Timeframe for filing a complaint

Under section 31 of the Access to Information Act, complainants have 60 calendar days to submit a complaint.

Timeframe for submitting a complaint

Circumstance

When the 60-day period starts

Complainant receives a notice under section 7 that the institution refuses to grant access to part or all of the requested records

The day after the complainant receives the notice


Complainant is given access to part or all of the requested records

The day after the complainant receives the records

In any other case











The day after the complainant becomes aware that grounds of complaint exist.

Examples of when the 60-day period starts

  • The day after the complainant receives notice of an extension of time under subsection 9(1)
  • The day after the complainant should have received a response to the access request—that is, when the complainant did not receive a response to the access request, the 60-day period starts 31 days after the institution received the access request or the day after any extension of time the institution took expires
  • The complainant receives notice that the access request was transferred to another institution under section 8

Section 31 uses the word “shall,” which means “must”—that is, it is mandatory for complainants to submit their complaints on or before the 60-day time limit. When they do not, the Commissioner has no jurisdiction to investigate the complaint and advises complainants that it is inadmissible.

Complainants’ responsibilities

Complainants alone are responsible for submitting their complaints on time and for providing all the necessary details, including all relevant documents, using the online complaint process or by downloading and completing the complaint form (See Submitting a complaint.)

Individuals making access requests should become familiar with sections 30 and 31 of the Act and the guidelines above. They should also keep records of the following dates, starting from when they file their requests:

  • the date they made each access request
  • when 30 calendar days after that date falls so they know when to expect a response to their access request or a notice related to it (such as a notice about an extension of time)
  • the date they receive any response or notice from the institution (that is, the date it arrives in their inbox or in the mail, not the date they open it)
  • the expiration date of any extension of time the institution claims
  • any other dates related to the processing of and response to their access request.
How does the OIC determine when the 60-day period begins?

The Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) first reviews the complaint to determine under which of the three circumstances each allegation falls (notice, records or “in any other case”; see the table at the top of this screen) and, therefore, when the 60-day period begins in each case.

The OIC may consult various documents from the complainant and institution to determine the date the 60-day period begins. These documents could include the following: access request, institution’s acknowledgement that it received the request, response or notice the institution sent to the complainant, documentation from the institution confirming the date documents were sent and delivered (e.g. postmarks, time stamps) and any documents the complainant has relating to the request, including when any notice or response was received.

This is why it is important for institutions to record when they respond to access requests and give notices under section 7, section 8 and subsection 9(1), and to indicate the date on all correspondence. It is also important for complainants to keep on file any emails or other written correspondence they receive from the institution about their access request.

In some circumstances, it may be necessary for the OIC to communicate with the complainant to confirm exactly when a notice or records were received (e.g. the precise date when a notice or records arrived in the complainant’s inbox) or when the complainant otherwise became aware that grounds of complaint exists in order to determine when exactly the 60-day period began.

Points the OIC considers when calculating the 60-day time limit

  • The 60 days are consecutive calendar days, starting from the day after the complainant receives the notice or records, or the day after the requester learns grounds of complaint exist.
  • When Day 60 is a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, it moves to the next business day.
How does the OIC determine when a complaint is submitted?

The OIC considers a complaint to be submitted when it contains all the necessary details, including relevant documents, such that the OIC can determine whether the complaint has been submitted on time, is not premature and falls within the Commissioner’s mandate. When a complainant does not provide enough information, the OIC may decide the complaint is inadmissible, even when it was submitted within the 60-day time limit.

Points the OIC considers when determining when the complaint was submitted

  • When the complaint is submitted online or by email, the OIC considers the date the complaint was submitted to be the day the form was submitted online or the email was sent.
  • When the complaint is submitted by mail, the OIC considers the date the complaint was submitted to be the date on the postmark.
May the Commissioner extend the time limit for submitting a complaint?

No. The Commissioner has no power under the Access to Information Act to extend the 60-day time limit.

For that reason, once the 60-day period begins, the Office of the Information Commissioner may not extend the time limit for any reason, including the following: 

  • complainant is or was ill, busy or on vacation
  • complainant waited until the institution resumed processing the access request after suspending the time limit to respond
  • complainant attempted to negotiate with the institution to get the response to their access request or to modify the content of the response.

Complainants must be mindful that, once the 60-day period begins,they should submit their complaint as soon as possible to ensure they meet the time limit.

Are there situations when the Commissioner would accept a complaint after the 60-day deadline?

No. The Access to Information Act does not allow the Commissioner to accept complaints submitted after the 60-day deadline.

For that reason, once the 60-day period begins, the Office of the Information Commissioner may not extend the time limit for any reason, including the following: 

  • complainant is or was ill, busy or on vacation
  • complainant waited until the institution resumed processing the access request after suspending the time limit to respond
  • complainant attempted to negotiate with the institution to get or change the response to their access request.

Complainants must be mindful that, once the 60-day period begins, they should submit their complaint as soon as possible to ensure they meet the time limit.

What happens when a complainant submits a complaint after the 60-day time limit?

When the Commissioner determines that a complainant submitted a complaint after the 60-day time limit, the Office of the Information Commissioner notifies the complainant in writing that the complaint is inadmissible and that the matter is closed.

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