In its daily operations, the federal government collects personal information from almost all Canadians.
The Privacy Act protects your personal information and gives you the right to see it.
The Access to Information Act entitles you to examine or obtain information contained in federal government records.
The Privacy Act gives Canadian citizens, and people in Canada the right to have access to information that is held about them by the federal government. It also protects against unauthorized disclosure of personal information. In addition, it strictly controls how the government will collect, use, store, disclose and dispose of any personal information.
The Access to Information Act gives Canadian citizens as well as people and corporations present in Canada the right to have access to federal government records that are not of a personal nature. The Act ensures that you can ask for information and, if it is not exempt or excluded, the federal government must let you see it or give you a copy. The Act complements but does not replace other procedures for obtaining government information. It is not intended to limit in any way the access to government information that would normally be available to the public upon request.
You may ask for information, no matter what physical form it has, including letters, memos, reports, photographs, films, microfilms and computerized data. The Info Source publications have been designed to help you pinpoint the department or agency where the information is held and to assist you in obtaining it.
Some of the programs and operations of government use personal information about individuals, such as income tax at the Canada Revenue Agency, health promotion programs at Health Canada and the Canada Pension Plan at Social Development Canada.
There is some personal information the federal government may not release under the Privacy Act, much of which relates to other people, national security or law enforcement.
When you have decided to make a formal request under the Privacy Act, there are certain procedures to follow. Remember, you will find what you are looking for faster if you already have a good idea of which department or agency has the information you want.
To apply for personal information under the Privacy Act:
There is no charge to apply for information under the Privacy Act.
If you believe the information that a federal institution has on file about you is untrue or misleading, you may ask to have it corrected. In the event an institution does not agree to change this information, it must make a note that you have asked for the change and attach it to the record.
The protection of personal information is an important part of the Privacy Act. The Act states how and when the government can collect, store and dispose of personal information. It also covers specifically why and how the information can be used or given out, as well as who can use or receive it.
The government can only disclose your information to someone else with your consent or when one or more of the criteria in the Privacy Act are met, such as complying with a subpoena.
Under the law, all or most of the information you ask for should be provided within 30 days of receiving the request. If a time extension is required, you will be notified within the first 30 days and told the reason why an additional 30 days may be needed.
The Privacy Commissioner is a representative of the people with the power to look into complaints of improper collection, use, storage, disclosure or disposition of personal information. The Privacy Commissioner may also help if you are dissatisfied with the response to your formal application or the time it has taken to obtain your response. If the Privacy Commissioner recommends that you be given access to records and the institution still refuses, an appeal may be made to the Federal Court.
You may write or call the Privacy Commissioner at:
Place de Ville, Tower B
112 Kent Street, 3rd Floor
Ottawa ON K1A 1H3
General Enquiries (613) 995 8210
Fax (613) 947 6850
Toll-free 1 800 282 1376
TTY (613) 992 9190
Office of the Priacy Commissioner of Canada's website
You have the right to apply formally for information under the Access to Information Act. However, some information may be exempt or excluded under the Act.
Exemptions protect certain types of information that could cause harm if released. For example, information on national security, law enforcement or trade secrets may fall into this category.
The 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. Furthermore, the Act cannot give you access to records that are not controlled by the federal government, such as those maintained by provincial or municipal governments or by private organizations like banks and credit bureaus.
Each federal government institution subject to the Access to Information Act has an Access to Information Coordinator who is able to help you identify the records you wish to see.
Once you have decided to make a formal request under the Access to Information Act, there are certain simple procedures to follow:
An application fee of $5 (subject to change) applies and additional costs may be charged for each request. You will be notified in advance if there are additional costs and you may be asked to make a deposit. Cheques and money orders are payable to the Receiver General of Canada.
Some institutions do not have an account with the Receiver-General and require the cheque be made out to the institution itself. Please confirm with the Access to Information Coordinator's Office of the specific institution before forwarding the letter or completed request form.
Government institutions must acknowledge a request within 30 calendar days. However, in special cases, they may need more time to process your request.
For your convenience, all federal institutions subject to the Access to Information Act have a room set aside where you may examine the records you have requested.
The Information Commissioner investigates formal complaints from members of the public stemming from the Access to Information Act. If you have a complaint about the denial of access to information, fees charged for access, the time taken to respond to requests, refusal to give access in the official language requested, Info Source publications and other matters that relate to requesting or obtaining access to records, you may contact:
Place de Ville, 22nd Floor, Tower B
112 Kent Street
Ottawa ON K1A 1H3
General Enquiries (613) 995 2410
Fax (613) 947 7294
Toll-free 1 800 267 0441
TTY (613) 992 9190
Info Source is a series of publications containing information about the Government of Canada, its organization and information holdings
Info Source is a series of reference tools to assist members of the public in exercising their rights under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.
The Info Source publications support the government's policy to explain and promote open and accessible information regarding its activities.
There are four Info Source publications:
Other institutions associated with the federal government are also included.
For more information about Info Source, the Access to Information Act or the Privacy Act, you may contact:
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
L'Esplanade Laurier, 8th Floor, East Tower
140 O'Connor Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0R5
General Enquiries (613) 957 2400
Publications (613) 995 2855
Fax (613) 996 0518
TTY (613) 957 9090
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat's Website
If you would like a print copy of Info Source: Directory of Federal Government Enquiry Points or the Info Source: Access to Information Act and Privacy Bulletin, please contact:
Treasury Board Distribution Centre
L'Esplanade Laurier, Room P-140, Level P-1W
300 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0R5
Telephone (613) 995 2855
Fax (613) 996 0518
If you would like to purchase a print copy of Info Source: Sources of Federal Government Information or Info Source: Sources of Federal Employee Information, please contact:
Canadian Government Publishing – Communication Canada
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0S9
Telephone (819) 956 4800
Fax (819) 994 1498
Toll-free 1 800 635 7943