Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Canadian's right to access information held by the government

Under Canada's Access to Information Act, in general any Canadian citizen or permanent resident may request and may be given access to any record under the control of a government institution.

The Act includes a list of all such "government institutions", which includes for example the Department of National Defence, the Department of Health, the Department of Justice, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but does not include ministerial offices for any of the listed Departments.

However, records located within ministerial offices for any of the listed Departments may nonetheless be subject to disclosure if the record relates to a departmental matter, and if a senior official of the government institution could reasonably expect to obtain a copy upon request (Canada (Information Commissioner) v. Canada (Minister of National Defence), 2011 SCC 25).

Journalists, lawyers, and Canadians of all walks of life have relied on Access to Information requests to obtain enlightening information from a sometimes reluctant government. If you need help with enforcing an Access to Information request, a lawyer may be able to help.

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