Frequently Asked Questions


What is the Access to Information Act?

The Access to Information Act gives Canadians-and other individuals and corporations present in Canada-the right to apply for and obtain copies of federal government records. "Records" include letters, memos, reports, photographs, films, microforms, plans, drawings, diagrams, maps, sound and video recordings, and machine-readable or computer files.

Does it cost anything?

Each request filed under the Access to Information Act costs $5 (payable by VISA/Mastercard, money order or cheque payable to the Receiver General of Canada).

What is the role of the Information Commissioner?

The Information Commissioner investigates complaints from persons who believe they have been denied rights under the Access to Information Act. The Commissioner is an independent ombudsman with strong investigative powers who mediates between complainants and government institutions. The Commissioner has the authority to make recommendations to government institutions but cannot issue binding orders.


Where do I start?

Decide which government institution may have the information you want. If you need help, consult Info Source, an on-line directory of federal government institutions and the information they hold. Info Source may be found at

The information you want can often be obtained informally simply by asking the government department. If you need to make a formal request under the Access to Information Act, send a letter or a completed "Access to Information Request Form" to the address of the government institution listed in Info Source along with the $5 application fee.

How long does it take?

The institution has 30 calendar days in which to respond to a formal request. (No time limit applies to informal requests.) If a lengthy or complex search is required to locate the information, then the institution is entitled to have more time. You should be notified of any need to extend the time limit.

Any tips before I begin?

Ask if the information is available informally and spare yourself the formal procedure and the cost.

Do not ask for all the information on a subject unless you really want it all. Narrowing your request will produce faster results.

Although your reasons for asking for the information are your own business, an explanation may help staff find just the material you are seeking. It may be possible to review the material yourself and to select only what interests you for copying.

Keep in touch with the department. Include your phone number on your request and ask the department to call you for any necessary clarification. Call or write the department if you receive no response within a reasonable period of time after the 30-day time limit has elapsed.

Keep a copy of your request and all related correspondence until you have the information you want.