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Access to Information Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. A-1)

Act current to 2022-05-02 and last amended on 2021-11-23. Previous Versions

Access to Information Act

R.S.C., 1985, c. A-1

An Act to extend the present laws of Canada that provide access to information under the control of the Government of Canada and to provide for the proactive publication of certain information

Short Title

Marginal note:Short title

 This Act may be cited as the Access to Information Act.

  • 1980-81-82-83, c. 111, Sch. I “1”

Purpose of Act

Marginal note:Purpose of Act

  •  (1) The purpose of this Act is to enhance the accountability and transparency of federal institutions in order to promote an open and democratic society and to enable public debate on the conduct of those institutions.

  • Marginal note:Specific purposes of Parts 1 and 2

    (2) In furtherance of that purpose,

    • (a) Part 1 extends the present laws of Canada to provide a right of access to information in records under the control of a government institution in accordance with the principles that government information should be available to the public, that necessary exceptions to the right of access should be limited and specific and that decisions on the disclosure of government information should be reviewed independently of government; and

    • (b) Part 2 sets out requirements for the proactive publication of information.

  • Marginal note:Complementary procedures

    (3) This Act is also intended to complement and not replace existing procedures for access to government information and is not intended to limit in any way access to the type of government information that is normally available to the general public.

Interpretation

Marginal note:Definitions

 In this Act,

alternative format

alternative format, with respect to a record, means a format that allows a person with a sensory disability to read or listen to that record; (support de substitution)

business day

business day means a day other than

  • (a) a Saturday;

  • (b) a Sunday or other holiday; and

  • (c) a day that falls during the Christmas recess, as defined in section 2 of the Federal Courts Rules; (jour ouvrable)

Court

Court means the Federal Court; (Cour)

designated Minister

designated Minister means a person who is designated as the Minister under subsection 3.2(1); (ministre désigné)

foreign state

foreign state means any state other than Canada; (État étranger)

government institution

government institution means

  • (a) any department or ministry of state of the Government of Canada, or any body or office, listed in Schedule I, and

  • (b) any parent Crown corporation, and any wholly-owned subsidiary of such a corporation, within the meaning of section 83 of the Financial Administration Act; (institution fédérale)

head

head, in respect of a government institution, means

  • (a) in the case of a department or ministry of state, the member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada who presides over the department or ministry, or

  • (b) in any other case, either the person designated under subsection 3.2(2) to be the head of the institution for the purposes of this Act or, if no such person is designated, the chief executive officer of the institution, whatever their title; (responsable d’institution fédérale)

Information Commissioner

Information Commissioner means the Commissioner appointed under section 54; (Commissaire à l’information)

personal information

personal information has the same meaning as in section 3 of the Privacy Act; (renseignements personnels)

record

record means any documentary material, regardless of medium or form; (document)

sensory disability

sensory disability means a disability that relates to sight or hearing; (déficience sensorielle)

third party

third party, in respect of a request for access to a record under Part 1, means any person, group of persons or organization other than the person that made the request or a government institution. (tiers)

  • R.S., 1985, c. A-1, s. 3
  • 1992, c. 21, s. 1
  • 2002, c. 8, s. 183
  • 2006, c. 9, s. 141
  • 2019, c. 18, s. 3

Marginal note:For greater certainty

  •  (1) For greater certainty, any provision of this Act that applies to a government institution that is a parent Crown corporation applies to any of its wholly-owned subsidiaries within the meaning of section 83 of the Financial Administration Act.

  • Marginal note:For greater certainty

    (2) For greater certainty, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and the Public Sector Pension Investment Board are parent Crown corporations for the purposes of this Act.

  • 2006, c. 9, s. 142

Marginal note:For greater certainty

 For greater certainty, for the purposes of this Act, information that relates to the general administration of a government institution includes information that relates to expenses paid by the institution for travel, including lodging, and hospitality.

  • 2006, c. 9, s. 142

Designation

Marginal note:Power to designate Minister

  •  (1) The Governor in Council may designate a member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada to be the Minister for the purposes of any provision of this Act.

  • Marginal note:Power to designate head

    (2) The Governor in Council may, by order, designate a person to be the head of a government institution, other than a department or ministry of state, for the purposes of this Act.

  • 2006, c. 9, s. 142

PART 1Access to Government Records

Access

Right of Access

Marginal note:Right to access to records

  •  (1) Subject to this Part, but notwithstanding any other Act of Parliament, every person who is

    has a right to and shall, on request, be given access to any record under the control of a government institution.

  • Marginal note:Extension of right by order

    (2) The Governor in Council may, by order, extend the right to be given access to records under subsection (1) to include persons not referred to in that subsection and may set such conditions as the Governor in Council deems appropriate.

  • Marginal note:Responsibility of government institutions

    (2.1) The head of a government institution shall, without regard to the identity of a person making a request for access to a record under the control of the institution, make every reasonable effort to assist the person in connection with the request, respond to the request accurately and completely and, subject to the regulations, provide timely access to the record in the format requested.

  • Marginal note:Records produced from machine readable records

    (3) For the purposes of this Part, any record requested under this Part that does not exist but can, subject to such limitations as may be prescribed by regulation, be produced from a machine readable record under the control of a government institution using computer hardware and software and technical expertise normally used by the government institution shall be deemed to be a record under the control of the government institution.

  • R.S., 1985, c. A-1, s. 4
  • 1992, c. 1, s. 144(F)
  • 2001, c. 27, s. 202
  • 2006, c. 9, s. 143
  • 2019, c. 18, s. 39

Information about Government Institutions

Marginal note:Publication on government institutions

  •  (1) The designated Minister shall cause to be published, on a periodic basis not less frequently than once each year, a publication containing

    • (a) a description of the organization and responsibilities of each government institution, including details on the programs and functions of each division or branch of each government institution;

    • (b) a description of all classes of records under the control of each government institution in sufficient detail to facilitate the exercise of the right of access under this Part;

    • (c) a description of all manuals used by employees of each government institution in administering or carrying out any of the programs or activities of the government institution; and

    • (d) the title and address of the appropriate officer for each government institution to whom requests for access to records under this Part should be sent.

  • Marginal note:Bulletin

    (2) The designated Minister shall cause to be published, at least twice each year, a bulletin to bring the material contained in the publication published under subsection (1) up to date and to provide to the public other useful information relating to the operation of this Act.

  • Marginal note:Descriptions in publication and bulletins

    (3) Any description that is required to be included in the publication or bulletins published under subsection (1) or (2) may be formulated in such a manner that the description does not itself constitute information on the basis of which the head of a government institution would be authorized to refuse to disclose a part of a record requested under this Part.

  • Marginal note:Publication and bulletin to be made available

    (4) The designated Minister shall cause the publication referred to in subsection (1) and the bulletin referred to in subsection (2) to be made available throughout Canada in conformity with the principle that every person is entitled to reasonable access thereto.

Requests for Access

Marginal note:Request for access to record

 A request for access to a record under this Part shall be made in writing to the government institution that has control of the record and shall provide sufficient detail to enable an experienced employee of the institution to identify the record with a reasonable effort.

Marginal note:Reasons for declining to act on request

  •  (1) With the Information Commissioner’s written approval, the head of a government institution may, before giving a person access to a record or refusing to do so, decline to act on the person’s request if, in the opinion of the head of the institution, the request is vexatious, is made in bad faith or is otherwise an abuse of the right to make a request for access to records.

  • Marginal note:Limitation

    (1.1) The head of a government institution is not authorized under subsection (1) to decline to act on a person’s request for a record for the sole reason that the information contained in it has been published under Part 2.

  • Marginal note:Time limit suspended

    (1.2) If the head of a government institution communicates with the Information Commissioner to obtain his or her approval to decline to act, the 30-day period set out in section 7 — and any extension to it under section 9 — is suspended during the period beginning on the day on which the head of the institution communicates with the Information Commissioner and ending on the day on which he or she receives the Information Commissioner’s decision in writing.

  • Marginal note:Notice — suspension

    (1.3) The head of the institution shall give written notice to the person who made the request for access to a record under this Part of the suspension of the period, and of the reasons for the suspension, at the same time as they communicate with the Information Commissioner to obtain his or her approval to decline to act.

  • Marginal note:Notice — end of suspension

    (1.4) If the Information Commissioner refuses to give his or her approval, the head of the institution shall, on receiving the Information Commissioner’s decision in writing, give written notice to the person who made the request for access to a record under this Part of the refusal and of the date on which the running of the period resumes in accordance with subsection (1.2).

  • Marginal note:Notice

    (2) If the head of a government institution declines to act on the person’s request, they shall give the person written notice of their decision to decline to act on the request and their reasons for doing so.

Marginal note:Notice where access requested

 Where access to a record is requested under this Part, the head of the government institution to which the request is made shall, subject to sections 8 and 9, within 30 days after the request is received,

  • (a) give written notice to the person who made the request as to whether or not access to the record or a part thereof will be given; and

  • (b) if access is to be given, give the person who made the request access to the record or part thereof.

Marginal note:Transfer of request

  •  (1) Where a government institution receives a request for access to a record under this Part and the head of the institution considers that another government institution has a greater interest in the record, the head of the institution may, subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by regulation, within fifteen days after the request is received, transfer the request and, if necessary, the record to the other government institution, in which case the head of the institution transferring the request shall give written notice of the transfer to the person who made the request.

  • Marginal note:Deeming provision

    (2) For the purposes of section 7, where a request is transferred under subsection (1), the request shall be deemed to have been made to the government institution to which it was transferred on the day the government institution to which the request was originally made received it.

  • Marginal note:Meaning of greater interest

    (3) For the purpose of subsection (1), a government institution has a greater interest in a record if

    • (a) the record was originally produced in or for the institution; or

    • (b) in the case of a record not originally produced in or for a government institution, the institution was the first government institution to receive the record or a copy thereof.

 
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