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Services to the Public: Conditions for Access to and Use of Documents

Records of the Government of Canada

Access to Information and Privacy -- More Details

While the majority of federal government records under the control of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) are open to the public, some of them, prior to being released, are subject to review under the provisions of the Access to Information Act (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/showtdm/cs/A-1) and the Privacy Act (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/P-21/index.html) (hereinafter referred to as ATIP legislation).

The Access to Information Act (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/showtdm/cs/A-1) provides any Canadian citizen or permanent resident with a fundamental right to request and obtain information held by the federal government. This information, however, is subject to lawful restrictions, based on national security, law enforcement, commercial interests and individual privacy.

The Privacy Act (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/P-21/index.html) provides individuals with a right to access information held by the government pertaining to themselves, all the while ensuring the protection of personal information found in government records. In addition to requesting their personal information, individuals may also ask that their information be corrected or that a notation be attached to the information in their record.

Categories of records subject to review under ATIP legislation

The federal government records which are under the control of LAC and are subject to review under ATIP legislation before being released fall into three categories:

  • The personnel files of former military and civilian federal employees

Please note that the files of military personnel who served in the Canadian Forces before 1919 are open to the public. Please also note that the files of military personnel who were killed in action or died of other causes during the Second World War are also open to the public.

For a list of LAC's personal information banks, see the federal government's Info Source: Sources for Federal Employee Information (www.infosource.gc.ca/index_e.asp).

Any request for files of military personnel from 1918 to date (including the files of those who served in the Second World War) must be signed and sent by mail or fax. The Canadian Genealogy Centre page entitled Canadian Forces after 1918 explains the proper procedures for requesting access to these files.

Here is a tip to remember when requesting military personnel files: the ATIP Division of LAC will only process requests for copies of complete files of individuals who were released from military service five years ago or more. For copies of complete files of individuals who were released less than five years ago, requests should be submitted directly to the Department of National Defence (www.forces.gc.ca/site/contact_e.asp).

  • The historical records of federal government institutions that have been transferred to the control of LAC. The records of some government agencies and Crown corporations (e.g. the CBC, Canadian National Railways) held at LAC, however, are not covered by ATIP legislation and are instead subject to the terms and conditions of agreements concluded between these organizations and LAC.
  • The operational records of LAC.

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 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 provisions, in order 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 (see Photocopies and Reproductions).

How long does it take to conduct an ATIP review?

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

Short-term ATIP reviews of historical government documents involving less than 15 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 historical documents involving more than 15 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 container number (volume or box) 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 Sr. Analyst will contact you within 15 working days of receipt of the request to discuss the request and to work out a mutually agreeable review schedule. In general, 2 to 3 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 the Ottawa Headquarters, 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 documents remain restricted. What can I do?

Some information contained in government records may continue to be restricted. In such cases, you may wish to submit a formal request under the provisions of the Access to Information Act (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/showtdm/cs/A-1) or the Privacy Act (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/P-21/index.html). When presented with a formal request, the ATIP Division will contact the department whose records are involved and attempt to release as much information as possible. A $5 fee is required for any official request made under the Access to Information Act (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/showtdm/cs/A-1). You may be asked to pay additional fees as stipulated in the Act. There are no fees for formal requests submitted under the Privacy Act (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/P-21/index.html). If the documents remain restricted, you have the right to file a complaint. For requests made under the Privacy Act (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/P-21/index.html), complaints must be sent the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (www.privcom.gc.ca/index_e.asp). For requests made under the Access to Information Act (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/showtdm/cs/A-1), complaints must be sent to the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada (www.infocom.gc.ca/menu-e.asp).

When can I expect a response to an official request submitted under ATIP legislation?

Under the provisions 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  K1A 0N4
Telephone: 613-996-5115 or 1-866-578-7777 (toll free in Canada and the United States)
Fax: 613-992-9350
Email: atipd@lac-bac.gc.ca


You can access all ATIP-related services by enquiring at the desk of the Reference Services Room on the second floor.