Update – Delays in responding to Access to Information Act and Privacy Act requests

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) thanks its clients for their patience and understanding at a time when its ability to respond within legislatively prescribed timelines to requests made under the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act has been greatly affected by both a marked increase in volume and health and safety measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

From 2018/2019 to 2019/2020, LAC recorded a 54% increase in formal Access to Information (ATI) requests and a 170% increase in formal Privacy requests. This critical situation has been compounded by the exceptional measures put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the health and safety of Canadians and our employees. Most of these requests involve paper records (requiring staff to circulate onsite). However, public health guidelines have significantly reduced staff’s ability to physically access our facilities over an extended period. Any requests related to secret records must be managed entirely onsite; this also affects the existing backlog.

Priorities and turnaround times

  • As always, we prioritize urgent requests related to medical benefits, social services, class actions (such as the Federal Indian Day Schools class action), and legal proceedings with imminent deadlines.
  • While some of LAC’s historical government holdings are available for consultation, a large portion of the records remain restricted pending ATIP review and, if required, consultation with the originating departments that created the records. It is challenging to determine precise wait times for the processing of these requests, in part because of the current public health measures in place.
  • The estimated processing timelines for all types of ATI and Privacy requests related to personnel files concerning military service members and civilians vary from 4 months to 28 months, depending on the type of request.

We understand that such delays are difficult for our clients, and we are doing everything we can to remediate this exceptional situation.

Rest assured that we are actively looking at innovative processes and human resource solutions to address these delays and meet our increasing demand. An important part of LAC’s mandate is to make available its holdings and that includes responding to ATI and Privacy requests. You may always reach us by email at bac.daiprp-atipd.lac@canada.ca or visit our Reopening LAC web page for the latest information on our services.

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