You have the right to make a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada if:

  1. Your personal information has been collected, used or disclosed in a way that is not allowed under the Privacy Act (Canada);
  2. You have been refused access to your personal information or the government has refused to make a correction you asked for, or you have any other complaint about requesting or obtaining access to your personal information;
  3. You believe time limits for responding to your request have been extended unreasonably;
  4. You have not been given access to your personal information in the official language or alternative format in which you requested it; or
  5. You wish to make a complaint about any other matter relating to the collection, use, disclosure, retention or disposal of personal information by the government institution, or about a personal information index under s. 11 of the Privacy Act (Canada).

You have a right to authorize another person to submit a complaint on your behalf. 

Procedures for Complaints Under the Privacy Act (Canada)

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is responsible for investigating complaints under the Privacy Act (Canada). The investigators from the Investigations and Inquiries Branch of the Office do the investigations. Investigators consider the complaint, investigate the facts, including interviewing individuals and reviewing documents and other records, and, on that basis, will determine whether the complaint is “well-founded.”

If the investigation shows that your privacy has been violated, the investigator will try to find a remedy and prevent further violations. As an ombudsman, the Privacy Commissioner seeks to resolve disputes through mediation and other cooperative approaches.

If you were refused access to your personal information and you complained and have received the Commissioner`s report, you may apply to the Federal Court for a review. Generally, the time limit to apply for a review is within 45 days of the receipt of the Commissioner’s report, but that time may be extended by the Court.

To Make A Complaint

Send a letter by postal mail to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, explaining your problem and, if possible, the name of the government institution, the title and number of the information banks and other relevant details. Include copies of all letters you wrote or received about your request.  Include a return address and phone number so the Commissioner’s office may contact you.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner does not accept complaints by email.

Other Resources
Treasury Board Guidelines

The Treasury Board of Canada is responsible for preparing policy documents concerning the operation of the Privacy Act (Canada) and has developed numerous policy documents which apply to public servants in their daily work. Generally, the policy documents and guidelines are intended to assist staff but can be a useful reference for individuals to understand how the procedures work and what you can expect from the Access to Information and Privacy coordinators you encounter.

You may also find it at most major libraries. If you are unable to obtain a copy of Info Source, you can write or call:

Distribution Centre
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
300 Laurier Avenue
P1 West Tower
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0G5
Tel: (613) 995-2855
Fax: (613) 996-0518

Personal Information Request Forms are also available at most major public and academic libraries. They are also available in numerous formats on the Info Source website. In addition, these forms can be found on the Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada website.