What we do

The Office of the Information Commissioner investigates complaints about federal institutions’ handling of access requests. The Information Commissioner has strong investigative powers to assist her in mediating between dissatisfied information applicants and government institutions. As an ombudsperson, the Commissioner may not order a complaint to be resolved in a particular way, though she may refer a case to the Federal Court for resolution.

Whenever possible, the Commissioner relies on persuasion to solve disputes, asking for a Federal Court review only if an individual has been improperly denied access and a negotiated solution has proved impossible.

When the Office receives a complaint, it confidentially investigates the facts, allowing both the complainant and the federal organization to present their cases. This effort may require Office staff to critically analyze and review policies, procedures, legislation and case law, as well as examine government records. The Office obtains the information needed to examine the complaint from all perspectives through meetings or correspondence with officials and the complainant.

In accordance with the information gathered through the investigation, the Commissioner makes a finding. If, on the conclusion of the investigation, the finding supports the complainant's complaint, the Commissioner will facilitate a resolution or make a recommendation for corrective action. Where there is insufficient evidence to establish that the complaint is justified, the investigation is concluded and the complainant is advised of the results in writing.

Most complaints are resolved by mediation. Those that involve important principles of law or legal interpretation may be referred to court if the complainant agrees. For details on this process, please see our Lodging a Complaint page. To learn more about the Office, please see Our Structure.

We also encourage federal institutions to disclose information as a matter of course and to respect Canadians’ rights to request and receive information in the name of transparency and accountability. We continually make the case for greater freedom of information through targeted initiatives, such as Right to Know Week, and ongoing dialogue with Canadians, Parliament, federal and provincial institutions.

Office of the Information Commissioner brochure (HTML)
Office of the Information Commissioner brochure (PDF)