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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Who can make a request under the Access to Information Act? Under the Privacy Act?
  2. Is there a cost to submit a request under the Access to Information Act request and the Privacy Act?
  3. How long does it take?
  4. How and where does a requester submit an Access to Information Act request? A Privacy Act request?
  5. Can I have access to information in an OPC investigation file?
  6. Will I receive more information if I retain the services of a lawyer or have a Member of Parliament make the request on my behalf?
  7. May I lodge a complaint related to the Access to Information Act?
  8. May I lodge a complaint related to the Privacy Act?
  9. Any tips before I begin?

Q.1: Who can make a request under the Access to Information Act? Under the Privacy Act?

The Access to Information Act gives every Canadian citizen, permanent resident and individual or corporation present in Canada the right to access records—in any format—that are held under the control of a government institution subject to certain specific and limited exceptions.

The Privacy Act protects the privacy of all Canadian citizens and permanent residents regarding personal information held by a government institution. It also gives these individuals, including those in Canada who are not permanent residents or citizens, the right to access their own personal information.

Q.2: Is there a cost to submit a request under the Access to Information Act request 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 may be applied during the course of processing your request. These additional charges may be related to search, preparation, computer processing, photocopying, etc. as identified in the Access to Information Regulations.

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

Q.3: How long does it take?

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 an institution may take up to 60 days to provide you with a response. The Access to Information Act also provides for a legal extension to the response time for reasons such as the volume of requests and consultations with other parties. You will be notified should an extension of the response time be required under either Act.

Q.4: How and where does a requester submit an Access to Information Act request? A Privacy Act request?

To make a formal Access to Information Act request, complete Treasury Board’s Access to Information Request form. You can also choose to send a letter detailing the information you wish to receive. You must state in your letter that your request is being made under the Access to Information Act. You must also include the $5 application fee.

To make a formal request under the Privacy Act, complete Treasury Board’s Request for Personal Information form. You can also choose to send a letter detailing the information you wish to receive. You must state in your letter that your request is being made under the Privacy Act.

Regardless of the Act under which you are submitting your request, send your completed form or letter (include the $5 application fee if applying under the Access to Information Act), to:

Access to Information and Privacy Unit
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
30 Victoria Street
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 1H3

Note: The Office of the Privacy Commissioner does not accept requests via e-mail or telephone. Please submit your requests by mail.

Q.5: Can I have access to information in an OPC investigation file?

The Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act do not allow us to disclose any information from an investigation file that we “obtained” or that we “created” during the investigation until such time as the investigation and all related proceedings have been concluded.

Once the file and all related proceedings have been concluded, we must process the information that we “created” for possible disclosure under either one of the Acts, but we are still compelled to withhold any and all of the information that we “obtained”. 

Q.6: Will I receive more information if I retain the services of a lawyer or have a Member of Parliament make the request on my behalf?

No. You will receive the same information whether you send in the request yourself or whether a lawyer, Member of Parliament or anyone else makes the request on your behalf with your consent. Community status or professional titles will not slow down or expedite the processing of a request.

Q.7: May I lodge a complaint related to the Access to Information Act?

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 Street
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 1H3
Telephone: 1-800-267-0441
Fax: 819-994-1768
Website: http://www.infocom.gc.ca/menu-e.asp

Q.8: May I lodge a complaint related to the Privacy Act?

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. For complaints against institutions other than the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, send your complaint to:

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
30 Victoria Street
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 1H3
Telephone: 819-994-5444 or 1-800-282-1376
Fax: 819-994-5424
Website: http://www.priv.gc.ca/index_e.asp

Please do not make complaints or provide personal information by e-mail, as security cannot be ensured.

Among other things, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner investigates complaints from individuals against federal government institutions about the handling of their Privacy Act requests. The Office did not become subject to the requirements of the Act itself until April 1, 2007 as a result of the Federal Accountability Act (FAA). The FAA was silent as to who would investigate complaints when the Office was the subject of such complaints. 

It is inappropriate that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner investigate itself, and so we developed an independent complaint mechanism under which complaints against us could be lodged and investigated. 

So, any complaints against the Office of the Privacy Commissioner must be sent directly to the Privacy Commissioner ad hoc at:

Privacy Commissioner of Canada ad hoc
P.O. Box 55056
240 Sparks Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1P 1A1

Q.9: Any tips before I begin?

Do not ask for all the information on a subject unless you really want it all. Narrowing your request will produce faster results and keep costs down.

Send your $5 application fee along with your request. The OPC is not obliged to respond to your application if you have not paid the fee.

Although your reasons for asking for the information are your own business, an explanation may help staff find just the material you are seeking. It may be possible to review the material yourself and to select only what interests you for copying.

You should ask for an estimate of costs. A deposit may be required for the processing costs associated with your request. If you receive a bill, you should ask what portion of the fees cover search and preparation time. The first five hours are free.

If you want a refund of the application fee or a fee waiver, you should indicate it on your application, giving your reasons for seeking the refund or fee waiver.

Keep in touch with the Access to Information and Privacy Unit. Include your phone number on your request and ask the Unit to call you for any necessary clarification. Call or write the Unit if you receive no response within a reasonable period of time after the 30-day time limit has elapsed.

Keep a copy of your request and all related correspondence until you have the information you want.

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