Extensions are allowed; just inform the requester

Complaint: Health Canada missed the 30-day deadline for responding to a request for records about a television advertisement and had not taken a time extension.

Investigation: The OIC learned that the request had lain dormant for significant periods and that Health Canada has not started the necessary consultations promptly.

Outcome: The Information Commissioner formally asked Health Canada for the date it would respond to the requester. The institution provided a date but, in end, only responded a month after that.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • The Act includes provisions for taking reasonable time extensions when responding to requests within 30 days will not be possible. Institutions must simply inform the requester within 30 days of receiving the request that they will be doing so.
  • At the same time, institutions must not delay processing requests and initiating any necessary consultations.
  • Timeliness is fundamental to the right of access. Receiving a response in a timely manner ensures information is still relevant and that the government can be held to account for its decisions at appropriate times.
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