How to make a Freedom of Information request

How to ask a public-sector organization for information.

The law

Under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA)  and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA), you have a right to ask certain public-sector organizations in Ontario for information they hold.

Anyone can make a request for information — there are no restrictions based on age or where you live.

The information you request could include:

  • print
  • film
  • electronic records (e.g. emails)
  • plans
  • drawings
  • photographs
  • sound recordings (e.g. voice mail)
  • DVDs

Unavailable records

Not all information is available through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. Some records cannot be released under Freedom of Information laws.

Exclusions and exemptions include:

  • cabinet records
  • court records
  • records containing certain law enforcement information
  • records that could prejudice intergovernmental relations
  • personal information that could invade the privacy of an individual
  • certain records supplied in confidence by a third party
  • most labour relations records

List of organizations

You can make a request for information from:

  • Ontario government ministries
  • most public agencies, boards, commissions and advisory bodies
  • school boards, colleges and universities
  • public hospitals
  • the police
  • municipalities
  • some publicly funded organizations (e.g. museums, libraries)

View the full list of public-sector organizations covered by Freedom of Information laws

Types of records

Information available under FIPPA from ministries and covered provincial agencies is listed in a Directory of Records.

This directory divides government record holdings into 4 categories:

The Personal Information Bank

Personal information organized by an individual’s name or other personal identifiers.

Public Records

Personal information available to all members of the public.

General Records

General information that is not considered a Personal Information Bank or Public Records.

Common Record

A personal information bank that is common to more than one organization.

How to make a request

Step 1: identify the information/records you want.

If you need help, the Directory of Records describes what kinds of information are held by provincial ministries and agencies covered by FIPPA.

Step 2: identify the relevant organization(s) that has the information you want.

If you need help identifying an organization, use the Directory of Institutions (a list of all public-sector organizations covered under Freedom of Information laws).

Step 3: if you need assistance, call the Freedom of Information and Privacy (FOIP) coordinator at the organization you want information from.

The FOIP coordinator:

  • deals with FOI requests made to their organization
  • can tell you what information is held by their organization
  • can let you know if you can get the information, without making a formal FOI request

Step 4: make an official FOI request (if needed).

  • complete an Access or Correction Request form (or prepare a written letter providing sufficient information to identify the records you want)
  • submit your letter or completed form to the relevant organization

Processing time

You will get a written response to confirm that your request has been received. Organizations have 30 calendar days to process FOI requests except in specific circumstances. They will notify you if a time extension is required.

Fees

Application fee

$5 for each FOI request. There is no application fee for a correction request to your own personal information.

Check with the organization to see what forms of payment are available.

Processing fees

Additional fees apply to process a request.

The processing fees depend on the nature of the request, including:

  • the type of information you requested (e.g. general records or personal information)
  • the format you wish to receive the information
  • the total costs incurred by the organization to produce or copy the information

You will receive a fee estimate if your processing fees will be more than $25. When processing fees are over $100, a deposit may be required.

Appeal a request

You have the right to appeal any decision about access to records, made by organizations that are covered under Freedom of Information laws.

This includes appealing, if your request for information is denied.

You may file an appeal with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.

You must:

  • download and complete an Appeal form (or submit a written letter)
  • submit the form to the Information and Privacy Commissioner Registrar within 30 calendar days of the organization giving notice of its decision

More information on the appeals process

Questions about a request

Contact the FOIP coordinator at the organization(s) you are seeking information from — for specific questions about your request.

Updated: March 28, 2014