What years do you have documents for and for which departments?

At launch, Open By Default includes access to information requests released between 2011 and 2024, with the majority being from 2020 to 2023.

The database includes records from 95 federal departments. A list of these departments and the number of documents available from each can be accessed from the “Filter by organization” menu on the Open By Default homepage. 

I want to help expand Open By Default to my province/city/school board. Who should I contact?

We are actively looking to expand Open By Default to every province in Canada. Our goal is a Canada where all access to information requests, also known federally as ATIPs, that are legally required to be public are actually easy for the public to access. The same holds true for freedom of information requests in provinces, territories and municipalities. That means a free site where you can search and download instantaneously. Not one where you need to wait months (or years) each time you want to see a document. Does that vision excite you? We’re looking for three things. If you can code, please fill out our volunteer form and mention Open By Default in the comment box. If you have ATIPs, please donate them via the process outlined below. If you’re excited by this mission and have the means, please purchase a subscription or email us about large donations (we provide tax receipts for donations over $10,000).

I’m a journalist, and I want to use an ATIP in my story. How should I mention where I got it?

Depending on the length of your story, we ask for one of two references. If you’re just mentioning it in passing (say in a tweet, or parenthetically within a sentence), please say you got the document(s) from: “The Investigative Journalism Foundation” and include a hyperlink directing people to our site. If you’re on social media, please tag our account (you can see our account handles in the site footer below).

If you have room for a more in-depth explanation, we’d ask you to include a hyperlink and also say you got the document(s) from: “The Investigative Journalism Foundation’s Open By Default database, which includes tens of thousands of access to information requests.”

I’m an academic, and I want to cite the database. How should I do so?

For federal institutions, please use: 

Released by NAME OF FEDERAL INSTITUTION under the Access to Information Act, R.S.C. 1985, c.  A-1 (REQUISITION NUMBER, e.g. A-2020-00001). Published by the Investigative Journalism Foundation at openbydefault.ca. 

I have ATIPs I want to donate. What’s the process for that?

Please email us at [email protected] and tell us how many ATIPs you have, which departments they’re from, whether they’re in digital or paper form and how you got them. Ideally, your ATIPs will have the requisition number (e.g. A-2015-00078) in the file name. We’re also hoping for the department name to live within the file name (e.g. Canadian Heritage A-2015-00078) or for you to have a folder system where each folder is a department name and each file is named by its requisition number. Don’t have any of that? No worries, email us, and we’ll figure it out together.

I’m an ATIP officer and I want to work directly with the Open By Default team. Who should I talk to?

This project wouldn’t be possible without the many ATIP officers who generously share documents with us directly. We are happy to create streamlined systems that will save you and us lots of time and money. Primarily, we work with ATIP departments to set up regular transfers of ATIPs so that we don’t need to request every single one, and you don’t need to process them individually. If you want to talk about that, or anything else, please email us at [email protected].

There’s something wrong with one of the ATIPs. Who do I contact about fixing it?

Please click on the red “Report an Issue” button at the bottom of each ATIP. That’ll auto-generate an email linked to the record where there’s an issue. If you see something off, please tell us about it!

Why are some of the documents easy to search within and others aren’t?

We are using the free Optical Character Recognition technology maintained by the amazing team at DocumentCloud. It’s amazing, but it isn’t optimized for certain kinds of records (handwriting, images, records from 50+ years ago, etc.). We would eventually like to run all the documents through a paid Optical Character Recognition service, but doing so for our 2 million pages (and counting) of records would be prohibitively expensive. 

Do you plan to release a French version of the site?

Yes. We are actively looking for partners who are interested in helping us translate documents. Doing so conscientiously takes time. Want to help? Please fill out our volunteer form.

Who can I contact to ask a question that’s not listed here?

If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected].