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Oops – CBSA has effectively lost 12,000 open access requests

A Canada Border Services Agency patch is seen on an officer in Calgary. Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press
A Canada Border Services Agency patch is seen on an officer in Calgary. Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

An access to information crisis has been quietly playing itself out at the Canada Border Services Agency during the past few months.

During infrastructure maintenance in early February, Shared Services Canada – the department that acts as a centralized IT service for much of the federal government – accidentally made 40 CBSA servers “inaccessible.”

Some of the data on those servers, as it turns out, was for open access requests. In February, CBSA told the public that the inaccessible information hadn’t been deleted, and, as far as they could tell, there’d been no security breach.

“However,” the statement says, “this situation will result in delays in processing these ATIP requests.”

That’s going to be quite the delay.

An update posted Friday says the government managed to recover all 16,000 unresolved access requests, and that the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat helped them get 4,000 of those back in progress. As for the rest? Well…

“No requester information or records collected to respond to requests has been lost,” the CBSA release says. “However, because all the data or information was recovered in a large single package without context or framework, it’s impossible to decipher which requests it corresponds to.”

In other words, the remainder – roughly 12,000 open access requests – are effectively lost.

The CBSA is now asking anyone who submitted an access request between September, 2021 and November, 2023, and who has not yet received a response, to file a new request by e-mail to

“We ask that requesters provide the original request that they submitted, or a copy of the confirmation email they received after their original submission,” the release reads.

The CBSA adds that they will waive the $5 application fee, and “process the requests as a priority.”

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