As the community has expressed great interest in the Millstone's access to information requests, we thought we should lay out the process for applying for government records. Ontario's access to information requests are governed by the Ontario Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. This Act is administered by the office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner Anne Cavoukian. Her website has a great deal of helpful information. Basically, any person can apply to a government institution (which includes but is not limited to government departments) for access to recorded information in any form (this includes paper, electronic, voice mail, video, audio etc). The application is made to the institution's access to information or freedom of information officer. A list of these officers and their addresses is available at http://www.mgs.gov.on.ca/en/infoaccessandprivacy/STDU_102690.html?openNav=directory_of_institutions
Payment in the amount of $5 must accompany the request. The institution has 30 days to produce the records requested although time extensions may be granted for a variety of reasons. The institution may charge a fee for the location and review of the records for exemptions.
The applicant does not need to give a reason for requesting a record. This is a right, however, there are a number of exemptions under the act which permit the institution to refuse to release some information. These are outlined in the act. If the institution refuses to release a record it must fall within an exemption in the act. If recorded information contains information that should be released as well as some subject to exemptions, the institution is required to redact the document and not refuse to release the whole thing.
The applicant may appeal to the information Commissioner about a variety of things including the excessive fee (the Millstone has done this with respect to the Ministry of Natural Resources proposed fee) and a delay in release of records which is considered a "deemed refusal". In order to do this the applicant must file a complaint with the Commissioner within 30 days of receiving a letter of decision from the institution and accompany it with a cheque for $25. The Commissioner may investigate the complaint and make an order concerning the complaint.
All of this tends to take much longer than the initial 30 days so the Millstone asks for your patience. You too may make an access request if you so desire, but the Millstone will share the documents it receives and any decisions of the institutions with its readers. The Millstone made applications on April 10, 2012 to the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority. No records received yet.