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Special Report

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Appendix: Selected Provisions of the Access to Information Act

Purpose

2. (1) The purpose of this Act is to extend the present laws of Canada to provide a right of access to information in records under the control of a government institution in accordance with the principles that government information should be available to the public, that necessary exceptions to the right of access should be limited and specific and that decisions on the disclosure of government information should be reviewed independently of government.

Complementary procedures

(2) This Act is intended to complement and not replace existing procedures for access to government information and is not intended to limit in any way access to the type of government information that is normally available to the general public.

Definitions

3. In this Act,

"government institution" means

(a) any department or ministry of state of the Government of Canada, or any body or office, listed in Schedule I, and

(b) any parent Crown corporation, and any wholly-owned subsidiary of such a corporation, within the meaning of section 83 of the Financial Administration Act;

"head", in respect of a government institution, means

(a) in the case of a department or ministry of state, the member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada who presides over the department or ministry, or

(b) in any other case, either the person designated under subsection 3.2(2) to be the head of the institution for the purposes of this Act or, if no such person is designated, the chief executive officer of the institution, whatever their title;

"Information Commissioner" means the Commissioner appointed under section 54;

"record" means any documentary material, regardless of medium or form;

Right to access to records

4. (1) Subject to this Act, but notwithstanding any other Act of Parliament, every person who is

(a) a Canadian citizen, or

(b) a permanent resident within the meaning of subsection 2(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act,

has a right to and shall, on request, be given access to any record under the control of a government institution.

Extension of right by order

(2) The Governor in Council may, by order, extend the right to be given access to records under subsection (1) to include persons not referred to in that subsection and may set such conditions as the Governor in Council deems appropriate.

Responsibility of government institutions

(2.1) The head of a government institution shall, without regard to the identity of a person making a request for access to a record under the control of the institution, make every reasonable effort to assist the person in connection with the request, respond to the request accurately and completely and, subject to the regulations, provide timely access to the record in the format requested.

Notice where access requested

7. Where access to a record is requested under this Act, the head of the government institution to which the request is made shall, subject to sections 8, 9 and 11, within thirty days after the request is received,

(a) give written notice to the person who made the request as to whether or not access to the record or a part thereof will be given; and

(b) if access is to be given, give the person who made the request access to the record or part thereof.

Extension of time limits

9. (1) The head of a government institution may extend the time limit set out in section 7 or subsection 8(1) in respect of a request under this Act for a reasonable period of time, having regard to the circumstances, if

(a) the request is for a large number of records or necessitates a search through a large number of records and meeting the original time limit would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the government institution,

(b) consultations are necessary to comply with the request that cannot reasonably be completed within the original time limit, or

(c) notice of the request is given pursuant to subsection 27(1) by giving notice of the extension and, in the circumstances set out in paragraph (a) or (b), the length of the extension, to the person who made the request within thirty days after the request is received, which notice shall contain a statement that the person has a right to make a complaint to the Information Commissioner about the extension.

Notice of extension to Information Commissioner

(2) Where the head of a government institution extends a time limit under subsection (1) for more than thirty days, the head of the institution shall give notice of the extension to the Information Commissioner at the same time as notice is given under subsection (1).

Where access is refused

10. (1) Where the head of a government institution refuses to give access to a record requested under this Act or a part thereof, the head of the institution shall state in the notice given under paragraph 7(a)

(a) that the record does not exist, or

(b) the specific provision of this Act on which the refusal was based or, where the head of the institution does not indicate whether a record exists, the provision on which a refusal could reasonably be expected to be based if the record existed, and shall state in the notice that the person who made the request has a right to make a complaint to the Information Commissioner about the refusal.

Deemed refusal to give access

(3) Where the head of a government institution fails to give access to a record requested under this Act or a part thereof within the time limits set out in this Act, the head of the institution shall, for the purposes of this Act, be deemed to have refused to give access.

Records relating to investigations, examinations and audits

16.1 (1) The following heads of government institutions shall refuse to disclose any record requested under this Act that contains information that was obtained or created by them or on their behalf in the course of an investigation, examination or audit conducted by them or under their authority:

(a) the Auditor General of Canada;

(b) the Commissioner of Official Languages for Canada;

(c) the Information Commissioner; and

(d) the Privacy Commissioner.

Exception

(2) However, the head of a government institution referred to in paragraph (1)(c) or (d) shall not refuse under subsection (1) to disclose any record that contains information that was created by or on behalf of the head of the government institution in the course of an investigation or audit conducted by or under the authority of the head of the government institution once the investigation or audit and all related proceedings, if any, are finally concluded.

Severability

25. Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, where a request is made to a government institution for access to a record that the head of the institution is authorized to refuse to disclose under this Act by reason of information or other material contained in the record, the head of the institution shall disclose any part of the record that does not contain, and can reasonably be severed from any part that contains, any such information or material.

Receipt and investigation of complaints

30. (1) Subject to this Act, the Information Commissioner shall receive and investigate complaints

(a) from persons who have been refused access to a record requested under this Act or a part thereof;

(b) from persons who have been required to pay an amount under section 11 that they consider unreasonable;

(c) from persons who have requested access to records in respect of which time limits have been extended pursuant to section 9 where they consider the extension unreasonable;

(d) from persons who have not been given access to a record or a part thereof in the official language requested by the person under subsection 12(2), or have not been given access in that language within a period of time that they consider appropriate;

(d.1) from persons who have not been given access to a record or a part thereof in an alternative format pursuant to a request made under subsection 12(3), or have not been given such access within a period of time that they consider appropriate;

(e) in respect of any publication or bulletin referred to in section 5; or

(f) in respect of any other matter relating to requesting or obtaining access to records under this Act.

Written complaint

31. A complaint under this Act shall be made to the Information Commissioner in writing unless the Commissioner authorizes otherwise. If the complaint relates to a request by a person for access to a record, it shall be made within sixty days after the day on which the person receives a notice of a refusal under section 7, is given access to all or part of the record or, in any other case, becomes aware that grounds for the complaint exist.

Regulation of procedure

34. Subject to this Act, the Information Commissioner may determine the procedure to be followed in the performance of any duty or function of the Commissioner under this Act.

Investigations in private

35. (1) Every investigation of a complaint under this Act by the Information Commissioner shall be conducted in private.

Right to make representations

(2) In the course of an investigation of a complaint under this Act by the Information Commissioner, a reasonable opportunity to make representations shall be given to

(a) the person who made the complaint,

(b) the head of the government institution concerned, and

(c) a third party if

  • (i) the Information Commissioner intends to recommend the disclosure under subsection 37(1) of all or part of a record that contains - or that the Information Commissioner has reason to believe might contain - trade secrets of the third party, information described in paragraph 20(1)(b) or (b.1) that was supplied by the third party or information the disclosure of which the Information Commissioner can reasonably foresee might effect a result described in paragraph 20(1)(c) or (d) in respect of the third party, and

(ii) the third party can reasonably be located.

However no one is entitled as of right to be present during, to have access to or to comment on representations made to the Information Commissioner by any other person.

Powers of Information Commissioner in carrying out investigations

36. (1) The Information Commissioner has, in relation to the carrying out of the investigation of any complaint under this Act, power

(a) to summon and enforce the appearance of persons before the Information Commissioner and compel them to give oral or written evidence on oath and to produce such documents and things as the Commissioner deems requisite to the full investigation and consideration of the complaint, in the same manner and to the same extent as a superior court of record;

(b) to administer oaths;

(c) to receive and accept such evidence and other information, whether on oath or by affidavit or otherwise, as the Information Commissioner sees fit, whether or not the evidence or information is or would be admissible in a court of law;

(d) to enter any premises occupied by any government institution on satisfying any security requirements of the institution relating to the premises;

(e) to converse in private with any person in any premises entered pursuant to paragraph (d) and otherwise carry out therein such inquiries within the authority of the Information Commissioner under this Act as the Commissioner sees fit; and

(f) to examine or obtain copies of or extracts from books or other records found in any premises entered pursuant to paragraph (d) containing any matter relevant to the investigation.

Access to records

(2) Notwithstanding any other Act of Parliament or any privilege under the law of evidence, the Information Commissioner may, during the investigation of any complaint under this Act, examine any record to which this Act applies that is under the control of a government institution, and no such record may be withheld from the Commissioner on any grounds.

Evidence in other proceedings

(3) Except in a prosecution of a person for an offence under section 131 of the Criminal Code (perjury) in respect of a statement made under this Act, in a prosecution for an offence under section 67, in a review before the Court under this Act or in an appeal from such proceedings, evidence given by a person in proceedings under this Act and evidence of the existence of the proceedings is inadmissible against that person in a court or in any other proceedings.

Findings and recommendations of Information Commissioner

37. (1) If, on investigating a complaint in respect of a record under this Act, the Information Commissioner finds that the complaint is well-founded, the Commissioner shall provide the head of the government institution that has control of the record with a report containing

(a) the findings of the investigation and any recommendations that the Commissioner considers appropriate; and

(b) where appropriate, a request that, within a time specified in the report, notice be given to the Commissioner of any action taken or proposed to be taken to implement the recommendations contained in the report or reasons why no such action has been or is proposed to be taken.

Report to complainant and third parties

(2) The Information Commissioner shall, after investigating a complaint under this Act, report to the complainant and any third party that was entitled under subsection 35(2) to make and that made representations to the Commissioner in respect of the complaint the results of the investigation, but where a notice has been requested under paragraph (1)(b) no report shall be made under this subsection until the expiration of the time within which the notice is to be given to the Commissioner.

Matter to be included in report to complainant

(3) Where a notice has been requested under paragraph (1)(b) but no such notice is received by the Commissioner within the time specified therefor or the action described in the notice is, in the opinion of the Commissioner, inadequate or inappropriate or will not be taken in a reasonable time, the Commissioner shall so advise the complainant in his report under subsection (2) and may include in the report such comments on the matter as he thinks fit.

Access to be given

(4) Where, pursuant to a request under paragraph (1)(b), the head of a government institution gives notice to the Information Commissioner that access to a record or a part thereof will be given to a complainant, the head of the institution shall give the complainant access to the record or part thereof

(a) forthwith on giving the notice if no notice is given to a third party under paragraph 29(1)(b) in the matter; or

(b) forthwith on completion of twenty days after notice is given to a third party under paragraph 29(1)(b), if that notice is given, unless a review of the matter is requested under section 44.

Right of review

(5) Where, following the investigation of a complaint relating to a refusal to give access to a record requested under this Act or a part thereof, the head of a government institution does not give notice to the Information Commissioner that access to the record will be given, the Information Commissioner shall inform the complainant that the complainant has the right to apply to the Court for a review of the matter investigated.

Special reports

39. (1) The Information Commissioner may, at any time, make a special report to Parliament referring to and commenting on any matter within the scope of the powers, duties and functions of the Commissioner where, in the opinion of the Commissioner, the matter is of such urgency or importance that a report thereon should not be deferred until the time provided for transmission of the next annual report of the Commissioner under section 38.

Where investigation made

(2) Any report made pursuant to subsection (1) that relates to an investigation under this Act shall be made only after the procedures set out in section 37 have been followed in respect of the investigation.

Transmission of reports

40. (1) Every report to Parliament made by the Information Commissioner under section 38 or 39 shall be made by being transmitted to the Speaker of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Commons for tabling in those Houses.

Reference to Parliamentary committee

(2) Every report referred to in subsection (1) shall, after it is transmitted for tabling pursuant to that subsection, be referred to the committee designated or established by Parliament for the purpose of subsection 75(1).

Confidentiality

62. Subject to this Act, the Information Commissioner and every person acting on behalf or under the direction of the Commissioner shall not disclose any information that comes to their knowledge in the performance of their duties and functions under this Act.

Disclosure authorized

63. (1) The Information Commissioner may disclose or may authorize any person acting on behalf or under the direction of the Commissioner to disclose information

(a) that, in the opinion of the Commissioner, is necessary to

  • (i) carry out an investigation under this Act, or
  • (ii) establish the grounds for findings and recommendations contained in any report under this Act; or

(b) in the course of a prosecution for an offence under this Act, a prosecution for an offence under section 131 of the Criminal Code (perjury) in respect of a statement made under this Act, a review before the Court under this Act or an appeal therefrom.

Disclosure of offence authorized

(2) The Information Commissioner may disclose to the Attorney General of Canada information relating to the commission of an offence against a law of Canada or a province by a director, an officer or an employee of a government institution if, in the Commissioner's opinion, there is evidence of such an offence.

Information not to be disclosed

64. In carrying out an investigation under this Act and in any report made to Parliament under section 38 or 39, the Information Commissioner and any person acting on behalf or under the direction of the Information Commissioner shall take every reasonable precaution to avoid the disclosure of, and shall not disclose,

(a) any information or other material on the basis of which the head of a government institution would be authorized to refuse to disclose a part of a record requested under this Act; or

(b) any information as to whether a record exists where the head of a government institution, in refusing to give access to the record under this Act, does not indicate whether it exists.

No summons

65. The Information Commissioner or any person acting on behalf or under the direction of the Commissioner is not a competent or compellable witness, in respect of any matter coming to the knowledge of the Commissioner or that person as a result of performing any duties or functions under this Act during an investigation, in any proceedings other than a prosecution for an offence under this Act, a prosecution for an offence under section 131 of the Criminal Code (perjury) in respect of a statement made under this Act, a review before the Court under this Act or an appeal therefrom.

Obstruction

67. (1) No person shall obstruct the Information Commissioner or any person acting on behalf or under the direction of the Commissioner in the performance of the Commissioner's duties and functions under this Act.

Offence and punishment

(2) Every person who contravenes this section is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars.

Obstructing right of access

67.1 (1) No person shall, with intent to deny a right of access under this Act,

(a) destroy, mutilate or alter a record;

(b) falsify a record or make a false record;

(c) conceal a record; or

(d) direct, propose, counsel or cause any person in any manner to do anything mentioned in any of paragraphs (a) to (c).

Offence and punishment

(2) Every person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of

(a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine not exceeding $10,000, or to both; or

(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding $5,000, or to both.

Duties and functions of designated Minister

70. (1) Subject to subsection (2), the designated Minister shall

(a) cause to be kept under review the manner in which records under the control of government institutions are maintained and managed to ensure compliance with the provisions of this Act and the regulations relating to access to records;

(b) prescribe such forms as may be required for the operation of this Act and the regulations;

(c) cause to be prepared and distributed to government institutions directives and guidelines concerning the operation of this Act and the regulations;

(c.1) cause statistics to be collected on an annual basis for the purpose of assessing the compliance of government institutions with the provisions of this Act and the regulations relating to access; and

(d) prescribe the form of, and what information is to be included in, reports made to Parliament under section 72.

Delegation by the head of a government institution

73. The head of a government institution may, by order, designate one or more officers or employees of that institution to exercise or perform any of the powers, duties or functions of the head of the institution under this Act that are specified in the order.

Permanent review of Act by Parliamentary committee

75. (1) The administration of this Act shall be reviewed on a permanent basis by such committee of the House of Commons, of the Senate or of both Houses of Parliament as may be designated or established by Parliament for that purpose.

Review and report to Parliament

(2) The committee designated or established by Parliament for the purpose of subsection (1) shall, not later than July 1, 1986, undertake a comprehensive review of the provisions and operation of this Act, and shall within a year after the review is undertaken or within such further time as the House of Commons may authorize, submit a report to Parliament thereon including a statement of any changes the committee would recommend.

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