Open justice and privacy

Balancing open justice and privacy

The Social Security Tribunal of Canada (SST) follows the open court principle. The principle ensures public access to courts and tribunals. It is rooted in the common law and linked to the Canadian Constitution. This means that our hearings and appeal records (including decisions) are open to the public. “Public” means people who aren’t parties to the appeal. The public includes the media.

Public access helps people understand what the Tribunal does and keeps us accountable. People trust how we deliver justice when they can understand and see what we do.

At the same time, we understand that parties may be worried about their privacy. That is why our approach balances the open court principle with protecting your privacy.

A member of the public has to ask the Tribunal for access to an appeal record. If we give someone access to your appeal record, we will first remove any information that reveals your identity.

Protecting personal information from public access

Requests for access are very rare. A member of the public first has to ask us for access. They can look at information in an appeal record only after we give them access.

The appeal record includes:

  • the decision
  • the information the Tribunal member (the decision-maker) relied on to make their decision

Appeal record information includes:

  • all the evidence the parties gave the Tribunal
  • all the written submissions the parties gave the Tribunal
  • any orders (or special directions) from the Tribunal
  • any hearing notices
  • recordings of any hearing

We protect your personal information from public access. If we give someone access to your appeal record, we will first remove any information that reveals your identity. We will leave this type of information in the appeal record only if it is important to understanding the decision.

This means that we don’t let people see:

  • the names of appellants, added parties, or family members
  • dates of birth, addresses, or identification numbers and documents
    • for example:
      • telephone numbers
      • social insurance numbers
      • driver’s licences
      • passports
      • bank account numbers
  • any other information that could identify an appellant, added party, or family member

If you want to access an appeal record, follow this link to fill out a request form:

Request access to an appeal record

Hearings are open to the public.

If you want to attend a hearing, contact us.

Giving parties access

Parties are those who are involved in an appeal. For example, a party can be a person, a company, or a government department.

We give parties to an appeal access to the appeal record. This is part of the law under the Social Security Tribunal Regulations. The Tribunal has to give the other parties to an appeal a copy of any evidence a party gives to the Tribunal.

Generally, we don’t remove any information in documents before sharing them with the other parties to the appeal.

Protecting personal information in published decisions

We publish many Tribunal decisions online. This helps us be accountable and transparent. If anyone wants to understand how the Tribunal works, they can look up our decisions.

We balance open justice and privacy by protecting personal information in published decisions. This happens at two stages:

  1. During the decision writing
    • When Tribunal members write a decision, they don’t include sensitive or personal information unless it is an important part of the decision.
  2. After the decision writing
    • We remove names and any other information that could identify an appellant, added party, or family member before we publish a decision online.

At both stages, we keep only information that is important for explaining the reasons for the decision.

If a decision isn’t on our website, you can ask for a copy. Contact us here.

Limiting public access

In some cases, you may want to protect more than the information that reveals your identity. In rare cases, a Tribunal member can limit access to a hearing or to other types of information in the appeal record, or issue an order that will stop a decision from being published. This could happen if you have serious privacy or safety concerns.

You can ask the Tribunal to limit access to your appeal if you think that:

  • your hearing should be private
  • certain information in your appeal record shouldn’t be open to the public
  • your decision shouldn’t be published online

You must clearly explain why you think the Tribunal should limit access. Write to us.

In your letter or email, provide the following:

  • your contact information
  • your Tribunal appeal file number

And explain:

  • what information, document, or documents you think should be kept private
  • why you think they should be kept private
  • why removing your personal information isn’t enough protection
  • what the risk is to you if we don’t limit access

A Tribunal member will review your request. We will let you know whether the member allows your request.

Accessing information that isn’t related to an appeal

If you are looking for information about the Tribunal that isn’t part of an appeal, please visit the Administrative Tribunals Support Service of Canada to find out how to make an access to information request.

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