More information on access to information

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The Access to Information Act

Since 1983, the Access to Information Act has maintained openness and transparency by serving the important public interest of enabling public debate on the conduct of government institutions, in turn strengthening the accountability of the Government of Canada to Canadians.

The core principle of the Act is that government information should be available to the public, subject only to limited and specific exceptions to protect privacy, confidentiality and security.

Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and corporations resident in Canada have the right to request access to any record under the control of a government institution.

Roughly 240 government institutions are subject to the Act, comprising 82 departments and agencies, and approximately 160 Crown Corporations and wholly-owned subsidiaries.

Interim Directive on the Administration of the Access to Information Act

On , the Government issued the Interim Directive on the Administration of the Access to Information Act. It guides institutions on how to administer the Access to Information Act in ways that are consistent with the Government’s commitment to more open and transparent government.

The Interim Directive enshrines the principle of “open by default”. It also directs that:

  • all fees, apart from the $5 application fee, will be waived; and
  • when feasible, requesters will receive information in the format of their choice, including open and reusable formats (e.g. in a form that can be read and used by a computer).

The Interim Directive will be in place until the Access to Information Act goes through a full legislative review.  This full review is scheduled for no later than 2018, once the first round of improvements to the Act have been made.

The access to information program

The federal access to information (ATI) program applies to approximately 240 government institutions subject to the Access to Information Act.

The Government of Canada publishes an annual statistical report on the access to information program. Key information from these annual reports is summarized below.

Number of requests

  • Since 1983, the number of requests has increased by an average of 13 per cent annually, with 68,193 requests received in 2014-.
Figure 01: Number of requests
Number of requests
Figure 01 - Text version

This table shows the number of access to information requests received by the Government of Canada annually from 1983- to 2014-.

Year Number of access to information requests received
1983-1984 1,513
1984-1985 2,229
1985-1986 3,606
1986-1987 5,450
1987-1988 7,301
1988-1989 8,853
1989-1990 10,234
1990-1991 11,093
1991-1992 10,387
1992-1993 9,729
1993-1994 10,422
1994-1995 12,861
1995-1996 13,124
1996-1997 12,476
1997-1998 12,206
1998-1999 14,340
1999-2000 19,294
2000-2001 20,789
2001-2002 21,265
2002-2003 22,977
2003-2004 25,234
2004-2005 25,207
2005-2006 27,269
2006-2007 29,182
2007-2008 31,487
2008-2009 34,041
2009-2010 35,154
2010-2011 41,641
2011-2012 43,194
2012-2013 55,145
2013-2014 60,105
2014-2015 68,193

Requestors, 2014-

  • Most requests were from the public and businesses in 2014-.
Figure 02: Requestors, 2014-15
Requestors, 2014-15
Figure 02 - Text version

This table shows who the top category of access to information requestors were for 2014-.

Category of requestor Number of requests Percentage
Public 28,082 41
Business 25,170 37
Media 7,873 11
Organization 3,297 5
Academia 2,008 3
Unknown 1,763 3
Total 68,193 100

Top ten institutions by number of requests, 2014-

Figure 03: Top ten institutions by number of requests, 2014-15
Top Ten Institutions by number of requests, 2014-15
Figure 03 - Text version

This table shows the top 10 Government of Canada institutions that received access to information requests in 2014- and their respective share of the 68,193 total requests received by all of government in 2014-.

Rank Institution Number of access to information requests received, 2014- Share of total access to information requests by all of government, 2014-
1 Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada 34,066 49.96%
2 Canada Border  Services Agency 6,705 9.83%
3 Royal Canadian Mounted Police 3,343 4.90%
4 Canada Revenue Agency 3,006 4.41%
5 National Defense 2,073 3.04%
6 Health Canada 1,569 2.30%
7 Environment and Climate Change Canada 1,488 2.18%
8 Employment and Social Development Canada 1,160 1.70%
9 Transport Canada 937 1.37%
10 Infrastructure Canada 919 1.35%

Costs

  • In 2014-, federal institutions spent over $67 million in direct costs to administer the Access to Information Act. This does not include costs associated with government business areas searching for and reviewing documents.
  • Direct costs have increased by an average eight per cent annually.
Figure 04: Costs
Costs
Figure 04 - Text version

This table shows the number of access to information requests received by the Government of Canada annually between 1983-84 and 2014- and the direct costs, adjusted in real 2015 dollars, to administer these requests annually between 1983-84 and 2014-.

Year Total number of access to information requests received annually Real dollar 2015
1983-1984 1,513 $5,561,290
1984-1985 2,229 $7,565,295
1985-1986 3,606 $8,441,215
1986-1987 5,450 $7,736,798
1987-1988 7,301 $7,364,309
1988-1989 8,853 $9,695,033
1989-1990 10,234 $11,891,701
1990-1991 11,093 $11,020,116
1991-1992 10,387 $9,919,312
1992-1993 9,729 $14,438,682
1993-1994 10,422 $12,777,278
1994-1995 12,861 $14,653,585
1995-1996 13,124 $16,918,870
1996-1997 12,476 $17,549,077
1997-1998 12,206 $16,966,869
1998-1999 14,340 $19,913,100
1999-2000 19,294 $23,441,085
2000-2001 20,789 $28,655,645
2001-2002 21,265 $30,093,442
2002-2003 22,977 $32,169,478
2003-2004 25,234 $29,986,032
2004-2005 25,207 $31,964,978
2005-2006 27,269 $38,398,377
2006-2007 29,182 $39,430,263
2007-2008 31,487 $49,909,269
2008-2009 34,041 $53,746,764
2009-2010 35,154 $52,380,599
2010-2011 41,641 $57,365,471
2011-2012 43,194 $62,514,108
2012-2013 55,145 $61,458,177
2013-2014 60,105 $64,159,144
2014-2015 68,193 $61,451,087

Performance, 2014-

  • Over 13 million pages were processed to respond to access to information requests; about 79 per cent (about nine million pages) were released in whole or in part. Fewer than two per cent of all records were withheld in full.
  • Over 60 per cent of all requests were completed within 30 days. This number has been relatively stable over time.
  • The most-invoked exemptions were:
  • Of the 68,193 access to information requests received in 2014-, the Information Commissioner of Canada received 1,749 complaints. This is down from the 2,081 complaints received the year before.

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