Access Process

Home Access Process

What the Access Process involves.

First generation access to information laws are limited but nonetheless a means of testing for and obtaining information from governments.

Getting results requires a strong will, curiosity and skills. Agency fees can vary and service too dependent with which department and jurisdiction you deal.


Stages of Access

The access process is unduly complicated but normally consists of four stages that I would be undertaking for you.

Stage One – The Framing Period

This is the key period where you determine what you want. It is important to spend the time drafting and discussing your request.

Stage Two – The Waiting/Watchdog Period

Just what is happening to your application? It pays to keep on top of time deadlines, check out fee estimates and negotiate for a better response.

Stage Three – The Review Period

You now have the response – analyse it for content, exemptions, authenticity.

Stage Four – The Follow-up/Use Period

File any complaints or appeals or further information requests if necessary. Assess how best to make use of the data received. Note departmental inconsistencies and share problems you encountered with others.

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.