Access to Information and Privacy

Introduction

The Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act came into effect on July 1, 1983. These acts provide Canadian citizens, permanent residents or any person (or entity) present in Canada the legal right to obtain information, in any form, that is under the control of a government institution. The general purpose of these acts is to make government more open and transparent, allowing citizens to more fully participate in the democratic process.

The Access to Information Act gives individuals a right to access records under the control of a federal government institution. The main principles of this Act are: government information should be available to the public; exemptions to this right should be limited and specific; and decisions on disclosure of information should be reviewed independently of government.

The Privacy Act protects the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information about them held by a government institution and provides individuals with a right to access and request correction to this information. To request a correction to your personal information, please use form TBS/SCT 350-11. In accordance with section 7 of the Privacy Act, personal information can only be used in accordance with the purpose for which the information was collected or for a use consistent with that purpose. Information protected by the Privacy Act can only be disclosed with the consent of the person to whom it relates or in accordance with the exception terms of subsection 8(2) of the Privacy Act.

The President of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) is the organization head responsible for the government-wide administration of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. The Minister of Public Safety is responsible for the administration of the acts at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The Minister in turn has delegated certain powers, duties and functions to the ATIP Coordinator (the Director of the Access to Information, Privacy (ATIP) and Disclosure Policy Division at the CBSA).

Timeframe for responding to Access or Privacy Requests

The legislated timeframe for responding to Access to Information or Privacy requests is 30 calendar days. The Access to Information Act permits an institution to extend the time limit to respond to a request beyond the 30 calendar days if:

  • the request is for a large number of records or requires a search through a large number of records, and the original time limit would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the institution;
  • external consultations are necessary and cannot reasonably be expected to be completed within the original time limit; or
  • notice to a third party is required to advise him or her that his or her information is the subject of a request.

The Privacy Act permits an institution to extend the time limit to respond to a request for a maximum of 30 calendar days beyond the initial 30 days if:

  • the original time limit would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the institution; or
  • consultations are necessary and cannot reasonably be expected to be completed within the original time restriction.

Principles for assisting applicants

In processing your request under the Access to Information Act or Privacy Act, we will:

  1. Process your request without regard to your identity.
  2. Offer reasonable assistance throughout the request process.
  3. Provide information on the Access to Information Act or Privacy Act, including information on the processing of your request and your right to complain to the appropriate Commissioner of Canada.
  4. Inform you as appropriate and without undue delay when your request needs to be clarified.
  5. Make every reasonable effort to locate and retrieve the requested records or personal information under the control of the government institution.
  6. Apply limited and specific exemptions to the requested records or personal information.
  7. Provide accurate and complete responses.
  8. Provide timely access to the requested information.
  9. Provide records or personal information in the format and official language requested, as appropriate.
  10. Provide an appropriate location within the government institution to examine the requested information.

Who can make a request under the Access to Information Act?

Any individual present in Canada can make a request under the Access to Information Act. Canadian citizens and permanent residents also have the right to make a request under the Access to Information Act from outside Canada. An individual who is not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident cannot make a request from outside Canada unless it is made by a representative who is a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident or a person present in Canada on behalf of the individual. Requests made pursuant to the Access to Information Act must include a $5.00 application fee. It should be noted that section 11 of the Access to Information Act permits the CBSA to charge additional fees for search and preparation time in accordance with the Access to Information Regulations, as necessary.

Who can make a request under the Privacy Act?

Any individual present in Canada can make a request under the Privacy Act. Canadian citizens and permanent residents also have the right to make a request under the Privacy Act from outside Canada. An individual who is not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident cannot make a request from outside Canada, and such a request cannot be made by a representative who is a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or a person present in Canada on behalf of the individual. A request on behalf of an individual needs to be made under the Access to Information Act. There are no fees for requesting information under the Privacy Act.

All written requests made under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act should be as specific as possible to enable an effective search and to reduce the need to seek clarification from the requester. Further explanation can be found by visiting the "How to make a request…" sections below.

The CBSA will treat requests in accordance with the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act, and only officials with a need to know will be involved in processing the request. Confidentiality will be maintained throughout the entire process.

Travel History Report

A Travel History Report is a record of a traveller’s entries into Canada. The report documents entries made on or after August 1, 2000. This information is collected by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) on travellers entering Canada. As travellers enter the country, they are interviewed by Border Services Officers who record passports or other identification information into the computer system.

Visit our Travel History Reports Web page for more information on when and how to request them.

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