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Archived Document

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Annual Report on the Administration of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act 2006–2007

Table of Contents

Copies of this document may be obtained from:

Access to Information and Privacy Protection Division
International Trade Canada
Lester B. Pearson Building
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa ON K1A 0G2

This publication can be made available on computer diskette, compact disk or in large print, upon request.

Enquiries about this document may be directed to:

Access to Information and Privacy Protection Division
International Trade Canada
Lester B. Pearson Building
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa Ontario K1A 0G2
Tel: 613–992–1425
FAX: 613–995–0116

Overview

This report describes the administration of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) from April 1, 2006 to March 31, 2007.

Introduction

In February 2006, with the election of a new government, the two components of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade were reintegrated. At present, the department is realigning its management structure and program activities. These changes will be reflected in future departmental publications.

The Director of the Access to Information and Privacy Protection Division (the ATIP Office of the Department) has been delegated full authority to exercise the powers of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. The ATIP Director reports to the Director General of the Executive Services Bureau who, along with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Deputy Minister of International Trade, are also designated with full powers. In addition, all Heads of Mission are designated to act under Section 8(2)(m) of the Privacy Act with respect to public interest disclosure of personal information.

Challenges and Steps Undertaken

Since 2004–2005, steps have been taken to strengthen the departmental capacity and compliance with the Access to Information Act and there has been some improvement moving from an F to a D grade in 2006–2007. That said, challenges remain as outlined below, and it is expected that the 2007–2008 grade will slip back to an F.

There are various factors affecting DFAIT's performance and ongoing efforts to improve compliance with both the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act (ATIP). Over the past 3–5 years, there has been a steady increase of requests under both Acts averaging 10% annually and DFAIT continues to face a growing array of very sensitive and challenging ATIP requests many of which have totally consumed the limited experienced ATIP resources.

Given its mandate and various responsibilities at the international level, DFAIT plays a key role in its responsibilities under both Acts on behalf of other government departments (OGDs). More specifically, DFAIT consults with foreign organizations abroad for other federal government institutions that are processing requests for records originating from abroad. In fact, last year DFAIT processed even more requests for consultations from OGDs than requests for access to records under its control. This important role puts another heavy burden on the ATIP Division's limited resources.

As such, there are ongoing efforts being undertaken to maintain and further improve results with the ever–increasing volume and complexity of ATIP cases, including:

  • modifying the ATIP Division's organizational design and further increasing the number of permanent resources dedicated to administrating both Acts and related Treasury Board Secretariat policies including meeting the requirements of the Management Accountability Framework (MAF);
  • staffing all vacancies within the ATIP Division using all means possible such as by way of competitive processes, secondments, assignments, deployments, and external university recruitment programs in order to lessen its dependence on outside consultants. There was an addition of 15 new positions over the past two years, but staffing remains a challenge due to ongoing problems with recruitment and retention as a result of the very limited pool of experienced ATIP analysts across the federal ATIP community;
  • finalizing the PM Professional Development Program within DFAIT which will allow for junior development positions in order to gain and retain in–house expertise and provide for succession planning. These measures will greatly assist to address the shortage of experienced staff and build capacity within the department;
  • building within the ATIP Division a permanent Policy, Procedures and Training capacity to ensure that all ATIP Analysts within the Division receive the necessary in–depth training and tools to do their job. In addition, this capacity will serve to ensure that departmental officials also receive the necessary ATIP awareness training. Customized sessions continue to be provided to divisional teams upon request, but there is pressing need for more widespread and continuous training across the department and the ATIP ofice needs to build a permanent training capacity into its day–to–day function; and,
  • building upon the enhancements that were previously made to the ATIP process a couple of years ago when it migrated from a paper to electronic process by implementing some additional measures to streamline the process even more.

Another key component of the revised organizational design will be to build in a permanent Privacy Policy capacity. This will ensure that the required resources are in place to attend to a significant amount of internal requests for privacy advice especially as it relates to the departmental obligation to prepare Privacy Impact Assessments for all new or modified personal information handling activities of DFAIT. The TBS Privacy Impact Assessment Policy was introduced in May 2002 and DFAIT must dedicate the required resources to ensure its compliance as well as with other related TBS policies such as annual InfoSource updates and the Management of Information Technology and Security (MITS) requirements.

The Department continues to monitor the ATIP performance closely and will undertake the necessary measures to improve the overall performance of the function.

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Part I – Access to Information Act

Statistics

While the bulk of the ATIP workload for most other departments seems to be requests for access to records, DFAIT is unique in this respect due to its specialized consultation role for records that are of interest to other countries. In fact, in 2006–2007, DFAIT received even more requests for consultations (748) than it did for access to records (648) under the Access to Information Act (ATI Act).

The Department received 648 new ATI Act requests for records under its control in 2006–2007. When added to the 131 requests being carried forward from the previous fiscal year, this means that DFAIT was responsible for the processing of 779 requests during 2006–2007. The Department was able to complete the processing of 515 requests, leaving 264 requests to be carried over to next fiscal year. A total of 67,338 pages were reviewed under the Act. Of the 648 requests received in 2006–2007, the most frequent type of requester was from the public (255) followed by the media (243), organizations (66), various types of businesses (63), and academia (21).

Of the 515 requests that were completed, full disclosure was provided for 79 requests, partial disclosure was provided for 179 requests, and all records were denied for 13 requests. Besides this, 19 requests were transferred to another department, the department was unable to process 95 requests, 122 requests abandoned by the applicants and 8 requests were treated informally. The three main reasons where access to information was denied related to either the operations of government (Section 21), personal information (Section 19) or international affairs (Section 15).

Of the 515 requests completed in 2006–2007, 287 requests were completed in 30 days or less, 70 requests were completed in between 31 and 60 days, 73 requests were completed in between 61 and 120 days, and 85 requests took more than 120 days to complete. The Department found it necessary to extend the time frame on 195 occasions to conduct large searches, external consultations and/or to complete third party notifications.

Other requests and informal disclosures

Consultations from Other Government Departments

As mentioned previously, the Department processed even more requests for consultations due to its key responsibility to consult abroad on behalf of other government departments (OGDs), which is a significant burden on its very limited resources. The Department received 748 such requests and completed 660, some of which were carried forward from the previous fiscal year. A total of 48,630 pages of information were reviewed under the Act on behalf of OGDs.

Screening Program

The ATIP Office is responsible for screening Departmental records prior to transfer to the National Archives. This program allows the department to release records each year that facilitate research access to greater volumes of information concerning Canada's conduct of international relations. In 2006–2007, the ATIP Office screened 300,000 pages of historical departmental records prior to their transfer to the National Archives.

Historical Section – Informal Access Program

This program provides an avenue for academics and serious researchers who seek access to records held by the Department in order to carry out their work. With the assistance of departmental divisions, access to records held by the Department is expedited outside the formal framework of the Access to Information Act while ensuring that sensitive information remains protected. A total of 11 requests were processed which involved over 4,829 pages of information.

Resources

Department spending directly attributable to the administration of the Access to Information Act totalled $1,705,580.00 of which $751,057.00 was for salaries and $954,523.00 was for related administrative costs. Person year utilization totalled 11.25.

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Part II – Privacy Act

Statistics

The Department received 202 new Privacy requests for personal information in 2006–2007. When added to the 54 requests being carried forward from the previous fiscal year, this means that DFAIT was responsible for the processing of 256 requests during 2006–2007.

The Department completed the processing of 226 requests during this reporting period, eaving 30 requests to be carried over to 2007–2008. Of the 226 requests that were completed, full disclosure was provided for 65 requests, partial disclosure was provided for 87 requests. Besides this, the department was unable to process 40 requests for various reasons, 26 requests were abandoned by applicants and 8 requests were transferred to another institution.

The three main reasons where access to information was denied related to either information about another individual (Section 26), international relations and defence (Section 21) and solicitor–client privilege (Section 27).

Of the 226 requests completed in 2006–2007, 134 requests were completed in 30 days or less, 38 requests were completed in between 31 and 60 days, 15 requests were completed in between 61 and 120 days, and 39 requests took more than 120 days to complete. Time extensions were invoked for 49 requests – 40 due to interference with operations and 9 for external consultations. All these extensions were for 30 days or less.

Other Requests

Disclosures under section 8(2) of the Privacy Act

Another significant draw on the ATIP division's limited resources is the processing of requests for mainly passport information on behalf of police investigative bodies. The ATIP Office processed 448 requests for disclosure of personal information under Section 8(2) of the Privacy Act.

Internal Requests for Advice

The ATIP Office also acted as a resource for DFAIT officials and offered advice and guidance on the provisions of the legislation. The ATIP Office was consulted on 145 departmental issues relating primarily to personal information handling activities such as surveys, questionnaires, memorandum of understanding, information sharing arrangements, data bases, contracts and human resources issues.

Privacy Impact Assessments

Under the Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) Policy, DFAIT reported the following for the 2006–2007 time period:

  • number of PIAs initiated: 5
  • number of Preliminary Privacy Impact Assessments (PPIA) initiated: 4
  • number of PPIAs/PIAs forwarded to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC ): 1
  • the number of PIA summaries posted on institutional web sites: none

Of importance to note as well as the new TBS–mandated MITS Compliance requirements to prepare Privacy Impact Assessments on mission critical systems, which has resulted in an increase in the number of Privacy Impact Assessments since the last fiscal year.

The ATIP Office has been participating in the development of the following Privacy Impact Assessments, which is not all–inclusive:

  • Web–based Reporting of Significant Incidents Abroad;
  • Signet C5 Secure Computer Network;
  • Passport Canada Security Projects;
  • Contracts for Air Ambulance Service for Canada–based staff and dependents;
  • International Academic Relations Program (International Scholarships);
  • Export Controls On–line;
  • Dialogue Self–assessment Tool; and
  • Virtual Trade Commissioner.

Resources

Department spending directly attributable to the administration of the Privacy Act totalled $568,528.00 of which $250,353.00 was for salaries and $318,175.00 was for related administrative costs. Person year utilization totalled 3.75.

Part III – Annexes

Annex A – Statistical Report on the administration of the Access to Information Act

Annex B – Statistical Report on the administration of the Privacy Act

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Date Modified:
2012-01-26