The Sunlight Project details more than 75,000 public records requests since 2014
The Investigative Journalism Bureau and University of Toronto Libraries are proud to announce the launch of the Sunlight Project — Ontario’s most comprehensive database of freedom-of-information requests made to the provincial government since 2014.
Containing over 75,000 freedom-of-information requests filed to Ontario’s 28 ministries and the Premier’s Office, the Sunlight Project brings revelatory data and documents about the province’s most pressing issues to journalists, academics, civil society groups and members of the public.
For years, advocates have urged the provincial government to increase accountability and transparency by making completed freedom-of-information requests public. Those calls have gone unheeded. The Sunlight Project is our answer. And it’s available to the public for free.
“I hope initiatives like the Sunlight Project serve to encourage Ontario’s public institutions to move towards a culture of openness,” said Patricia Kosseim, Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner.
“It’s a win for accountability, it’s a win for democracy, and the greatest win of all is public trust.”
Those who wish to know what their government is doing about anything from climate change and Indigenous issues to poverty and health care can now do so with a few searches and clicks.
The Sunlight Project allows anyone to discover the existence of records that have already been released and file their own requests to obtain them. Reviewing those completed requests can not only help researchers discover documents, but also inspire new requests for information based on previous disclosures. (Requests for records of personal information are not included in the database.)
“This project is a tremendous idea that will increase research capacity and transparency,” said Larry Alford, University Chief Librarian at the University of Toronto. “I believe that this database of freedom of information requests will be invaluable not just to U of T students and researchers but to those at other institutions as well.”
The IJB and U of T Libraries created this important resource in the interests of enhancing government accountability and transparency in Ontario, splitting the costs levied by each ministry to obtain the records.
“The Sunlight Project database is a wonderful resource that makes it possible for the public to easily see what their less than transparent government has been doing,” said James L. Turk, director of the Centre for Free Expression at Toronto Metropolitan University. “The Investigative Journalism Bureau and University of Toronto Libraries are to be congratulated on this important public initiative.”
Accessing any of the records that were released in response to the 75,000 requests contained within the Sunlight Project is simple. Each request has an associated unique file number or description of the release; users only need to cite this information when filing their own requests. For detailed instructions on how to use the database, see our how-to page.
Obtaining this information was neither easy nor cheap. During the process of creating the Sunlight Project, the IJB had to file twelve requests to reduce fees issued by various ministries and three official appeals to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario because of high fees.
For example, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services said it would cost between $915 and $1,140 to provide the requested information. Following a lengthy appeal, the IJB secured a 50 per cent reduction in the search fees after the IPC adjudicator found they were “excessive.”
The IJB will periodically update the Sunlight Project database by filing new information requests to each provincial ministry and uploading the results.
The Investigative Journalism Bureau is a non-profit newsroom based at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. We conduct investigative reporting using a unique, collaborative model that brings together reporters, academics, and student journalists across Canada and beyond.
U of T Libraries is one of the leading research libraries in the world. It partners with staff, faculty and students as they pursue their paths to becoming creative and thoughtful scholars, learners and citizens.
The Sunlight Project is available now on our website, ijb.utoronto.ca, where you will also find our investigative stories.
If you care about this resource and the work we do, please support this initiative with a tax-deductible donation here.
For updates on this database and the broader array of IJB projects, please sign up to our mailing list here.
Investigative Journalism Bureau