and FBR number).
• Why you don’t want it released.
If you choose to send an emailed letter to OMAFRA’s Freedom of Information and Privacy Coordinator, it will be important to clarify why the information should be kept confidential and what harm may occur to you – personal and/or economical – if the information is released.
Marie Versteeg is Communications Manager for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, and CKNX Wingham. It is also archived on the CFFO website, www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,000 family farmers across Ontario.