If your business or other organization is not subject to federal
or provincial access to information legislation, you may not have
thought much about how this legislation relates to your
However, there are three very good reasons why you should:
1. Government institutions have your information and can
Access to information requests allow an applicant to request any
information in the control of a federal or provincial government
institution (depending on the wording of the legislation, this will
include government departments and ministries, government agencies
and institutions, educational bodies, and health care bodies).
Organizations provide a myriad of information to government
institutions that ends up in records that are subject to access to
Before a government institution releases certain sensitive or
confidential information about an organization, the government
institution is required to consult with the organization. Your
response to such a consultation requires an understanding of how
the access to information legislation works and what exceptions
2. Government institutions may compel your information, but
you decide how much to give.
Organizations may be compelled by legislation to provide sensitive
or confidential information to government institutions. Businesses
may submit confidential bids in response to requests for proposals.
Organizations may lobby government, or engage in sensitive
discussions by email, or otherwise communicate with government
regarding confidential subjects.
Knowing that your organization's information will be subject to
access to information legislation allows you to consider when and
how much information should be provided to government
Government institutions have a legal obligation to respond to
access requests. However, your organization may not have an
obligation to provide all of the information that you are
providing, nor may it be in your best interest to provide it all,
or to provide it in a particular manner. Providing an excess of
information may get your organization or your employees into
difficulties (including unwanted media attention), and these
difficulties might only come to light once an access request is
3. Government institutions have information you may
Access to information requests do not simply allow individuals to
gain access to their own personal information. Access to
information requests are also a valuable method for businesses to
gain useful information regarding government operations, government
decision-making, and even other businesses or organizations that
provide information to government institutions.
Access to information requests operate separately from requests to
access records in other legal and administrative processes, and
should be considered in addition to requests for records obtained
through other methods.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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