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Legislative Restrictions: Records of the Government of Canada

Access to Information and Privacy

While some of the federal government records under Library and Archives Canada's (LAC's) control are available to the public, many are subject to review prior to being released under the requirements of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act (hereinafter referred to as ATIP legislation).

The Access to Information Act provides any Canadian citizen, permanent resident or corporation present in Canada with a basic right to request information in records under the control of a federal government institution. This information, however, is subject to limited and specific exceptions (exemptions and exclusions).

The Privacy Act provides any Canadian citizen or permanent resident in Canada with a right to request access to, correct or attach a correction request to his/her personal information that is under the control of a federal government institution. The information, however, is subject to limited and specific exceptions (exemptions and exclusions).

Categories of records subject to review under ATIP legislation

The federal government records under LAC's control that are subject to review before being released under ATIP legislation fall into the following categories:

  1. The personnel files of former civilian federal employees.

    When a person terminates his/her employment with a federal government institution that is subject to the Privacy Act, that institution keeps all department files on that person for a prescribed period. Once this person's personnel file is sent to LAC, legal control over this file with the obligation to respond to any request under ATIP legislation is also transferred to LAC. A request for this file must be signed and sent by mail or fax or delivered in-person to the ATIP & PR Division of LAC.

    If a former federal employee is re-employed with a federal government institution that is subject to the Privacy Act, the personnel file of the individual is sent from LAC to the new employing institution. Legal control is transferred to that institution with the obligation to respond to any request under ATIP legislation.

  2. The military service files of former members of the Canadian Armed Forces after 1918.

    LAC handles all requests for information found in:
    • certain parts (military personnel, microfiche personal, service pensions and/or performance evaluation records) of military service files concerning former Canadian Armed Forces members who were released from service or who died in service before 1 January 1998; and,
    • medical records and dental records of former Canadian Forces members who were released from service or who died in service more than five years ago.

    Your request can be written as a letter or you can print off a blank copy of the Application for Military Service Information form [PDF 108 KB], which should be filled in, signed and sent by mail or fax.

    The Department of National Defence, Director, Access to Information and Privacy (DAIP), National Defence Headquarters, Ottawa, ON K1A 0K2, handles all requests for information found in:
    • certain parts (military personnel, personnel microfiche, service pensions and/or performance evaluation records) of military service files concerning former Canadian Armed Forces members who are currently serving, and who were released from service or who died in service after 1 January 1998; and,
    • medical records and dental records of former Canadian Forces members who are currently serving and who were released from service or who died in service less than five years ago.

  3. The restricted archival records of federal government institutions. Please note that some records of government institutions (e.g. Canadian National Railways) held at LAC are not covered by ATIP legislation, but are instead subject to the terms and conditions of agreements concluded between the organization and LAC.

    Any employees currently employed with federal government institutions who need to consult restricted archival documents created by their own institution or by another federal institution, now under LAC's control and subject to ATIP legislation, should see Departmental Researchers for the procedures to obtain departmental researcher status.

  4. The current operational records of LAC.

    LAC provides whenever possible access to information (including personal information) in some of its operational records in a manner consistent with the ATIP legislation. However, where some of the content is confidential in nature (e.g. submissions to Treasury Board Secretariat) and requires a consultation with another department, individuals are informed that they must submit a request under the ATIP legislation.

    For a detailed list of LAC's record holdings and groupings of personal information, see Treasury Board Publications "Info Source: Sources of Federal Government Information" and "Info Source: Sources of Federal Employee Information".

Questions and Answers -- Access to the records of the Government of Canada

As a researcher, how am I affected by ATIP legislation?

If, in the course of your research, you come upon archival government documents that are restricted by ATIP legislation, contact the ATIP & PR Division. An ATIP Analyst will respond to you in person, by telephone or in writing to discuss your request and advise you on the best way to proceed. The Analyst may suggest strategies such as narrowing the scope of your request and negotiating a reasonable time frame for you to obtain the information you are requesting. The ATIP & PR Division will review the requested documents in light of ATIP legislation requirements to provide you with all the information that can be released. There are no costs for this service, with the exception of Photocopies and Reproductions.

How long does it take to conduct an ATIP review?

There are two principle types of ATIP reviews of archival government documents in light of ATIP legisation: short-term and long-term.

Short-term ATIP reviews of archival government documents involving less than fifteen files and/or 3,000 pages will be done within 30 days of receipt of the request on a first-received, first-served basis.

Long-term ATIP reviews of archival documents involving more than fifteen files and/or more than 3,000 pages should be submitted in writing to the ATIP & PR Division. Your written request should provide the following:

  1. A list of the files sought with accurate archival references (the fonds, the accession number (when applicable), the container number (volume or box), the microfilm number (when applicable) and the file or item number);
  2. A prioritized list of the files; and
  3. An indication of any deadlines associated with the request.

A Senior Analyst will contact you within fifteen working days of receipt of the request to discuss the request and to work out a mutually agreeable review schedule. In general, two to three files can be reviewed per week. This amount may vary depending upon the workload of the Division, available resources, the time of year (i.e. busy summer months), and the complexity/sensitivity of the files requested.

If you are planning a visit to LAC at 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, we strongly suggest that you submit your request well in advance to ensure that the material will be available in time for your visit.

Despite my request, the archival documents remain restricted. What can I do?

Some information contained in archival government records may continue to be restricted. In such cases, you may wish to submit a formal request under the Access to Information Act or the Privacy Act. Access to information or Privacy requests can also be made using a straightforward letter clearly identifying the Access to Information Act or the Privacy Act (whichever is applicable), and explaining what records are sought. For an Access to Information request, a $5 application fee is required and payable by cheque or money order made out to the Receiver General for Canada, or by credit card (VISA or MasterCard only). You may be asked to pay additional fees. There are no fees for formal requests submitted under the Privacy Act.

When presented with a formal request, the ATIP & PR Division may consult the federal department whose records are involved and attempt to release as much information as possible. If the documents remain restricted, you have the right to file a complaint. For requests made under the Access to Information Act, complaints must be sent to the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada. For requests made under the Privacy Act, complaints must be sent to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Under the requirements of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act, LAC has 30 days to respond to a formal request. If your formal request requires that LAC seek advice from another department, you will be notified in writing that an extension beyond the 30 days is required.

What if I have other questions?

Contact the ATIP & PR Division:

Library and Archives Canada
Access to Information, Privacy and Personnel Records Division
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON KIA 0N4
CANADA
Telephone: 613-996-5115 or 1 866 578-7777 (toll free in Canada and in the United States)
Fax: 613-992-9350
Fax: 613-947-8456 (personnel files of former civilian federal employees or military service files of former members of the Canadian Armed Forces)