Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


How can I access government information under the Access to Information Act?

In order to access government information under the Access to Information Act, you must first determine which government institution is responsible for the information that you are seeking. Each federal government institution that is subject to the Access to Information Act is responsible for maintaining its own Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Office. For reference, you may wish to consult Info Source, which is an annual publication that serves as a directory of federal government institutions, their activities and information holdings. Info Source is available on Treasury Board Secretariat's website and may also be found in constituency offices of Members of Parliament and all federal government institution Access to Information and Privacy Offices.

Prior to submitting a request under the Access to Information Act, it may be beneficial to determine if the information that you are seeking is not already available through Proactive Disclosure or other government publications. A request can be submitted via Pay online portal, by using the prescribed form noted below or by indicating in a letter that certain information is requested under the Access to Information Act. Once you have determined which institution has the information that you are seeking you can submit your request along with the $5 prescribed application fee (cheque or money order made payable to the Receiver General of Canada) to the appropriate ATIP Office. For a complete listing of ATIP Coordinators and Offices, visit Treasury Board Secretariat's website. Note that additional fees may be charged by the institution prior to completing the processing of your request.

http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/atip-aiprp.nsf/eng/h_00034.html#q1

Is there a cost to submit a request under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act?

Each request submitted under the Access to Information Act must be accompanied by a $5 application fee (cheque or money order made payable to the Receiver General of Canada). This application fee entitles you to 5 hours of search and preparation. However, additional charges, related to search, preparation, computer processing, photocopying, etc., may be applied during the course of processing your request. All possible fees are identified in the Access to Information Regulations.

There are no fees associated with submitting a request under the Privacy Act.

http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/atip-aiprp.nsf/eng/h_00034.html#q2

What information is accessible under the Access to Information Act?

Records, regardless of the format, held under the control of a federal government institution (listed in Schedule 1 of the Act) are subject to the Access to Information Act. There are a few exceptions such as documents that are published or available for purchase or confidences of the Queen's Privy Council. This information is excluded and, therefore, the Act does not apply to these records. With respect to all other types of records, certain information may require exemption from access; such as information relating to national defence and security, law enforcement, the administration of economic and social programs and other individuals' personal information.

Access to Information request form

http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/atip-aiprp.nsf/eng/h_00034.html#q3

How can I access my personal information under the Privacy Act?

In order to access government information under the Privacy Act, you must first determine which government institution is responsible for the personal information that you are seeking. Each federal government institution that is subject to the Privacy Act is responsible for maintaining its own Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Office and is responsible for managing personal information that it collects. For reference, you may wish to consult Info Source, which is an annual publication that serves as a directory of federal government institutions, their activities and information holdings. Info Source is available on Treasury Board Secretariat's website and may also be found in constituency offices of Members of Parliament and all federal government institution Access to Information and Privacy Offices.

Once you have determined which institution holds your personal information, you can submit your request via the pay online portal, by prescribed form noted below or by indicating in a letter that certain personal information pertaining to you is requested under the Privacy Act. Ensure that you have provided sufficient details to help the institution retrieve your personal information. There is no fee associated with submitting a request under the Privacy Act. Then, forward your request to the appropriate ATIP Coordinator. For a complete listing of ATIP Coordinators and Offices, visit Treasury Board Secretariat's website.

http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/atip-aiprp.nsf/eng/h_00034.html#q4

What personal information is accessible to me under the Privacy Act?

Records, regardless of the format, held under the control of a federal government institution (listed in the Schedule of the Act) are subject to the Privacy Act. There are a few exceptions: documents that are published or available for purchase and confidences of the Queen's Privy Council. This information is excluded and, therefore, the Act does not apply to these records. With respect to all other types of records, certain information may require exemption from access; such as information relating to national defence and security, law enforcement, and personal information concerning other individuals.

Personal Information Request Form

http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/atip-aiprp.nsf/eng/h_00034.html#q5

When can I expect a response to my request submitted under the Access to Information Act or the Privacy Act?

Both Acts allow for a legal response time of 30 calendar days from the date of receipt of an official request. The Acts also allow for legal extensions to this first 30 calendar-day response time.

The Privacy Act provides for one legal extension of no more than 30 days, which means the institution may take up to 60 days to provide you with a response. An institution may extend the statutory time limit if processing your request would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the institution, or in order to consult with other government institutions, or if additional time is necessary for translation purposes or for the purposes of converting the information into an alternative format.

The Access to Information Act also provides for a reasonable extension to the response time if processing your request would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the institution, or in order to consult with other government institutions, or if consultations with private businesses are required.

You will be notified should an extension of the response time be required under either Act.

http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/atip-aiprp.nsf/eng/h_00034.html#q6

When may I submit a complaint under the Access to Information Act or the Privacy Act?

The Information Commissioner of Canada investigates complaints from anyone who makes a formal request for information under the Access to Information Act to a federal institution and is dissatisfied with the response or the manner in which the request was processed. For example, your complaint may involve a refusal of access to information, delays in providing a response, fee estimates, or belief that the institution did not respect their duty to assist, etc. Your complaint must be made in writing to the Information Commissioner within 60 days after you have received a notice that the institution has refused access to the requested records or after you have received all or part of the records.

Complaints must be sent to the following address:

Office of the Information Commissioner
30 Victoria Street
Gatineau, Québec
K1A 1H3

Tel: 1-800-267-0441
Fax: 819-994-1768
Website: Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada

The Privacy Act provides individuals with a basic right to know why their information is collected by the government, how it will be used, how long it will be kept and who will have access to it. The Act also provides individuals with a basic right of access to all of their personal information held by government institutions, subject to limited exceptions outlined in the Act. If you believe that a government institution has not respected your privacy rights, you may submit a complaint at anytime in writing to:

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
30 Victoria Street
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 1H3

Toll-free: 1-800-282-1376
Tel: 819-994-5444
Fax: 819-994-5424
Website: Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/atip-aiprp.nsf/eng/h_00034.html#q7

Is there a cost to submitting a complaint and having it investigated?

Both the Information and Privacy Commissioners function as ombudsmen. As such, there is no cost to you for the investigation of a complaint.

http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/atip-aiprp.nsf/eng/h_00034.html#q8

What is the Personal Information and Protection of Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)?

Individuals are also protected by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) that sets out ground rules for how private sector organizations may collect, use or disclose personal information in the course of commercial activities. The law gives individuals the right to access and request correction of the personal information these organizations may have collected about them.

For a copy of the Personal Information and Protection of Electronic Documents Act, visit the Department of Justice Canada website. For additional information concerning PIPEDA and e-commerce, visit Industry Canada's website.

http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/atip-aiprp.nsf/eng/h_00034.html#q9