When and how institutions are to respond to access requests
When should institutions respond?
Section 7 of the Access to Information Act, requires institutions to respond to access requests within 30 days after receiving them, unless they take one of two actions:
- transfer a request to another institution
- validly extend the 30-day period for responding to a request by meeting the requirements of section 9.
The 30-day or extended period begins the day after the institution receives the access request.
When an institution does not respond within this period, it amounts to their having refused access to the requested records under subsection 10(3) (known as being “in deemed refusal”).
When they do not receive a response within the 30-day or extended period, requesters have 60 days to complain to the Office of the Information Commissioner. The 60-day period begins the day after requesters become aware they did not receive a response. This will typically be the day after the 30-day or extended time limit for responding passes without their receiving a response. More information: Timeline for submitting a complaint.
In all cases, the institution must still provide a response. This is regardless of whether requesters file a complaint about the lack of response or any investigation concludes the institution did not respond by the 30-day or extended time limit.
What is a response?
To meet the requirements of section 7, a response must be in writing and indicate whether the institution is giving access to any or part of the requested records.
- When the response indicates that the institution has given access to the records or part of them, the institution must provide access to those records.
- When the response indicates that the institution has denied access to the records or part of them, the institution must explain that the records do not exist or that the institution has exempted them, or part of them, under a specific provision of the Act. The institution must name this provision in its response.
In specific circumstances, the institution may refuse to confirm or deny in its response whether records exist under subsection 10(2).
Common correspondence requesters may receive from institutions, such as an acknowledgement that the institution received the access request or a notice that it is extending the time it has to respond, are not responses for the purposes of section 7.