Government of Canada
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Sources of Federal Government and Employee Information 2013


About the ATIP program

Roles and Responsibilities

Treasury Board Secretariat

The Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act assign overall responsibility to the President of Treasury Board (as the designated Minister) for the government-wide administration of the legislation. The Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) carries out these duties on behalf of the President of the Treasury Board and, as such, is responsible for:

  • publishing Info Source annually which includes an annual index that describes government institutions, their responsibilities, programs and information holdings; and an annual index of personal information under the control of government institutions;
  • issuing direction and guidance to government institutions with respect to the administration of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and interpretation of related policy instruments;
  • prescribing forms to be used in the administration of the Acts, as well as the format and content of reports made to Parliament;
  • reviewing new and modified Personal Information Banks, assigning a registration number to new Personal Information Banks, and prescribing forms to be used in the administration of the Acts, as well as the format and content of the annual report to Parliament;
  • advising all members of the Access to Information and Privacy community of any updates to the policy instruments;
  • preparing and distributing directives and guidelines regarding the operation of the Acts;
  • reviewing the manner in which records under the control of institutions are maintained and managed to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Acts and the Access to Information Regulations and Privacy Regulations; and
  • collect statistics to assess compliance under the Acts.

Library and Archives Canada

In accordance with the Library and Archives of Canada Act, Library and Archives Canada is charged with various responsibilities regarding the disposition of records created by government institutions. These responsibilities include the authorization of records destruction by government institutions and the preservation of records for historical or archival purposes.

For more information, please visit the Library and Archives website.

Government Institutions

Government institutions are responsible for sound management practices and decisions with respect to the handling and protection of personal information and in the treatment of requests from applicants.

Institutions are also responsible for providing comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date descriptions of their functions, programs, activities, related information holdings and collections of personal information for the Info Source publications on an annual basis.

Each government institution also has an Access to Information and Privacy Coordinator. These individuals are responsible for ensuring that any Access to Information and Privacy requests received by the government institution are responded to in accordance with the Acts and also for the application of the legislation within the institution. The list of Access to Information and Privacy Coordinators, along with their contact information, is available online.

Office of the Information Commissioner and Office of the Privacy Commissioner

The Offices of the Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner receive and independently investigate complaints from applicants or may self-initiate complaints on any matter related to obtaining or requesting access to records held by government institutions subject to the Access to Information and Privacy Acts. They may also initiate or intervene in Court proceedings where necessary.  Both Commissioners are required to report to Parliament on activities annually and may issue a special report to Parliament at any time on any important matter within the scope of the Commissioner's powers, duties and functions. The Privacy Commissioner may also conduct compliance reviews of the privacy practices of government institutions as the practices relate to the collection, retention, accuracy, use, disclosure and disposal of personal information by government institutions subject to the Privacy Act.

For more information, please visit the Office of the Information Commissioner's website or the Office of the Privacy Commissioner's website.

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About the Access to Information Act

The Access to Information Act provides Canadian citizens and permanent residents, all individuals who are present in Canada as well as all corporations present in Canada, with the right of access to records under the control of a government institution subject to the Act. The Act complements, but does not replace, other means of obtaining government information and it is not intended to limit in any way the access to government information that is normally available to the public upon request.

Some information may not be released

Under the Access to Information Act, some information may not be provided for specific reasons. There are two kinds of exceptions to the right of access: exemptions and exclusions.

Exemptions: Exemptions allow, or require in some instances, institutions to refuse to release certain information in narrow and specific cases. For example, exemptions may be applied to information on national security, law enforcement or trade secrets.

Exclusions: The Access to Information Act does not apply to information that is already publicly available, such as government publications and material in libraries and museums. It also excludes material such as Cabinet confidences.

Note: The Access to Information Act cannot give individuals access to records that are not under the control of a government institution such as those maintained by provincial or municipal governments or by private organizations, including commercial banks and credit bureaus.

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About the Privacy Act

The Privacy Act provides Canadian citizens and permanent residents with a right of access to and correction of personal information about themselves that is under the control of a government institution. The Act also provides the legal framework for the collection, retention, use, disclosure, disposition and accuracy of personal information in the administration of programs and activities by government institutions subject to the Act.

Under the Privacy Act, personal information is defined as "information about an identifiable individual that is recorded in any form". Examples include information relating to the race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age or marital status of an individual, the education or the medical, criminal, financial or employment history of an individual, the address, fingerprints or blood type of the individual and any identifying number, symbol or other particular identifier assigned to the individual.

Some personal information may not be released

Under the Privacy Act, there is some personal information that government institutions may not release to applicants. There are two kinds of exceptions to the right of access: exemptions and exclusions.

Exemptions: Exemptions allow, or require in some instances, institutions to refuse to release certain information in limited and specific cases. For example, exemptions may be applied to information related to law enforcement investigations, information about other individuals or information which is subject to solicitor-client privilege.

Exclusions: The Privacy Act does not apply to information that is already publicly available, such as government publications and material in libraries and museums. It also excludes material such as Cabinet confidences.

Note: The Privacy Act cannot give individuals access to records that are not under the control of a government institution such as those maintained by provincial or municipal governments or by private organizations, including commercial banks and credit bureaus.

Safeguarding personal information

The protection of an individual's personal information is a very important aspect of the Privacy Act. The Act states how and when the government may collect, use, disclose, retain and dispose of personal information.

Disclosing personal information

Unless a person's consent is provided, a government may only disclose an individual's personal information for the same purpose for which it was collected, a consistent purpose or for other circumstances as provided for under the Privacy Act; for example, to comply with a subpoena.

Personal Information Banks

Personal Information Banks are descriptions of personal information that are maintained by government institutions about individuals, in support of specific programs and activities. The Privacy Act requires that Personal Information Banks include all personal information that is organized and retrievable by a person's name or by an identifying number, symbol or other particular assigned only to that person. Personal Information Banks must also include personal information that has been or is being used, or is available for use for an administrative purpose.

Please see the Glossary of Terms for descriptions of the various types of Personal Information Banks and an explanation of their contents.

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How to Apply

Access to Information Act

The following procedures should be followed when making a formal request under the Access to Information Act.

  1. Obtain an Access to Information Request form from the Treasury Board Secretariat website. If the form is not used, a letter may be sent instead. See the instructions below.
  2. Enclose the application fee.
  3. Send the completed form or the letter to the Access to Information Coordinator of the appropriate government institution.

If a letter is submitted instead of the Access to Information Request form, the following information must be included:

  • statement that the information is being requested under the Access to Information Act;
  • name of the appropriate government institution;
  • description of the records requested (be as specific as possible);
  • preferred method of viewing the records (e.g. receiving photocopies of the original documents or viewing the originals in the government office where they are located);
  • name, street address, city or town, province or territory, postal code, telephone number(s) and signature of the applicant;
  • date of request; and
  • application fee.

The list of Access to Information and Privacy Coordinators, along with their contact information, is available online.

Fees

An application fee of $5 applies to all requests and additional fees may be charged for specific purposes, such as document searches over 5 hours, reproduction of records, and other limited reasons. Applicants will be notified in advance if there are additional fees and if a deposit is required.

For most requests cheques and money orders are payable to the Receiver General of Canada. Please refer to Public Works and Government Services Canada's list of Institutions with Receiver General Accounts for a list of government institutions to which access to information requests must be accompanied by cheques or money orders made out the Receiver General of Canada. For all other institutions, cheques or money orders must be made out to the institution itself.

Time to process a request

Under the Access to Information Act, government institutions must respond to a request within 30 days; however, in certain cases, extensions may be applied by the institution where conditions established by the Access to Information Act are met; for example, where the request is for a large number of records, requires a search through a large number of records or where consultations are necessary. Applicants who feel that it is taking too long to process their requests may submit a complaint to the Office of the Information Commissioner (See Roles and Responsibilities).

Privacy Act

The following procedures should be followed when making a formal request under the Privacy Act.

  • Obtain a Personal Information Request Form from the Treasury Board Secretariat web site.
  • Send the completed form to the Privacy Coordinator of the appropriate government institution.

If a letter is submitted instead of the Personal Information Request Form, the following information must be included:

  • statement that the information is being requested under the Privacy Act:
  • name of the appropriate government institution;
  • description of the records  requested (be as specific as possible);
  • preferred method of viewing the records (e.g. receiving photocopies of the original documents or viewing the originals in the government office where they are located);
  • name, street address, city or town, province or territory, postal code, telephone number(s) and signature of the applicant;
  • date of request.

The list of Access to Information and Privacy Coordinators, along with their contact information, is available online.

Fees

There is no fee to apply for or obtain information under the Privacy Act.

To correct personal information

If an individual believes that the personal information a government institution has on file about him/her is in error or has been omitted, the individual may ask to have it corrected by submitting a request for correction. Even if the institution does not agree to change this information, it must make a note that a request for the change was made and attach the note to the file.
The following procedures should be followed when making a request for Record Correction under the Privacy Act.

    • Obtain a Record Correction Request Form from the Treasury Board Secretariat web site.
    • Send the completed form to the Privacy Coordinator of the appropriate government institution.
Time to process a request

Under the Privacy Act, government institutions must respond to a request within 30 days. If a time extension is required, the applicant will be notified within the first 30 days and told why up to another 30 days may be needed. Applicants who feel that it is taking too long to process their requests may submit a complaint to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (See Roles and Responsibilities).

Glossary of Terms

Administrative Purpose

The use of personal information in a decision making process that directly affects that individual. This includes all uses of personal information for confirming identity (i.e. authentication and verification purposes) and for determining eligibility of individuals for government programs.

Bank Number

A field in a Personal Information Bank. This unique identifying number is created by each institution for each Personal Information Bank using the institution's Federal Identity Program acronym or commonly used acronym, Personal Information Bank code (e.g. PPU, PPE, etc.), and a three-digit reference number assigned by the institution.

Class of Individuals

A field in a Personal Information Bank. Identifies the group or category of individuals about whom the information relates; e.g. current and former employees, contractors, program applicants, etc.

Classes of Personal Information

Personal information not used for an administrative purpose or not intended to be retrievable by a personal identifier; for example, grants and contributions intended solely for organizations. Classes of personal information are created to ensure that government institutions account for all of the personal information that they hold.

Classes of Records – Institution-Specific

Descriptions of the records created, collected and maintained by a government institution as evidence of and information about a particular institutional program or activity. Formerly referred to as Program Records.

Classes of Records - Standard

Standard Classes of Records describe records created, collected and maintained by most government institutions in support of common internal functions, programs and activities such as Human Resources Management, Materiel Management, and General Administrative Services. Standard Classes of Records are developed by Treasury Board Secretariat.

Consistent Uses

A field in a Personal Information Bank which describes uses that have a reasonable and direct connection to the original purpose(s) for which the information was obtained or compiled.

Data Matching

An activity involving the comparison of personal information from different sources, including sources within the same government institution, for administrative or non-administrative purposes. Data matching includes the disclosure or sharing of personal information with another organization for data-matching purposes.

Description (Classes of Records)

A field in a Class of Record description. Identifies the records that an institution creates, collects and maintains as evidence of its mandated programs and activities.

Description (Personal Information Bank)

A field in a Personal Information Bank. Indicates the specific elements or categories of personal information contained in the records which the PIB is describing. For example, name, contact information (may include home and e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, etc.), sex, marital status, country of birth, citizenship, employee identification numbers, fingerprints, etc. 

Document Types

A field in a Class of Record description. Identifies specific document types that are contained in an institution's files.

Format

An optional field in a Class of Record description. Specifies records contained in an institution's files that have been created in a non-standard format such as photographs, audio-visual recordings, maps, etc.

Government Institution

Government institutions are defined in the Access to Information and Privacy Acts as:

  • any department or ministry of state of the Government of Canada;
  • bodies or offices listed in Schedule I of the Access to Information Act and the Schedule of the Privacy Act (e.g., Canada Revenue Agency, Canadian Wheat Board);
  • any parent Crown corporation (e.g., CBC, Canada Post); and
  • any wholly-owned subsidiary of a parent Crown corporation (e.g., Canada Post International Ltd., Cape Breton Casting Inc.).

About 250 Government institutions are subject to the Acts.

Manual

Instructions, handbooks or procedures used by employees in administering or carrying out institutional programs and activities that affect members of the general public.

Personal Information Bank (PIB)

A description of personal information that is organized and retrievable by a person's name or by an identifying number, symbol or other particular assigned only to that person. The personal information described in the Personal Information Bank has been used, is being used, or is available for an administrative purpose and is under the control of a government institution.

There are three types of Personal Information Banks in this publication: central, institution-specific and standard.

Personal Information Bank – Central

Central Personal Information Banks describe personal information about members of the general public and employees (current and former) from all or several government institutions and are maintained by central government departments and agencies such as the Public Service Commission of Canada, Public Works and Government Services Canada, and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

  • Central Personal Information Banks are identified with the unique identifier "PCU" or "PCE".
Personal Information Bank – Institution-Specific

Institution-Specific Personal Information Banks describe personal information about members of the general public and employees (current and former) that is contained in the records of a specific government institution.

  • Institution-Specific Personal Information Banks are identified with the unique identifier "PPU" or "PPE".
Personal Information Bank – Standard

Standard Personal Information Banks describe personal information about members of the general public and employees (current and former) that may be found in records created, collected and maintained by most government institutions to support common internal functions, programs and activities such as communications, travel and employment. Standard Personal Information Banks are created by Treasury Board Secretariat.

  • Standard Personal Information Banks are identified with the unique identifier "PSU" or "PSE".
Purpose

A field in a Personal Information Bank. Provides an explanation of the reason why the personal information was obtained or compiled.

Record Number

A field in a Class of Record description. This unique identifying number is created by each institution for each Class of Record description using the institution's Federal Identity Program acronym (or commonly used acronym) and the institution's reference number.

Reading Room

The Access to Information Act requires all government institutions subject to the Act to provide facilities where their information and/or manuals can be reviewed. One or more locations may be provided by an institution.

Records Disposition Authority (RDA) Number

A field in a Personal Information Bank. A unique number assigned by Library and Archives Canada. A Records Disposition Authority is the instrument that the Librarian and Archivist of Canada issues to enable government institutions to dispose of records which no longer have operational or other utility. There are three disposition methods - destroying the records (at the discretion of institutions), transferring historical records to the control of Library and Archives Canada, or removing records from the control of the Government of Canada; e.g. transferring them to a Special Operating Agency or other level of government.

Related Record Number

A field in a Personal Information Bank. Personal Information Banks must be cross-referenced to institutional Classes of Records. See the definition of Record Number above.

Retention and Disposal Standards

A field in a Personal Information Bank. Identifies the length of time records are maintained under the control of an institution and the point at which the final disposition is applied.

TBS Registration Number

A field in a Personal Information Bank. Unique number assigned by Treasury Board Secretariat once a Personal Information Bank has been reviewed and registered in the TBS database.