Do I have to respond to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request?

The Industrious 'Prentice a Favorite, and Entrusted by his Master - Industry and Idleness - plate 4 (William Hogarth)When your organization receives a request for information, do you have an obligation under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws to answer the inquiry?

To know whether your organization has to respond to a request for information, there are two questions that need to be answered.  The first question is whether your organization has a legal duty to respond to FOI requests in general.  The second question is whether the request you have received is a valid FOI request, or if it is merely an informal request which does not invoke the official FOI process.

In other words, to decide whether your organization has an obligation under FOI laws to respond to a specific request for information, you need to determine:

  1. Is there legislation that compels your organization to respond to FOI requests?
  2. Does the request itself meet the requirements set out by the applicable legislation?

The recommended articles below will help you determine whether your organization has a legal obligation to respond to FOI requests, and whether an incoming request for information meets the requirements of a valid FOI request.

I encourage you to refer this article to a colleague, and to subscribe to the FOI Assist blog.  To subscribe, simply enter your email address at the bottom of the page then click the follow button.

Recommended articles:

  1. Is my organization legally obligated to respond to FOI requests?
  2. What are the requirements of a valid Freedom of Information (FOI) request?

Published by Justin Petrillo

I have created the FOI Assist™ software to help Ontario’s provincial and municipal government institutions of all sizes track and respond to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. For most of my career I have been a lawyer, advising clients on commercial, intellectual property and FOI/privacy issues. From 2013 to 2015, I managed the FOI program for the Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee while serving as Legal Counsel to the Games. Prior to becoming a lawyer, I obtained a computer science degree and worked as a software developer at several well-known technology companies.

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