Refusing or declining access

Your written response may also indicate that you are not providing access to some or all of the requested records.

If you cannot locate a record after a reasonable search — or if you have concluded that the record doesn’t exist, can’t be found or that Part X doesn’t apply to it — you must clearly indicate this in your response to the requester. You should also notify the requester of their right to file a complaint the IPC.

If you are refusing all or part of the request based on one of the access exceptions, you must give written notice to the requester that you are refusing access and that they are entitled to complain to the IPC. In most cases you are also required to inform the requester of any exceptions that apply, as follows:

You must inform the requester when one of the following applies:

  • the information is subject to a legal privilege
  • another act or a court order prohibits its disclosure to the individual
  • the request is frivolous or vexatious or made in bad faith

You have discretion about how to inform the requester when one of the following access exceptions apply. You can choose to specifically indicate the exception that applies — or to indicate that one of them applies, without specifying which one. You can also refuse to confirm or deny the existence of any record subject to these exceptions106:

  • the information was collected or created primarily in anticipation of or for use in a legal proceeding which has not concluded, or
  • granting access could reasonably be expected to:
    • result in a risk of serious harm to any individual107
    • lead to the identification of an individual who was required by law to provide information in the record to the service provider or
    • lead to the identification of an individual who provided the information either explicitly or implicitly in confidence, if you consider it appropriate to keep their identity confidential


106. For example, this response may be appropriate where confirming that a record exists, even without granting access to it, could reveal confidential information.
107. In determining whether granting access could result in a risk of serious harm, service providers may consult with a member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the College of Psychologists of Ontario or the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (CYFSA, s. 312(4)).
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