Access to Records Policy

1.0 Overview: Commitment to Openness

1.0 Overview: Commitment to Openness

Tribunals Ontario is guided by the open court principle and is committed to transparency, accountability and accessibility in its decision-making and operations.

In general, most hearings and case files are publicly accessible, consistent with the Statutory Powers Procedure Act (SPPA), Tribunal Adjudicative Records Act (TARA), and the open court principle. The open court principle assumes that openness and transparency enhance the public's understanding of, and confidence in, the administrative justice system; and as such, the records relied on in adjudication should be generally available to the public.

In certain circumstances, access to records may be restricted by a statutory provision, common law rule, or a tribunal or court order limiting access. Most decisions and orders of Tribunals Ontario tribunals are available online for free on CanLII and in some cases on boards' or tribunals' websites.

2.0 Accessing Case Files and Other Documents

2.1 Availability of Case Files

The adjudicative records in most Tribunals Ontario's case files are available to the public on request with exceptions.

Tribunals Ontario's case files contain the adjudicative records related to a proceeding in accordance with the Tribunals Adjudicative Records Act. Case files may include:

Personal notes, draft decisions, draft orders and communications related to draft decisions/orders are not part of a case file.

Available adjudicative records may be retrieved and provided where sufficient identifying case file information is supplied by the requester. Requests must identify the specific record and related proceeding, and staff cannot conduct research on behalf of requesters. Tribunals are not able to extract, compile or aggregate data from case files. Tribunals Ontario may make caseload information and other tribunal data available in Annual Reports. Tribunal records are subject to archiving and retention schedules and may not be retrievable.

2.2 Restrictions on Access to Records

Specific statutory, regulatory, or rules-based restrictions on access may apply to boards and tribunals, including, for example, the Ontario Parole Board, the Social Benefits Tribunal, and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. Portions of any board or tribunal proceeding may also be closed to the public, and any reports or documents related to closed portions of proceedings are not part of the publicly available case file. Access requests may be determined by adjudication on a case-by-case basis.

2.3 Records Related to Mediation and Settlement

Mediation and settlement discussions are held to facilitate the resolution or narrowing of issues in dispute and are therefore closed to the public. Materials filed solely for the purposes of mediation or settlement discussions are confidential and are not contained in the case file.

2.4 Access to Institutional Files and Other Records

Requests for Tribunals Ontario institutional or operational records (i.e. not related to case files) may be subject to access under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). FIPPA sets out procedures for making requests and outlines limits to the right of access. If a FIPPA request is required, Tribunals Ontario staff will inform the requester and assist with processing the request.

3.0 Procedures for Accessing Case Files

3.1 Adjudicative Process May Vary by Tribunal

Tribunals Ontario recognizes that sensitive personal or financial information may be included in documents provided as part of a proceeding. Personal information, including names, contact information, medical, financial, employment, and education information, submitted as part of a proceeding may become public in an open hearing, and may be contained in decisions, orders, and case files, unless an order to restrict access is made.

Access procedures may vary depending on the nature and function of the particular tribunal and may be subject to orders of the tribunal, Rules of Procedure, Practice Directions, and any other requirements imposed by law.

3.2 Timeframes for Public Access

Tribunals Ontario staff work to provide access to tribunal files and documents as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, the time it takes to provide access can be affected by various factors, including whether records are required for an active proceeding, whether they have been sufficiently identified so they may be retrieved, whether they are stored on-site and available, as well as other staff and adjudicator responsibilities and priorities.

3.3 Fees Timeframes for Public Access

Fees may be charged to search for, collect, or copy records in response to a records request. There is a fee waiver mechanism for individuals who might otherwise be denied access to justice because of their financial circumstances. Information about the fee waiver process is available on the Tribunals Ontario website or from tribunal staff.

3.4 Where to Make a Request

Parties to Active/Ongoing Proceedings should contact the Registrar's Office at the tribunal where the matter is being held for access to records related to their case files.

Non-Parties (Persons Not Involved in a Proceeding) should contact the Access to Records Office to make a request via Access.TO-TDO@ontario.ca.

4.0 Confidentiality of Information in Case Files

4.1 Personal Information May Become Public

Tribunals Ontario recognizes that sensitive personal or financial information may be included in documents provided as part of a proceeding. Personal information, including names, contact information, medical, financial, employment, and education information, submitted as part of a proceeding may become public in an open hearing, and may be contained in decisions, orders, and case files, unless an order to restrict access is made.

4.2 Requesting a Confidentiality Order

Tribunals may make exceptions to the openness of hearings and case file information for important privacy interests. The tribunal will decide on a case-by-case basis if any measures are necessary to restrict access to sensitive information, and may make an order to:

Individuals with a concern about privacy can request a confidentiality order. Requests for confidentiality orders should be made at the earliest opportunity. In deciding whether to make a confidentiality order, an adjudicator considers a number of factors including the nature of the information at issue, the interests of affected individuals, and the public interest in the openness of proceedings.

Additional information on confidentiality orders, including the types of orders available and the process for making a request can be found on the Tribunals Ontario website and in the tribunals' Rules of Procedure and Practice Directions.

5.0 Questions Related to Access to Records

Parties to an active/ongoing proceeding should contact the Registrar's Office at the tribunal where the matter is being held for questions relating access to records in their case files.

Other questions or concerns about accessing records should be directed to Access.TO-TDO@ontario.ca.




Tribunals Ontario