Information Warrior
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Summary Access Tips

Here is a short list of tips in making access to information requests:

  • Identify the target department and ensure that it is the correct one (for example, is Health Canada the agency responsible for developing Canada’s Food Guide?)

  • Ask for specific records related to a specific time period. What submissions were made concerning Canada’s Food Guide? Were internal studies conducted? Focus groups? What costs were involved?

  • File your request (this costs $5 federally in Canada), and indicate you want to be contacted when the request is received.

  • Be persistent and monitor progress. Has the agency gone to the appropriate branches? What’s delaying the response? Why are fees so high? Keep a log of the service you receive.

  • Check what’s been received. Why is the correspondence, from the food industry missing? The exemptions that prevented the release of documents on policy advice or commercial confidentiality need an explanation.

  • Review whether you need to appeal. If crucial data are withheld, seek help from the Information Commissioner.

  • Don’t stop there. Ask for further details, and then publicize the information you have received - or the failure of the agency to provide it.

  • Remember, what it takes to engage in access is a curiosity with a good dose of persistency. . Keep fine tuning your information seeking skills and don’t stop going after essential data you need.

"He requests, he demands, he cajoles and he insists. He holds institutions accountable to the legislation. He has taken bureaucrats to task and has taken institutions to court in order to access records and obtain information. He has demonstrated an exceptional contribution, spanning decades, to the promotion of openness and transparency".

Judy Booth
Coordinator, Access to Information and Privacy
National Capital Commission
August 24, 2015

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What people do not know can often hurt them