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Access to “Access to Information” Information

Through the Government of Canada’s Open Government Portal, you can access and search Completed Access to Information Requests.  You can search by keyword and filter the results by organization and date using the sidebar.  The results consist of the following data elements:

  • Request number – The request number of the corresponding ATI Request
  • Organization – The organization from which the information was requested
  • Disposition – Information on the disposition of the results (All disclosed, Disclosed in part, etc.)
  • Year and Month
  • Number of Pages
  • Request Summary

Finally, each request is closed of with a link with the text “Make an Informal Request for: {Request Number} ({Department Acronym}).”  Clicking this link brings you to a form which allows you to complete all of your personal information and request a copy of the information released.

I’ll start by saying making it this easy to find any Access to Information request to which the government has responded is great.  Additionally, consolidating the information in one searchable location frees the user from having to search multiple government databases and contacting various ATIP officials throughout the government.  This is definitely a step towards a more user-centric and open government.

My question is this: If the information has already been reviewed, prepared, and released, why does a user have to fill out all of their personal info to request a copy of the release?  Is there a compelling reason that we couldn’t just publish all released Access to Information Requests online?

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2 Comments

  1. Well, “compelling” is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose. The outstanding issue is a legal consideration – accessibility and official languages. ATI summaries and metadata are translated, whereas the full releases are not, so it’s an ongoing debate as to whether they can be posted in full.

    • It may not be exceedingly compelling, but it is a real challenge. I think we’ll eventually figure it out and release to one / release to all will be the way to go.

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