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It’s your right to know what the government is really doing, but how can you exercise that right?

Here’s how to access government information in every province and territory in Canada

Did you know it’s Right To Know Week? A week to celebrate your right to access information, which is a fundamental right for all Canadians. It means you can call up or write to any public body and ask, “Hey, remember those promises you made, did you actually do them?”

Journalism students at Durham College in Oshawa Ontario and data reporter Francesca Fionda collaborated to create a resource for filing information requests in Canada. Francesca Fionda/The Discourse

This week I joined journalism students from Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario for a global online discussion about access to information in Canada. Together we started this tool for anyone trying to file an Access to Information request (ATIP) or Freedom of Information request (FOI). An ATIP or FOI is one tool Canadians can use to demand transparency and accountability and keep our democracy in check.

We’d like to keep adding municipalities and other public bodies to this database. You can help by adding a comment to the spreadsheet with the name of your city and any relevant ATIP/FOI links for your city. You can also email me if you want help finding that information

Journalists often use ATIPs or FOIs to surface hidden information that should be public. Like that time we tried to find all the industrial work camps across B.C.
 

This tool is also used by advocacy groups, lawyers, businesses and everyday citizens; people who want to know things like, what pesticide are you spraying in my city? Or is the government relying on artificial intelligence for important decision making?

While the process is supposed to be “simple”, it can be complicated and hard to navigate. Each provincial and federal body can have different policies and steps. It can be a lengthy process and if you aren’t sure of your rights, it’s easy to be turned away, told you can’t have the information you’re requesting or get documents back with a lot of redactions.

Case in point, it took four years but I just got this ATIP request back on the 10 Right to Know Principles:

 

Ok, not really … here’s a link to the actual 10 principles and some more resources for ATIP requests.

All kidding aside, Canada has a lot of room to improve when it comes to access to information and open government and we hope you’ll help us try and fix it.