Frequently Asked Questions - ATIP

The questions below have been organized by the following topics:

General

Can non-residents of Canada access records held by Canadian federal institutions?

Only Canadian citizens, permanent residents and individuals present in Canada can make use of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. However, you can ask that a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident submit an Access to Information or Privacy request on your behalf.

Will I receive more information if I retain the services of a lawyer or have a Member of Parliament make the request on my behalf?

No. You will receive the same information whether you send in the request yourself or whether a lawyer, Member of Parliament or anyone else makes the request on your behalf with your consent. Community status or professional titles will not slow down or expedite the processing of a request.

Where can I find a copy of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act?

Both Acts are available online at the following addresses:

Access to Information Act
Privacy Act

Access to Information Act

Who can make a request under the Access to Information Act?

The Access to Information Act gives every Canadian citizen, permanent resident and individual or corporation present in Canada the right to access records—in any format—that are held under the control of a government institution, subject to certain specific and limited exceptions.

Is there a cost to submit a request under the Access to Information Act?

Each request submitted under the Access to Information Act must be accompanied by a $5 application fee (cheque or money order made payable to the Receiver General of Canada). This application fee entitles you to 5 hours of search and preparation.

Additional charges may be applied during the course of processing your request. These additional charges may be related to search, preparation, computer processing, photocopying, etc. as identified in the Access to Information Regulations. When additional fees are assessed, a deposit may be required for the processing costs associated with your request. You will receive a written estimate in additional charges apply.

If you want a refund of the application fee or a fee waiver, you should indicate it on your application, giving your reasons for seeking such.

How and where does a requester submit an Access to Information Act request?

To make a formal Access to Information Act request, complete Treasury Board’s Access to Information Request form. You can also choose to send a letter detailing the information you wish to receive. You must state in your letter that your request is being made under the Access to Information Act. You must also include the $5 application fee.

Send all completed request forms or letters (include the $5 application fee) to:

Communications Security Establishment
Access to Information and Privacy Coordinator
P.O. Box 9703
Terminal
Ottawa, Ontario
K1G 3Z4

Note: The Communications Security Establishment does not accept requests via e-mail, fax or telephone. Please submit your requests by mail.

May I lodge a complaint related to the Access to Information Act?

Yes, you may lodge a complaint with the Office of the Information Commissioner about any matter related to your Access to Information Act request. For example, your complaint may involve exemptions applied, delays in providing a response, fee estimates, etc. A complaint must be made within 60 days from the date that you received a response to your request. There is no cost to you for the investigation of a complaint. Complaints must be submitted in writing to:

Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada
30 Victoria Street
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 1H3
Email: general@oic-ci.gc.ca

I work for a law firm and wish to have a copy of a Communications Security Establishment file. Can I submit an Access to Information Act request to receive a copy of that file?

You may submit the request; however, if you do not have written, signed consent from your client or from any of the parties involved in the file, the information that you will receive will be limited. Without consent from the individuals, you will not have access to any personal information within that file and thus you may not receive the documents you are seeking.

In order to ensure that you will get the information you require, provided that other exemption(s) do not apply, have your client sign a consent form that includes the following:

  • your client’s full name and date of birth;
  • your client’s consent for CSE to disclose his/her personal information to you; and
  • an original signature. Note that a fax or photocopy will not be accepted.

Can I submit an Access to Information Act request to receive answers to questions that I have about your organization?

The Access to Information Act was established to provide a right to seek access to (or copies of) documents held by an organization. The Act does not make provisions for organizations to create new records or to answer specific questions.

All questions about the Communications Security Establishment should be directed to Media Relations and Public Affairs at 613-991-7248 or media@cse-cst.gc.ca

Privacy Act

Who can make a request under the Privacy Act?

The Privacy Act protects the privacy of all Canadian citizens and permanent residents regarding personal information held by a government institution. It also gives these individuals, including those in Canada who are not permanent residents or citizens, the right to access their own personal information.

Is there a cost to submit a request under the Privacy Act?

There are no fees associated with submitting a request under the Privacy Act.

What is considered personal information?

Section 3(a)-(i) of the Privacy Act outlines the basis of what is considered personal information. Some examples include, but are not limited to:

  • age and gender
  • blood type
  • credit card numbers
  • criminal records
  • educational history
  • employment history within a non-governmental organization
  • financial history
  • fingerprints
  • home address
  • medical history
  • any identifiable number, including social insurance numbers (SIN)
  • race, ethnic and national origin
  • religious beliefs
  • telephone numbers
  • views or opinions of another individual about the individual

What is considered non-personal information?

Non-personal information includes employment information of an individual working for the federal government, such as:

  • details of employment contract
  • job classification
  • job title
  • salary range
  • security level of position
  • work-related correspondence
  • work telephone and fax number

How and where does a requester submit a Privacy Act request?

To make a formal request under the Privacy Act, complete Treasury Board’s Request for Personal Information form. You can also choose to send a letter detailing the information you wish to receive. You must state in your letter that your request is being made under the Privacy Act.

Send all completed request forms or letters to:

Communications Security Establishment
Access to Information and Privacy Coordinator
P.O. Box 9703
Terminal
Ottawa, Ontario
K1G 3Z4

Note: The Communications Security Establishment does not accept requests via e-mail, fax or telephone. Please submit your requests by mail.

May I lodge a complaint related to the Privacy Act?

Yes, you may lodge a complaint about any matter related to your Privacy Act request. You may also lodge a complaint if you believe the government institution has not respected your privacy rights. You may send your complaint to:

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
30 Victoria Street
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 1H3
Toll-free: 1-800-282-1376
Phone: 819-994-5444
TTY: 819-994-6591

Can a requester receive personal information on someone who is deceased?

In accordance with the Privacy Act, personal information on an individual can be released if that individual has been deceased for 20 years or more. Reasonable proof must be provided. Examples of what constitutes reasonable proof include obituary notices, death certificates, photographs of tombstones and provincial vital statistics.

If a person has been dead for less than 20 years, the executor or executrix of the estate or, in the case of an individual who has died without a will (intestate), the administrator of the estate, may request personal information of the deceased. However, the executor or administrator of the estate will not have an unlimited right of access to all of the deceased’s personal information. The disclosure of personal information will be strictly limited to only the information that will allow them to fulfill their legal responsibilities to finalize the estate.

Response time

How long does it take?

Both the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act allow for a legal response time of 30 calendar days from the date of receipt of an official request. The Acts also allow for legal extensions to this first 30 calendar-day response time.

The Privacy Act provides for one legal extension of no more than 30 days, which means an institution may take up to 60 days to provide you with a response.

The Access to Information Act also provides for a legal extension to the response time for reasons such as the volume of requests and consultations with other parties.

You will be notified should an extension of the response time be required under either Act within the first 30 days following receipt of your request.

How to expedite an Access to Information response

  • Consult the government publication Info Source and the comprehensive list of information holdings.
  • Do not ask for all the information on a subject unless you really want it all. Narrowing your request will produce much faster results and will keep costs down.
  • Do not forget to send your $5 application fee along with your Access to Information Act request. The Communications Security Establishment is not obligated to process a request if the fee is not paid.
  • An explanation may help the ATIP Office find the material you are seeking. In addition, focusing your request on a specific report or document will allow the ATIP Office to greatly expedite the response.
  • Include your phone number on your request and ask the ATIP Office to call you for any necessary clarification.
  • Keep a copy of your request and all related correspondence for future reference.