Canada: Access To Information Reforms: Phase One Finalized

The federal government’s plan to revitalize the access to information framework has commenced. The first phase, Bill C-58: An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, has received royal assent. The second phase entails a full review of the Access to Information Act (ATIA) one year after the amendments come into force and every five years following.

What you need to know

The key changes to the access to information framework provided by the amendments to ATIA include:

  • Proactive publication. The Senate, the House of Commons, parliamentary entities, minister’s offices, government institutions (including Crown corporations) and the courts are required to electronically publish information specified in the amended ATIA. The information required to be published varies by government institution but generally covers details of travel and hospitality expenses, certain contracts, grants and contributions and Ministerial mandate letters. This is new to the access to information legal framework and will likely increase the administrative burden on the required parties.
  • Vexatious requests and complaints. Government institutions may refuse to act on access requests and complaints that are vexatious or made in bad faith, among other reasons, with the Information Commissioner’s approval. Further, the Information Commissioner may refuse to investigate complaints that are trivial, frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith. These changes are intended to help focus government resources on requests that are consistent with the spirit of the ATIA in promoting accountability and transparency.
  • Order-making power. Under the amended ATIA, the Information Commissioner has the power to order government institutions to release requested records. This effectively shifts the burden of challenging disclosure decisions from the requestor to the government institutions and third parties whose information is contained in disputed records.
  • Privileged documents. While the Information Commissioner has the power to examine any records protected by privilege (e.g., solicitor-client or litigation privilege) during an investigation of a complaint, this does not constitute a waiver of those privileges.
  • Transition. The amendments do not apply to requests, complaints and information that is required to be proactively published before the coming into force of the relevant provisions.

Further details

Refusing to act or investigate

The amended ATIA authorizes government institutions, with the approval of the Information Commissioner, to refuse to act on a record access request if: the records are already available or can be reasonably accessed by other means; the request involves a large number of records and unreasonably interferes with the operations of the government institution; or the request is vexatious or made in bad faith.

The person whose request has been refused may file a complaint with the Information Commissioner. However, the amendments also authorize the Information Commissioner to refuse to investigate a complaint if it’s trivial, frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith, or if an investigation is unnecessary considering the circumstances of the complaint (e.g., if the complaint is already the subject of an investigation).

Power to make orders

A person who is unsatisfied with how a request is handled may file a complaint with the Information Commissioner. Under the current access to information framework, the Commissioner can only provide a recommendation to the applicable government institution regarding the release of the records. The government institution may continue to decline the release of the requested records, leaving judicial review as the requestor's only recourse.

Under the amended ATIA, the Commissioner has the power to make orders requiring the applicable government institution to disclose the record or reconsider the decision to refuse access to the record. If the record in question contains information of a third party, the Commissioner must make every reasonable effort to notify the third party of such intentions before making an order to disclose the record.

Concluding an investigation, the Commissioner will provide a final report to the complainant, the applicable government institution and any third parties whose information is included in the disputed records. The complainant and the government institution have 30 business days after the government institution receives the report to challenge the conclusion in Court. If neither the complainant nor the government institution applies to the Court, the third party involved has 10 business days after the expiry of the 30 business days to ask the Court to review any disclosure exemption that may apply with respect to the third-party information.

Proactive publication

A new feature of the amended access to information framework is the proactive publication requirement. The new regime imposes legal obligations on the Senate, the House of Commons, parliamentary entities, minister’s offices, government institutions (including Crown corporations) and the courts to proactively publish a range of information. This information includes mandate letters to Ministers, question period notes, certain briefing materials, travel and hospitality expenses, certain contracts, grants and contributions. In the case of Crown corporations, the proactive disclosure requirement is limited to travel and hospitality disclosure of senior officers and employees (which includes members of boards of directors) and disclosure of any reports of the Crown corporation’s activities that must be tabled in the Senate or House of Commons. Reporting deadlines vary depending on the nature of the institution and the type of disclosure, but in most cases the disclosure is required on a quarterly basis.

What’s next

The amendments have received royal assent and are now law. The proactive publication requirements for the Senate, the House of Commons, parliamentary entities and the courts do not come into force until June 21, 2020. The amended ATIA contains detailed and nuanced requirements and procedures for the revised federal access to information framework. Government institutions, Crown corporations, and third-party organizations should review these new requirements and procedures carefully to prepare for and adapt to the changes. The amended ATIA will be reviewed after one year and every five years after that.

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions