Canada: FIPPA And Ontario Hospitals: Delegation Of Authority

Last Updated: August 30 2011
Article by Daniel Fabiano and Laurie M. Turner

This bulletin follows our previous bulletin, FIPPA and Ontario Hospitals: Setting-up a FIPPA Compliance Office, in which we discussed some of the considerations in establishing an office responsible for compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act ("FIPPA" or the "Act"). This bulletin is intended to provide a general overview of legal issues relating to delegation, with some comments about how hospitals can effectively delegate responsibility under FIPPA.

The proper delegation of powers and duties under FIPPA is critical to compliance with the Act. To be effective, the delegation of powers and duties must reflect a hospital's particular organizational structure and culture, in addition to ensuring that the delegation does not give rise to ambiguity or gaps in responsibility.

Powers and Duties

Pursuant to FIPPA, the Board Chair of a public hospital is accountable for most of the hospital's decisions under the Act. The Board Chair also bears the responsibility for overseeing the administration of FIPPA within that hospital. (In the case of a private hospital, it is the Superintendent who is accountable for these decisions and who bears responsibility for this oversight – references in this bulletin to Board Chair should be read as references to Superintendent in the case of a private hospital).

The Board Chair is responsible for (among other powers and duties):

  • deciding whether a request is frivolous / vexatious
  • notifying affected parties and receiving representations concerning why a record or part of a record should not be disclosed
  • deciding whether to apply exemptions and determining the extent of severances
  • providing a written access decision to the requester
  • deciding to extend the time period to respond
  • deciding whether to waive payment of fees
  • preparing and submitting the hospital's annual report under FIPPA
  • ensuring that personal information is accurate, complete and up to date
  • ensuring proper disposal of personal information
  • compiling / updating personal information banks
  • attaching a record of inconsistent use / disclosure to personal information
  • making representations to the Information and Privacy Commissioner in an inquiry

While the Board Chair is ultimately accountable, FIPPA permits the Board Chair to delegate (a) the authority to exercise his or her powers under FIPPA, and (b) the responsibility for carrying out the duties imposed on the Board Chair by FIPPA.


Delegation means empowering an officer so that he or she has control over how a duty is carried out or whether and how a power is exercised.  Delegation can be made to one or more officers of the hospital (or to officers of another hospital or institution subject to FIPPA).  Once delegated, the Board Chair need not be involved in any later decision to exercise a delegated power or undertake a delegated duty. The delegate can act independently of the Board Chair.

Although a delegate can be assisted by other personnel, the delegate remains accountable for the powers and duties delegated to him or her.  Because of this, delegates need to ensure that they reserve any discretionary decisions to themselves, and that they provide clear instructions to, and oversee the activities of, any personnel assisting the delegate.  Sub-delegation, where the delegate attempts to further delegate powers or duties, is not permitted.

Legal Requirements

FIPPA requires that any delegation be made in writing and signed by the Board Chair. In the delegation document, the Board Chair may set out restrictions, limitations, conditions or requirements relating to the delegation of powers and duties – and if set out, these are binding. Any changes to, or revocation of, a delegation by the Board Chair must also be documented in writing.

Best Practice Considerations

Due to the volunteer nature of their position, it is likely that the Board Chair will delegate all or most of his or her powers and duties under FIPPA. Although the ultimate decisions regarding delegation (i.e. whether to delegate and if so, to whom delegation should be made) rest with the Board Chair, the Board Chair should (at a minimum) consult with other members of the Board concerning the delegation.

It is important for the Board Chair to keep the following points in mind when considering any delegation under FIPPA:

  1. Understanding of FIPPA. Officers who are delegated powers or duties should have a thorough understanding of the hospital's obligations under FIPPA, as well as hospital operations generally.
  2. Hierarchical Delegation. It may be helpful to delegate some decision-making powers to officersin senior management positions, while personnel in less senior positions could be delegated powers and duties that are more administrative in nature. For example, the Board Chair may delegate the power to decide whether exemptions will apply to a record to a Vice-President, while delegating the duties to issue notices, establish and collect fees and coordinate record searches to the FIPPA Coordinator and departmental leads, respectively.
  3. Function Area Delegation. Because the Board Chair can impose conditions, restrictions, etc. on the delegation, a delegation could create "silos" of responsibility – for example, the Board Chair could delegate decision-making powers by subject area, such as delegating the power to invoke exemptions for any records relating to (a) finance and procurement matters to the Vice-President Finance; (b) human resources matters to the Director of Human Resources; and (c) any other matter to the Vice-President Operations. Note: it is important to specify a 'catch-all' category to ensure that the delegation is comprehensive.
  4. Delegate to Titles/Positions, Not Named Individuals. The delegation should be made to a title/position rather than a named individual (e.g., a delegation to the "FIPPA Coordinator", not to "Mary Fippa" personally). This ensures that the delegation remains effective despite any personnel change.
  5. Perils of Concurrent Delegation. Most, if not all, of the powers and duties under FIPPA should be delegated to only one officer at a given time (i.e., an exclusive delegation). If the same powers or duties are delegated to multiple officers so that they are "active" at the same time (i.e. a concurrent delegation), this could give rise to confusion, error or inconsistency. For example, at any given time, only one officer should have the power to decide whether to waive payment of fees relating to a freedom of information request. If more than one officer was able to exercise this power at a given time, it may lead to varying or conflicting approaches to fee waivers.
  6. Alternates. The delegationshould contemplate an alternate officer in case the primary officer is unavailable (due to illness, vacation, etc.) or has a conflict of interest in relation to a freedom of information request. In light of the perils of concurrent delegation (noted above), the alternate officer would only be responsible for exercising delegated powers and carrying out delegated duties while the primary officer is unavailable or has a conflict of interest. This ensures that the hospital's FIPPA compliance efforts are not interrupted and avoids the need for the Board Chair to be called upon to deal with circumstances where a delegate is unavailable or unable to act due to a conflict of interest.

Determining an effective delegation of the Board Chair's powers and responsibilities under FIPPA is an essential part of setting up the hospital's overall FIPPA compliance processes.  Knowing who has delegated authority is also an essential part of hospital-wide training programs – as hospital personnel will need to know who is authorized to perform functions or carry out duties under FIPPA.  Hospitals (and Board Chairs) will need to make some important decisions as to what approach to delegation will work best for their organization.  Although some hospitals may decide to simply delegate all of the Board Chair's powers to a FIPPA Coordinator, other hospitals may decide that a more nuanced structure will be more effective – and these latter hospitals should ensure that their delegation is carefully drafted before being signed by the Board Chair.

What's Next?

This bulletin is part of a series of bulletins on the topic of FIPPA implementation.  The next bulletin will address the need to conduct a general inventory of hospital records.  An inventory will help to improve a hospital's responsiveness to freedom of information requests, and is necessary to comply with the Directory of Records obligations imposed by FIPPA.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions