Frequently asked questions
What is a record?
A record is defined in the Access to Information Act as "any documentary material, regardless of medium or form."
What does it cost to make a request?
There are no fees for a request for personal information under the Privacy Act.
For a request under the Access to Information Act, a $5.00 initial application fee is required.
What is the purpose of the Access to Information Act?
The purpose of the Access to Information Act is to "provide a right of access to information in records under the control of a government institution."
What information can be requested under the Access to Information Act?
A basic principle of the Access to Information Act is that government information should be available to the public.
Therefore, any information under the control of a government institution can be requested. The act does however provide for specific and limited exceptions to this right of access. The right to information must be weighed against the requirement to protect certain interests for example: the personal information of individuals; the conduct of lawful investigations; the safety of individuals; the security of penal institutions; and to allow for negotiations, deliberations and the provision of advice.
Information that can be requested includes, but is not limited to:
- briefing notes
- hand written notes
- draft documents
- transitory documents
- meeting agendas
- post-it notes
- video and audio recordings
- all classified/designated information
What is the purpose of the Privacy Act?
The purpose of the Privacy Act is to protect the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information under the control of Federal Government institutions. The act also allows individuals a legal right of access to their own personal information held by individual institutions.
What is personal information?
Personal information is, according to the Privacy Act, "information about an identifiable individual that is recorded in any form."
Examples include (but are not limited to) an individual's race, age, religion, marital status, education, medical information, criminal, employment history, an identifying number (i.e. Social Insurance Number, Fingerprint System Number), personal opinions or views of another individual.
For more details regarding what constitutes personal information, please refer to section 3 of the Privacy Act.
What is not personal information under the Privacy Act?
According to the act, personal information does not include information about:
- an individual who is or was an officer or employee of a government institution that relates to the position or functions of the individual
- an individual who was hired under contract to perform services for a government institution providing that information is related to the job they were performing
- any discretionary benefit of a financial nature, and
- an individual who has been dead for more than 20 years
Are individuals required to submit a formal request under the Privacy Act in order to obtain information?
No. government institutions can allow individuals to view most personal files without recourse to the act. However, where access cannot be granted through informal channels, individuals are to be informed of their right to submit a formal application under the act.
Who can make a request under the Privacy Act?
According to the act, these individuals can make a privacy request:
- Canadian Citizen or permanent resident
- an offender within the meaning of Part I of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act who is not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident
- all individuals present in Canada
How long does CSC ATIP have to respond to an ATIP request?
Thirty calendar days. The act does allow for extensions in limited circumstances.
What defines "search time"?
Search time is defined as the amount of time it takes a government employee(s) to search through their electronic or hard copy records in order to determine if they have information that responds to the request.
CSC cannot charge a requester for the time it takes to photocopy the requested records or for the time it takes to review them for sensitive information.
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