About Saint Mary's

Guidelines For Confidential Records

In the course of its activities, every office at the University produces a certain quantity of records that by their nature contain information restricted to particular individuals.

Confidential records contain information that one person entrusts to another in circumstances where there is an expectation that privacy will be maintained. The confidentiality provision of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act applies to information that is supplied and maintained, either explicitly or implicitly, in confidence.

There must be evidence to support the assertion of confidentiality. The fact that a record is stamped confidential is an indicator of confidentiality but is not, in itself, sufficient evidence to support the assertion of confidentiality. There must be other evidence to prove that the information has been treated in a consistently confidential manner in the past. Remember that records may be in formats other than paper (electronic, audio/video tape).

Confidentiality is assessed on the following:

  • an explicit statement of confidentiality,
  • a written request for confidentiality,
  • past practice of the university, e.g. the type of information and whether it would normally be kept confidential.

Confidential records must be:

  • stored in secure cabinets (locked when not in use, not in a public area, with limited access to staff and faculty),
  • provided with a file/record cover when out of the secure cabinet,
  • returned to the secure cabinet if the employee is called away while working on a record,
  • restricted access by staff and faculty only on a "need to know" basis (e.g. showing a reference letter to a whole department, except the person it is about, is not acceptable),
  • stored, destroyed or transferred according to instructions on an approved retention schedule.