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 - 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|
- Most requests were from the public and businesses in 2014-.
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|
Top ten institutions by number of requests, 2014-
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%|
|7||Environment and Climate Change Canada||1,488||2.18%|
|8||Employment and Social Development Canada||1,160||1.70%|
- 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 - 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|
- 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.
- Access to Information Act
- Interim Directive on the Administration of the Access to Information Act
- Annual bulletin on statistics on the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act
- Privacy Act