Government proposals to revitalize access to information
How to comment
- Provide general feedback at the bottom of this page;
- Provide specific feedback on each of the Government's proposals by following the hyperlinks in the list below;
- Email us at ATIconsultationAI@tbs-sct.gc.ca; or
- Submit a detailed proposal on other ways to improve the Access to Information Act.
Comment before 5:00 pm EDT .
Here are the Government of Canada's proposals to improve the Access to Information Act. We invite you to read more about each proposal and to provide your feedback.
- Make government data and information open by default, in formats that are modern and easy to use
- Eliminate all fees, except for the initial $5 filing fee
- When information cannot be released, provide requestors with a written explanation
- Give Government institutions and the Information Commissioner authority to decline to process requests that are frivolous or vexatious
- Give the Information Commissioner the power to order the release of government information
- Ensure that the Access to Information Act applies appropriately to the Prime Minister's and Ministers' Offices, as well as administrative institutions that support Parliament and the courts
- Undertake a legislative review of the Access to Information Act every five years
- Strengthen performance reporting on the federal access to information program
On May 5, 2016, the Interim Directive on the Administration of the Access to Information Act was implemented to take quick action on revitalizing access to information.
It guides federal institutions on how to administer the Act in ways that are consistent with the Government's commitment to more open and transparent government.
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.
As well, to make it easier for Canadians to access government information, including their personal information, Budget 2016 announced that the Government will create a simple, central website where Canadians can submit requests for information. The new website will build on the success of the existing Access to Information and Privacy Online Request pilot project.
Vlasta Stubicar - June 30, 2016
In considering how best to reform the current access to information framework, policy decision makers may consider useful the following account of the many difficulties encountered in trying to exercise my access rights pursuant to the Access to Information Act, as regards CBSA manuals listed in Info Source (Sources of Federal Government Information).
In September 2010, I first sought access to the CBSA reading room to view four of the 65 CBSA manuals listed in the then current online version of Info Source, the largely unknown publication provided for under s. 5(1)(c) of the Act. A CBSA ATIP employee informed me that there was no reading room. When asked for an explanation, the then CBSA ATIP Coordinator commented that, whereas mine was the first such request in five years, it would not make sense for the CBSA to allot special resources for a reading room. My complaint to the OIC regarding refusal of access to the CBSA reading room the OIC treated as an “administrative” complaint readily dealt with on the basis of an informal undertaking by the CBSA to figure out how to deal with such requests in the future.
Attached is an annotated copy of a printout which I personally obtained on September 21, 2010 of that excerpt of the electronic version of Info Source pertaining to CBSA Manuals.
Attached also is a copy of the printout which I personally obtained on October 19, 2010 of the same Info Source excerpt showing that all but two of the 65 titles previously listed under the heading “manuals” had been removed in the interim.
Before the CBSA had removed all but two of the manuals listed in the September 2010 online version of Info Source, I submitted the prescribed Access to Information Request Form requesting access to the electronic versions of the four manuals that I had unsuccessfully sought to view in the reading room that, it turns out, did not exist.
The CBSA first gave me notice of the extension purportedly applied in accordance with paragraph 9(1)(b) of the Act as regards the processing of my request.
Followed “an interim response to [my] request” effectively denying, either in part or entirely, access to the relevant CBSA manuals.
My complaint with the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada regarding denial of access to the relevant CBSA manuals I filed in November 2010. It took the OIC almost four months just to assign a file number to my complaint. For a copy of the Office of the Information Commissioner’s report in OIC file 3210-01399 I had to wait until May 5, 2015.
Review proceedings in the Federal Court are still pending, due to interlocutory proceedings against the August 31, 2015 Federal Court Order obtained on behalf of the Deputy Attorney General, whereby I am required to pay $5 000.00 (five thousand dollars) in security for the CBSA’s costs as a precondition for going ahead with my review application.
Based on the foregoing, policy decision makers have grounds to consider the following questions:
What is the rationale for requiring the Commissioner’s report as a pre-condition for access to the Court to enforce quasi-constitutional access rights?
Would it not be a better use of limited resources to limit the Information Commissioner’s role to one of educating the public (about Info Source, for example) and reporting to Parliament his or her findings on government compliance with the Access to Information Act?
Enclosure : 3 pages (copies of relevant Info Source printouts)
N.B.: Enclosure to follow by mail due to current technical difficulty in accessing the email address provided above: ATIconsultationAI@tbs-sct.gc.ca
Heather G Morrison - June 29, 2016
Re: "Make government data and information open by default, in formats that are modern and easy to use". This is an excellent direction, however it is important to recognize that opening government data by default can never replace a robust and accountable requesting mechanism for citizens. Governments have power and spend a lot of money. The temptation for corruption for private profit or to influence government in non-democratic ways to further goals of individuals or groups will never go away. Mistakes happen. It is only human for elected officials and government staff to want to provide easy open access to information that makes them look good and hide information that demonstrates a mistake or a poor decision.
The strongest point of this proposal is giving the Information Commissioner the power to order the release of information. This is particularly necessary if there is a desire to turn down frivolous or vexatious requests. It is all too easy to see requests for information we'd rather not release as frivolous or vexatious.
The $5 filing free should be eliminated. I recommend the development of intermediary information services (library reference services) to help people identify the documents or data that they need. Based on informal conversations with people on different aspects of ATI requests over the years it is my impression that requests are sometimes overly broad just because the requestor does not understand how government works and so they do not know what to ask for. An intermediary with knowledge of government and information seeking behavior would be helpful in this circumstance.
This consultation overlaps with the open government consultation to which I provided very detailed comments which can be found here http://hdl.handle.net/10393/34945
Mel T. - June 22, 2016
I read this on the Huffington Post, and if the information is accurate, I agree that the government should be allowed to appeal but not override the commissioner's decisions.
"Unfortunately, their recommendation included the problematic idea that cabinet ministers be able to override the commissioner's orders in cases where national security is involved. Interestingly, the government's consultation proposals also suggested it might want to allow a minister or cabinet to override the commissioner if they disagreed with her order.
These overrides are problematic, as they would allow ministers to block access to any documents they don't want seen. A more measured approach would be to simply allow the government to appeal the commissioner's decisions when they feel a mistake has been made."
Neil Bodimeade - June 21, 2016
Information should be more accessible to the public.
Roger Bolt - June 21, 2016
I believe that historically political embarrassment has blocked fair access to information, with "cabinet secrets" "security secrets" being abused as excuses for denying release.
I fully support ALL recommendations of the report!!
Gary Smith - June 21, 2016
As a tax payer, it is very concerning that my taxes are going to pay for public servants (at all levels) to search and review documents from requests that are either too broad or too complex. the amount of documents that would have to be retrieved and reviewed could take months and even years, depending on the request. by eliminating all fees, except for the initial $5 filing fee, the government would be losing thousands of dollars just to have the appropriate resources allocated to do this work, while the resources can be doing meaningful work that would benefit all Canadians. I believe that the fees should be kept in place in order to minimize the amount of malicious requests that are submitted to departments.