What information is available under the Access to Information and Privacy Acts?
A: Most government information is available. Major exceptions are Cabinet documents and information that could be injurious to Canada’s security or economy, federal-provincial relations and international affairs. Information about individuals may be disclosed only with their consent or if it is found to be in the public interest. Individuals can obtain their personal information under the Privacy Act.
Who can make a request under the Access to Information Act?
A: Canadian citizens, permanent residents and any individual present or corporation in Canada can make a request under the Access to Information Act. Individuals who are neither of the above can ask a representative, who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, to make a request on his/her behalf, provided there is written consent.
Who can make a request under the Privacy Act?
A: Canadian citizens, permanent residents and any individual present in Canada can make a request under the Privacy Act.
How long does the Department have to respond?
A: Both Acts allow for a legal response time of 30 calendar days from the date of receipt of an official request. However, this period may be extended for limited and specific reasons identified in the Acts. For instance, extensions may be taken if:
- the request is for a large number of records or necessitates a search through a large number of records and meeting the original time limit would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the government institution;
- consultations are necessary to comply with the request that cannot be completed within the original time limit; or
- additional time is necessary for translation purposes or for converting personal information into an alternative format.
Can I obtain personal information on individuals other than myself?
A: To obtain the personal information belonging to someone else, you must submit their written consent authorizing you to receive their personal information. The consent must be signed and dated by the person giving the consent. Permission is not required to obtain the information of any dependants who are under 18 years of age.
Can I receive personal information on someone who is deceased?
A: Personal information can be released if an individual has been deceased for 20 years or more. Reasonable proof of death must be provided. Examples of what constitutes reasonable proof include obituary notices, death certificates, photographs of tombstones and provincial vital statistics. If a person has been dead for less than 20 years, only the executor or executrix of the estate or, in the case of an individual who has died without a will, the administrator of the estate, may request the personal information of the deceased. The executor or administrator of the estate does not have an unlimited right of access to all of the deceased’s personal information, but only that information which will allow them to fulfill their legal responsibilities to finalize the estate.
Can I lodge a complaint related to the Access to Information Act?
A: Yes, you may lodge a complaint with the Office of the Information Commissioner about any matter related to your Access to Information Act request. For example, your complaint may involve exemptions applied, delays in providing a response, fee estimates, etc. A complaint must be made within 60 days from the date that you received a response to your request. There is no cost to you for the investigation of a complaint. Complaints must be submitted in writing to:
Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada
30 Victoria St.
Gatineau (Québec) K1A 1H3
Can I lodge a complaint related to the Privacy Act?
A: Yes, you may lodge a complaint about any matter related to your Privacy Act request. You may also lodge a complaint if you believe that a government institution has not respected your privacy rights. Complaints must be submitted in writing to:
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
30 Victoria Street
Or you may submit your complaint online at: Online Complaint Form.