Requesting Records or Information

Most government information is available. To help you identify the information held by the Government of Canada, the government publishes details on the Government of Canada, its organization and information holdings in the publication titled InfoSource.

The Access to Information Act establishes the rights of all individuals and corporate entities present in Canada to have access to information contained in federal government records. The Privacy Act gives all individuals in Canada the right of access to information about themselves, and governs the collection, retention, use, protection and disclosure of personal information. However, some information may be exempt or excluded under these Acts.

Exemptions

Access to Information Act: Information that is requested is subject to the provisions of the Access to Information Act. Information may be exempted in part or in full if it relates to federal / provincial affairs, foreign affairs, personnel information, third party advice, client / soliciter privilege, etc.

Privacy Act: Disclosure of personal information is restricted and shall not be disclosed without the consent of the individual to whom it relates, except in accordance with Subsection 8(2) of the Privacy Act. Other exemptions include information harmful to national security, defence and foreign relations.

Exclusions

The Access to Information Act does not apply to information that is already available publicly, such as publications or material in libraries and museums. Cabinet documents are also excluded for a period of 20 years. Furthermore, the Act cannot give you access to records that are not controlled by the federal government.

Fees

Each formal request filed under the Access to Information Act requires an application fee of $5.00, payable by money order, cash or cheque to the Receiver General of Canada. The first 5 hours of search and preparation time are included with the application fee. Additional charges may apply if copying, computer processing or further search and preparation time is required.

Note: There is no application fee for information requested under the Privacy Act nor for informal requests made under the Access to Information Act.

Types of Requests

There are basically two types of requests:

  1. Access to Information Request for requesting information not of a personal nature.
  2. Personal Information Request for requesting information of a personal nature

These requests can be made either formally or informally to request for information / records.

  • formal request is a request made under the Act in writing to the goverment institution that controls the record.
  • informal request is a request for records which does not invoke the right of access provided by the Access to Information Act or the Privacy Act. Information subject to exemption under the Acts is not released informally. There are no formal time constraints, fees or opportunities for independent review of decisions for these types of requests.

The Access to Information Request Form and Personal Information Request Form can be used for making formal requests under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act respectively.

Applying for Information

  • consult InfoSource to find the appropriate department or agency
  • obtain an Access to Information Request Form or Personal Information Request Form

    If it is not convenient for you to fill in a form, you may send a letter or email. Clearly indicate in your correspondence that you are requesting information under the Access to Information Act or Privacy Act and include:
    • government department or agency you believe has the information you want
    • description of the records
    • preferred method of viewing the records
  • remit or enclose the application fee for formal requests made under the Access to Information Act
  • send the completed form, letter or email to the Access to Information and Privacy Coordinator at the appropriate department or agency

Appeals

If you are refused information, you should notice which exemption has been applied to the document. If you do not agree with the exemptions which have been applied to the documents, you may file a complaint with the Information Commissioner for review of the exemption. There may be cases where contacting the ATIP Coordinator of the department can resolve issues without formal complaints.

Complaints

You may file a complaint with the Office of the Information Commissioner should you not be satisfied with the processing of your request under the Access to Information Act. See the following complaints investigated by the Commissioner. Your complaint must be made within one year of the date the government department received your written request.

All complaints are investigated confidentially by the Office of the Commissioner. There are no costs involved. Your identity will be known only to the staff who investigate your complaint and to the officials of the institution to which you made your request, who must respond to the Commissioner’s investigation.

Once you have received the Commissioner’s report, you may apply to the Federal Court of Canada for a review of the department’s decision to deny access to requested information, whether or not he supports your complaint. In some cases, the Commissioner may decide to take the case to the Federal Court of Canada himself or on your behalf.

Processing of ATIP Requests