We are pleased to table the Annual Report to Parliament on the administration of the Access to Information Act (ATIA) for fiscal year 2010-2011, as required under subsections 72(1) and 72(2) of the Act.
The Access to Information Act gives Canadian citizens and permanent residents, as well as individuals and corporations present in Canada, the right to seek access to federally-controlled information and records.
On behalf of the Government of Canada, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is Canada's face and voice to the world, working to advance Canada's political and economic interests in the international community as well as to apply Canadian experience to help address global issues.
The Department's legal mandate, as set out in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act, RSC 1985, c. E-22, is to:
In addition, Passport Canada which is a Special Operating Agency of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada is responsible for issuing, refusing, revoking and withholding Canadian passports, in addition to administering their use and recovery. Passport Canada supervises all matters relating to Canadian travel documents and provides guidance to Canadian government offices abroad, enabling them to issue passports. Besides serving the public directly, Passport Canada also works with national and international police authorities, security agents, border officials and any federal, provincial and territorial authorities that provide identification documents.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs is also responsible for the Export and Import Permits Act, RSC 1985, c. E-19, which authorizes the government to control and monitor the transborder flow of specified goods, and for the Special Economic Measures Act, 40-41 Elizabeth II, c. 17, which authorizes the government to apply economic sanctions in response to a serious threat to international peace and security.
The Department also provides administrative support to other government departments with personnel abroad.
In 2010-2011, the Department had 13,259 Full-time Equivalents with the workforce made up of three groups. First, Canada-based rotational staff made up mainly of Foreign Service officers, in addition to administrative support employees and information technology specialists who relocate regularly between headquarters and Canada's missions abroad. Second, non-rotational staff who work primarily at Headquarters. Third, locally-engaged staff who work at missions abroad.
Canada's success in building a sustainable recovery and long-term competitive strength is fundamentally linked to its engagement with the global setting. It is for that reason that the pursuit of economic opportunity remains DFAIT's leading priority. With its world-class financial and banking system, its potential to become an energy superpower, its highly skilled labour force, and its competitive corporate tax rates, Canada is well positioned to succeed in world markets and to attract foreign investment. However, there are international developments that could adversely affect Canada, such as the uneven and potentially fragile economic recovery of Canada's major trading partners, persistent global financial imbalances, the slower-than-expected pace in concluding the World Trade Organization's Doha Round, and the threat of protectionism in many countries. In this context, there is a premium on the effective promotion and advocacy of Canada's economic interests. In support of the government's national competitiveness strategy (Advantage Canada) and Economic Action Plan, DFAIT undertook the following initiatives in 2010-2011:
The United States remains Canada's most important economic and security partner, with some $2 billion in goods and services crossing the border daily. Canada's security and prosperity are inextricably linked to effective management of the relationship with the United States on a range of bilateral, regional and global economic issues. The most significant plans are as follows:
Canada's engagement in the Americas is predicated on a whole-of-government approach that advances the key themes of democratic governance, prosperity and security in the region. The department continues to position Canada as a reliable supporter of democratic rule, a preferred trading partner and a key actor in addressing regional security threats. Key plans related to DFAIT's activities in the Americas include the following actions:
The NATO-led mission remains Canada's priority. Afghanistan's stability and development is fundamental to regional stability and to Canada's own security. An international consensus on the way forward, led by President Obama's new strategy announced in late 2009 and the conclusions of the London Conference of January 2010, commits all sides to greater progress. The most significant plans were as follows:
The emergence of a multi-polar world has fundamentally challenged the capacity of conventional global governance to deal with issues of global impact. The urgent need to address challenges arising from the worldwide recession, such as the reform of global financial architecture, as well as horizontal issues such as climate change have, in part, accounted for the rising interest in, and influence of, the G20. In hosting the G8 and G20, Canada had a unique opportunity to exert influence in the search for innovative solutions to an array of global challenges. Key plans included the following:
Overall, DFAIT continued its efforts to ensure that Canada's values and interests are reflected in multilateral forums, including those of the UN, the G8 and G20, La Francophonie, and NATO as well as regional organizations. DFAIT delivers results related to its priorities through diplomacy and advocacy, bilaterally and multilaterally. Canada's efforts to improve human rights, democratic governance, and corporate social responsibility around the world serve to protect Canadians and their interests at home and abroad.
With regard to the Arctic, a region of growing global interest in terms of commerce, resources and transportation, DFAIT continued to develop and promote Canada's Arctic Foreign Policy—the international dimension of the Government of Canada's Northern Strategy. The department worked bilaterally with other Arctic partners, within the Arctic Council, with the five Arctic coastal states and in other multilateral forums to assert Canada's Arctic sovereignty and to promote collaboration on issues of environment, economic and social development, and governance.
The rapidly changing nature of the international environment has required the department to undertake comprehensive actions to modernize all aspects of its operations. DFAIT must ensure that it is as agile and responsive as possible in order to be able to address the risks and to take advantage of the opportunities generated by new global realities. It is against this backdrop that a comprehensive transformation agenda to modernize the department was launched in 2008, an effort that continued in 2010-2011.
Finally, it made ongoing improvements to its human resources and financial management, and increased its accountability.
Under Section 73 the Act, the Minister's authority is delegated to enable the Department to meet its legislated requirements as well as exercise its powers. Since October 2009 responsibility for all sections of the Act was delegated to the Deputy Ministers, to the Corporate Secretary, to the Director of the Access to Information and Privacy Protection Division, as well as to the Deputy Directors of the ATIP Office. (See Annex A)
In addition, Passport Canada as a special operating agency obtained its own ATIP delegated authority to respond to requests under both the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act as they relate to its passport records. This delegation came into effect on April 1, 2011. For reporting purposes, however, the DFAIT ATIP Office will continue to include PPTC in its annual reports to Parliament as well as for TBS statistical reports.
The Access to Information and Privacy Protection Division (ATIP Office) is responsible for the administration of the ATIA, including the processing of requests and consultations. The Director of the ATIP Office reports to the Corporate Secretary, who in turn reports to the Associate Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In 2010-2011, with the addition of 10 new full-time equivalents, the division had four teams of processing Analysts reporting to two Deputy Directors. In addition, the Backlog Team, comprised mainly of consultants and support staff, reported directly to the division's third Deputy Director. The Deputy Directors, the Manager of Business Practices and Systems, as well as the Policy & Governance team reported to the Director (see Figure 1).
Figure 1 – ATIP Office Organizational Structure
More recent changes to the ATIP Office's capacity (53 full-time equivalents) and structure, including new fast-track Consultation team and an Intake Unit, will be reported in the next Annual Report to Parliament in 2011-2012.
The graph in Figure 2 represents the ever increasing number of requests (all types) received by DFAIT under both Acts. During this reporting period, DFAIT (including Passport Canada) received a total of four thousand, one hundred and sixty-three requests (4,163), that totalled two hundred and forty-seven thousand, seven hundred and thirty-eight (247,738) pages. This represents an increase of 24% over last fiscal year. The types of requests that faced growth were Access to Information Act requests, consultations under both Acts from other government departments as well as requests under the Privacy Act primarily to Passport Canada from investigative bodies.
Figure 2 – Number of ATIP Requests Received per Fiscal Year
Given its mandate and various responsibilities at the international level, DFAIT plays a key consultation role under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act on behalf of other government departments (OGDs).
Other ongoing challenges include:
Since 1998, DFAIT's performance under the Access to Information Act has been scrutinized closely by the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) due to poor departmental compliance with the Act's prescribed time limits. As well, improved compliance and commitment to these legislative responsibilities has been identified as a Government of Canada priority, reflected in the following instruments:
Services for Canadians comprise one of three strategic outcomes under the Department's Program Activity Architecture (PAA). ATIP is one of the key services provided to the general public in Canada by the Department, and better service requires improved compliance with the relevant Acts. Furthermore, given the additional function of the departmental ATIP office of consulting foreign governments on the release of information originating with them, there is a major component of ATIP implementation that includes managing our international relationships and ensuring partners that their information is managed appropriately.
Improving compliance with the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act continued to be a departmental priority, especially in light of a growing backlog related to requests for information related to the Government's key international priorities such as Afghanistan. So much so that, while financial restraints faced DFAIT in 2010-2011, the ATIP Office was nonetheless able to build additional capacity with the injection of $2.7M in new ATIP funding in June 2010.
The following section explains in more detail the TBS statistical report as provided in Annex B.
Between April 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011, the Department received seven hundred and ninety-eight (798) requests for information under the Access to Information Act, which was a 25% increase over the previous fiscal year. Along with those new requests received, three hundred and eighty-nine (389) requests were carried over from the previous fiscal year, for a total of one thousand, one hundred and eighty-seven (1187) requests.
During the reporting period, seven hundred and sixty-six (766) requests were completed and four hundred and twenty-one (421) still active files were carried over to the next reporting period.
The Access to Information requests received during this reporting period break down as follows (see Figure 3):
|Requests||Number of Requests|
Figure 3 – Requests Received by Source
The distribution of completed requests is as follows (see Figure 4):
Figure 4 – Disposition of Completed Requests
The exemptions most commonly used by the Department during the period were sub-sections 15(1) [International affairs] and 19(1) [personal information] as well as paragraphs 21(1)(a) [advice] and 21(1)(b) [consultations and deliberations]. These were invoked for 330, 363, 207 and 233 requests, respectively. The Department has also applied exclusions under sub-section 69(1) [confidences of cabinet] in 100 instances.
During the reporting period, the Department claimed extensions pursuant to paragraphs 9(1)(a), 9(1)(b) and 9(1)(c): 197, 209, and 68 times, respectively. (See Figure 5)
Figure 5 – Number of Extensions Claimed
For the reporting period, the Department collected $5,850.62 in fees, and waived $3,079.13 in fees.
When a request contains records that are of a greater interest to another institution, the ATIP Office of that institution is consulted.
Given its mandate and various responsibilities at the international level, DFAIT plays a key role in its responsibilities under the ATIA on behalf of other government departments (OGDs). More specifically, DFAIT consults with foreign organizations abroad on behalf of other federal government institutions that are processing requests for records originating from abroad.
Between April 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011, the Department received one thousand and forty-nine (1,049) ATI Act consultations from other government institutions, which represents a 29% increase over the last reporting period. In fact, as in the previous year, DFAIT received more requests for ATI consultations than ATI requests for access to records under its control (798). Most requests originated from federal institutions subject to the Access to Information Act. However, a small percentage of consultations originated from provincial institutions and foreign government.
During the reporting period, one thousand and fifty-two (1,052) consultations were completed representing seventy-eight thousand, four hundred and seventy-nine (78,479) pages.
In return, DFAIT consulted other government institutions the following number of times during the reporting period.
|Government Institutions||Number of Consultations|
|Other Federal Governments||794|
|Privy Council Office (Cabinet Confidences)||210|
|Provincial Institutions or Municipalities||21|
|Foreign Governments or Institutions of States||293|
During the reporting period, twenty eight (28) complaints against the Department were filed with the Information Commissioner of Canada. This is a significant decrease (less than one quarter) of the total number of complaints in previous years.
|Reason for Complaint||Number of Complaints|
|Refusal - Exemptions||8|
|Refusal - General||1|
Sixty seven (67) investigations were completed during the reporting period.
|Finding||Number of Findings||Result||Number of Results|
|Discontinued||3||No Action Required||11|
|Not substantiated||0||Remedial Action Taken||0|
|Not Well Founded||14|
No new Federal Court proceedings under the ATI Act were initiated during the reporting period.
In 2007-2008, Professor Amir Attaran brought a case against DFAIT before the Federal Court (T-2257-07) relating to the exemptions invoked under the Access to Information Act to an internal report entitled “Afghanistan 2006: Good Governance, Democratic Development and Human Rights”. The applicant was not satisfied with DFAIT's rationale for withholding portions of the report nor the Information Commissioner's findings in November 2007 which supported most of the severances invoked under sections 13, 15 and 17 of the ATIA.
At the end of 2008-2009 the court process had been finalized but the decision was issued at the start of this reporting year on April 2, 2009. DFAIT was largely successful in its justification for most of the exemptions invoked since the disclosure of information relating to different agencies and officials in the Afghan Government as well as Canada's allies in Afghanistan could be injurious to Canada's international relations and should not be disclosed. Specifically, the court in this case established that the exemptions were justified on the basis that:
...Canada has established relationships with political, security and police authorities in Afghanistan which are critical for Canada to be able to accomplish its mission in Afghanistan and that negative references or criticisms of Afghan political, security and police authorities would undermine those relationships and become a hurdle for the Canadian government representatives on the ground in Afghanistan ()
A few portions were ordered to be released, which consisted of a few lines that were similar to those already in the possession of the media and Parliament. Those portions were released.
A Notice of Appeal was filed in May 2009 by Prof. Attaran's counsel in relation to the judicial review of the ATIA release of Afghan HR reports - on which DFAIT was largely successful. The appeal hearing was held in December 2010 which primarily focused on whether the Minister properly exercised his discretion to withhold information pursuant to s.15 of the Act.
In April 2011, supplemental submissions of counsel were made on the issue of burden of proof. From DFAIT's perspective discretion was exercised in the application of s.15 as extensive consultations took place with in-depth consideration regarding the likelihood of injury to international affairs if released.
In May 2011, the appeal was allowed, the result of which will be reported in the next Annual Report to Parliament.
While DFAIT was not selected by the Information Commissioner of Canada for its Report Card of 2009-2010, it did provide to the Commissioner's Office a most promising Progress Report in October 2010 relating to the previous 2008-2009 Report Card entitled “Out of Time”. The Commissioner had voiced concern at DFAIT's inability to comply with the Access to Information Act as well as its negative impact across the federal government due to delays in responding to ATIP consultations on international relations matters (Section 15 of ATI Act). The improvements are explained further in the next section of this report.
The Director of the ATIP Office also appeared before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics ("ETHI") twice in the reporting period. In June 2010 the appearance pertained to allegations of ministerial interference as a result of an incident at Public Works and Government Services Canada. The November 2010 appearance was to provide the ETHI with the DFAIT ATIP Progress Report since the Information Commissioner's 2008-2009 Report Card.
In addition, a review by the Information Commissioner's office was conducted in 2010-2011 regarding the foreign consultation process and recommendations for certain procedural improvements are being considered in order to address the administrative burden and resulting delays. For example, one of the recommendations made as a result of this study was for the DFAIT ATIP Office to consult directly the foreign embassies here in Canada rather than forwarding the consultations to foreign governments via its Canadian missions abroad. The ATIP Office is exploring the implications and benefits of such a procedural change.
With the injection of new ATIP funding in June 2010, the ATIP Office not only created ten (10) new full-time equivalents but also launched a Backlog Project in July 2010 in order to clear the bulk of the late files by summer 2011. The Backlog Project has been a tremendous success as, at the time of drafting this report, it had closed 360 of the 405 late ATIP files which represented 216,373 pages of the 275,056 pages to be processed. It was expected that the remaining 45 files (58,683 pages) some of which have outstanding external consultations would be completed by early fall 2011.
During 2010-2011, the ATIP Office created a dedicated Policy and Governance Team whose primary responsibilities include providing ATIP policy advice as well as develop and deliver ATIP training both internal to the ATIP Office as well as to departmental employees.
The Policy and Governance Team is also responsible for updating (keeping evergreen) the ATIP Analysts' Guidelines relating to the processing of ATIP requests, answering general questions from internal clients and providing advice, assistance and guidance with regards to privacy, the requirement and development of new Privacy Impact Assessments (PIA), Privacy Notice Statements (PNS), Disclaimers, Consent forms and/or revisions to existing ones, as well as providing assistance in the development of TBS' Statistical Reports and the preparation of Annual Reports to Parliament for both the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.
The Team is also responsible for updating DFAIT's Chapter in TBS' Info Source Publication, registering Personal Information Banks with TBS and delivering Info Source training, awareness and/or question and answer sessions. Of importance to note is that the work in this policy area increased by at least 50 percent from the last reporting period as a direct result of:
Info Source Full Sweep: For the first time, the ATIP Office conducted a full sweep of the information holdings of all program areas in DFAIT. The coordination of this activity was an immense undertaking and involved the development of an extensive training package, delivery of multiple training sessions, one-one-one meetings with Offices of Primary Interest (OPI), as well as the review and update of the Department's Info Source chapter. Approximately 80% of the OPIs responded to the full sweep.
New Internet/Intranet Policy: A new process was initiated whereby all new or updated forms published for the departmental Internet and Intranet required the ATIP Office's approval. The work “mushroomed” as when assessing a form other privacy implications were discovered resulting in the need for a Class of Records, Class of Personal Information, Personal Information Bank (PIB), Privacy Notice Statement (PNS) and/or Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA). It should be noted that this area will increase even further when a similar process is implemented for all PDF forms.
During 2010-2011, the ATIP Office continued to ensure that all ATIP Analysts, regardless of their years of experience, received the necessary training and tools to do their job effectively via training sessions developed to meet the ATIP Office's training needs and via a dedicated mentor/coach (a.k.a. Team Leader). The responsibilities of the Team Leaders are to ensure that there is a continuous and positive learning environment for employees' proper development as ATIP specialists. Furthermore, learning plans have continued to be developed in consultation with each employee within the ATIP Office in order to effectively identify their training needs and to ensure that the necessary actions are taken to ensure that these needs are met.
The ATIP Office also continued to benefit from its ATIP Professional Development Program which is allowing DFAIT to “grow its own” ATIP Analysts due to the lack of experienced ATIP Analysts within the federal ATIP Community. This program has been very successful in addressing recruitment, retention and succession planning issues.
The creation of the new Policy and Governance Team has allowed the ATIP Office to address the training needs of the Department and of the ATIP Office on a full-time basis and to educate new employees as soon as they start working at DFAIT as well as ensuring the Department complies with all other aspects and regulations of the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act.
DFAIT's Intranet ATIP website is always kept up-to-date and is accessible to those that may have questions regarding the ATIP process at DFAIT. The ATIP Office has also added many more reference tools such as customized Privacy Impact Questionnaires and all ATIP Tasking Instructions.
The ATIP Office implemented a structured and departmental-wide ATIP awareness program to ensure that officials across the Department understand their roles and responsibilities vis-à-vis ATIP. DFAIT has also expanded on the type of forums within which ATIP training is delivered, such as during staff meetings of subject-matter experts of Offices of Primary Interest (OPIs) and during DFAIT 101 courses, a course designed for employees that are new to the Department. ATIP sessions are also delivered during the various training sessions provided to employees leaving Canada in order to better prepare them to work at a mission. The trainer within the ATIP office also holds sessions with subject matter experts, during which records are reviewed in order to educate these employees on the exercise of discretion when making recommendations for severance.
New types of training sessions have also been developed using new technologies in order to ensure that the ATIP Office is able to capture a wider audience and to ensure that employees at mission also received the necessary training. For instance Access to Information Act and Privacy Act training sessions are being given to employees at missions (Locally Engaged Staff, Trade, Political and Consular Officers, as well as Administrative Assistants) using either videoconferencing or teleconferencing equipment.
Also, an online interactive ATIP tutorial has been developed in collaboration with the Canadian Foreign Service Institute. The tutorial consists of an awareness module; however, additional modules will be added in the near future. This is an important tool as it allows employees to receive training without additional resources being allotted to such efforts. DFAIT has also shared this tool with other Departments in hopes of assisting the federal ATIP community.
ATIP training sessions have also been provided in conjunction with Information Management officials as a test to evaluate the pros and cons of holding collaborative sessions, given the close relationship between ATIP and Information Management. Further discussions will be held in order to develop a more structured plan in order to provide such sessions in the future.
A new training presentation on section 15 of the Act (injury to international affairs) is currently in development which will be presented to the federal ATIP community via the Treasury Board Secretariat community meetings and training sessions. This presentation will educate other Departments on the responsibilities of DFAIT vis-à-vis both Acts when it comes to records that have international implications, and will therefore give other federal Departments a better idea as to when DFAIT should be consulted. This will help alleviate the high volume of consultations received by DFAIT and will help other federal departments in identifying what type of information and/or records should be sent to DFAIT as consultation.
The ATIP Office also refined the training program for ATIP Liaison Officers and subject-matter experts within Offices of Primary Interest (OPIs) across the Department. These training programs were advertised with all other training programs available via the Canadian Foreign Service Institute, and departmental messages were sent to all employees on a regular basis to advise of the opportunities for training. Employees were then able to register for these courses via an automated online service, which has improved the ATIP Office's ability to deliver training.
In all, one hundred and thirty seven (137) separate ATIP Awareness training sessions were delivered during the reporting period by the ATIP offices at both DFAIT and Passport Canada, comprising of approximately one thousand three hundred and thirty seven (1337) employees, including:
Of all these participants that evaluated the training sessions delivered by DFAIT's ATIP Office to Liaison Officers and their back-ups as well as sessions delivered to subject-matter experts within Offices of Primary Interest (OPIs), 89% of participants were very satisfied with the overall quality of the training, 90% of participants were very satisfied with the clarity of the information and 91% of participants felt that the trainer presented the information in a clear manner. Finally, 87% of all participants that evaluated the training sessions delivered felt that there was enough time allotted for these sessions to adequately address the material being presented.
During the reporting period, the ATIP Office also extensively revamped its Info Source training deck and delivered Info Source Training and Awareness sessions to Liaison Officers (LOs) and their back-ups. Follow up Q&A sessions were also scheduled, in addition to one-on-one sessions with senior staff members of the Offices of Prime Interest (OPIs). Fourteen (14) Info Source training sessions were held and attended by approximately 75 Liaison Officers. Of the 46 who returned an evaluation sheet from the training sessions, 43% felt the overall quality of the training was 'excellent', 54% felt it was 'good to very good' and .02% felt it was 'unsatisfactory'.
DFAIT's ATIP Office continuously strives to refine its training tools and is very open to comments from employees participating in the various training session delivered. There are many plans in place to refine and enhance the effectiveness of current programs as well as to develop new ones.
Since the new streamlined processes were introduced in 2008 no significant changes were made to internal Access to Information Act processes or policies in 2010-2011. However, much attention has been placed to educate departmental officials on their ATIP roles and responsibilities to ensure compliance and efficiencies.
The Policy and Governance team did, however, make some revisions to its existing privacy-related policy instruments and initiated the drafting of new instruments which are better aligned with new and/or revised TBS' ATIP-related policies. The policy instruments referred to herein include the PIA Protocol, PIA Checklist, Code of Fair Information Practices, Privacy Notice Statement Guidance Document, Disclaimer Guidance Document, etc. Some of these instruments have been completed, others require additional revisions and additional ones will also be initiated and completed as soon as possible.
The following are improvements that have been made over the last reporting year 2010-2011 as well as ongoing initiatives to improve the overall ATIP function at DFAIT:
These achievements were reflected in the "Acceptable" rating of the Management Accountability Framework (MAF) Round VIII assessment, the highest score reached by DFAIT since MAF was introduced. Also, the department received a "Strong" rating for ATIP Governance and Capacity.