30 Day Guarantee

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New Policy Requirements: Written Explanations for Delays in Responding to Personal Information Requests

As of October 1, 2018, institutions will be required to provide a written explanation to the requester when a request for access to personal information takes more than 30 days to fulfill. Institutions will also be required to report in more detail on the reasons for extensions in the institution’s annual report to Parliament. These requirements are outlined in the Directive on Personal Information Requests and Correction of Personal Information.


Government Commitment

The Government committed to making it easier for Canadians to access government information, including their personal information held by government:

Transparency includes providing Canadians with timely access to their own personal information held by government. To make it easier for Canadians to access government information, including their personal information, the Government proposes to create a simple, central website where Canadians can submit requests to any government institution. This will be backed up with a 30‑day guarantee for personal information requests: should a request take longer than 30 days to fulfill, the Government will provide a written explanation for the delay to the requester and to the Privacy Commissioner.

—Budget 2016

Current Requirements

The Privacy Act currently requires that government institutions provide a response to a request for personal information within 30 days or inform the requester that an extension is required. The Act allows an institution to extend the timeline to respond to a request for up to 30 additional days if:

  • Meeting the original timeline would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the government institution (s 15(a)(i));
  • Consultations are necessary to comply with the request that cannot reasonably be completed within the original 30-day time limit (s 15(a)(ii)); or
  • Additional time is necessary for translation or conversion of the personal information into an alternative format (s 15(b)).

Institutions are also required to inform the requester in the notification of the extension of their right to complain to the Privacy Commissioner about the extension.

New Requirements as of October 1, 2018

The amended Directive on Personal Information Requests and Correction of Personal Information requires institutions to also:

  • provide a written explanation of the reason for the delay to the requester; and,
  • publicly report on the number of, and reasons for, extensions in their Annual Report on the Administration of the Privacy Act.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner will be informed of the reasons for delays through institutions’ Annual Reports.

TBS has created Model Written Explanations as a resource for institution, to support with the implementation of the 30-Day Response and Written Explanation Guarantee.

The amended directive and the model explanations do not change the circumstances set out in section 15 of the Privacy Act in which an institution can take an extension.

Next Steps

The updated Directive was published on June 26, 2018 and takes effect on October 1, 2018.

Institutions are encouraged to change their business practices to begin providing written explanations for extensions to the requester in advance of October 1, 2018.

Data relating to written explanations will be collected beginning in October 2018. Guidance and interim reporting tools will be made available to institutions prior to October 1, 2018.

Meetings, Workshops and Presentations

ATIP Community Meeting – June 19, 2018

30-Day Response or Written Explanation Guarantee Policy Updates

Implementation Tools