ARCHIVE - Access to Information Act and Privacy Act Annual Report 2007-2008

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Table of Contents

Report on the Access to Information Act

Introduction

The Access to Information Act gives the public a broad right of access to information contained in federal government records, subject to certain limited and specific exceptions.

Section 72 of the Access to Information Act requires that the head of every government institution submit an annual report to Parliament on the administration of the Act during the financial year. This report describes how Public Safety Canada administered the Access to Information Act throughout fiscal year 2007-2008.

About the Public Safety Portfolio

The Public Safety portfolio includes:

In previous years, institutions within the Public Safety portfolio prepared their respective portions of the report and the Minister submitted one consolidated report on behalf of all institutions in the Minister's portfolio. As of 2007-2008, the Minister will submit separate reports for each institution in accordance with common practice throughout the Government of Canada.

About Public Safety Canada

Public Safety Canada was created in 2003 to provide leadership and coordination across all federal departments and agencies responsible for the safety of Canadians. The Department delivers a range of programs related to national emergency preparedness, critical infrastructure protection and community safety. Working towards a safe and resilient Canada, the Department provides leadership, coordinates and supports the efforts of federal organizations responsible for the national security and safety of Canadians. The Department also works with other levels of government, first responders, community groups, the private sector and other countries to achieve its objectives.

To keep Canadians safe from a range of threats, the Department provides strategic policy advice and support to the Minister of Public Safety on issues related to public safety, including: national security; emergency management; policing and law enforcement; interoperability and information-sharing; border management; corrections and conditional release; Aboriginal policing; and, crime prevention.

Providing strategic public safety leadership, the Department works within a portfolio consisting of five agencies and three review bodies. These entities, including the Department, are united under the Public Safety portfolio and report to the same minister, resulting in enhanced integration among federal organizations dealing with public safety issues. The Department supports the Minister in all aspects of his mandate and plays a national public safety leadership role while respecting the separate accountability of each portfolio agency.

Also situated within the Department is the Office of the Inspector General of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (IGCSIS), which carries out independent reviews of CSIS' compliance with the law, Ministerial direction and operational policy.

Highlights and Accomplishments for 2007-2008

During the course of fiscal year 2007-2008, the Department received a total of 296 requests under the Access to Information Act. This represents an increase of 30 per cent compared to the previous year. In spite of this increase, by the end of 2007-2008 only 6 of 57 active requests were considered to be in deemed refusal compared to 11 of the 71 requests that were active on March 31, 2007. The number of complaints to the Information Commissioner has also declined by 34 per cent compared to the previous year.

All levels of Public Safety have worked hard to improve the way the Department responds to ATI requests. The Department has implemented concrete measures that, taken together, have allowed us to attain this goal. Examples of this are as follows:

The Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Unit

The Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Unit is part of Public Safety Canada's Executive Services Division within the Department's Strategic Policy Branch. It is comprised of one Manager, four analysts and two administrative officers. The Director, Executive Services, served as the Department's ATIP Coordinator throughout the reporting year, in addition to directing the Department's Ministerial Correspondence and Speech-writing Units.

The ATIP Unit is responsible for the coordination and implementation of policies, guidelines and procedures to ensure departmental compliance with the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. The Unit also currently provides the following services to the Department:

Delegation of Authority

The responsibilities associated with the administration of the Access to Information Act, such as notifying applicants of extensions and transferring requests to other institutions, are delegated to the departmental ATIP Coordinator through a delegation instrument signed by the Minister of Public Safety. The approval of all exemptions remains with the Deputy Minister, the Associate Deputy Minister, the Senior Assistant Deputy Minister and all Assistant Deputy Ministers.

A detailed delegation instrument is at Annex A.

Statistical Report - Interpretation and Analysis

Annex B provides a summarized statistical report on Access to Information Act requests processed by Public Safety Canada between April 1, 2007 and March 31, 2008. The following section provides explanations and interpretations of this statistical information by analyzing the workload trends.

Overall workload trend

Graph

The graph above indicates a significant increase in the number of overall requests received and processed by the ATIP Unit. The yearly totals include formal access and privacy requests, and consultations from other institutions. These figures do not reflect requests processed informally or other services that the ATIP Unit provides to the Department.

There has been a 98 per cent increase in the number of formal ATI requests received in the Department over the past five years, and the number of consultations received from other institutions has increased by 96 per cent over this same period. The number of privacy requests and privacy consultations has remained relatively stable. The following graph provides a detailed breakdown by category.

Workload trend by category

graph

Departmental efforts to respond to increased workload

In order to address the increasing workload, the Department is planning for investments in the ATIP Unit, including new case management and imaging software commonly used by most institutions, a more capable hardware platform and an appropriate facility at the Department's headquarters.

The ATIP Unit has also modified its organizational structure to allow greater flexibility in recruitment and intends to create developmental positions in order to retain experienced employees. Public Safety continues to examine staffing levels in the ATIP Unit. As with most federal institutions, recruitment and retention of qualified ATIP professionals remains the most significant challenge. The challenge at Public Safety is complicated by the requirement that many ATIP staff require security clearances to the very highest level given the nature of the Department's business.

Access to Information Act requests received

Throughout fiscal year 2007-2008, Public Safety Canada received 296 new access requests, which represents an increase of 30 per cent in the number of requests received over the previous year (229). Seventy-one (71) requests were carried forward from the previous fiscal year, resulting in a total of 367 requests to process during 2007-2008. In spite of significant increases in both the volume and complexity of the requests received, 310 of these requests were completed during the reporting year, while the remaining 57 requests have been carried forward to the following reporting year.

Number of formal ATI requests received by Public Safety Canada

graph

Source of requests

Nearly half of the requests (49%) received by Public Safety Canada originate from the media. An additional 23 per cent originate from organizations and a further 21 per cent were received from members of the public who did not identify themselves as belonging to any another category. Only a small number of requests were submitted from businesses and academia. The following graph categorizes the number of requests received by group, and the percentage of the total for each group.

Source of requests

Chart

Extensions

Section 9 of the Access to Information Act allows institutions to extend the legal deadline for processing a request if a search for responsive records cannot be completed within 30 days of receipt of the request, or if the institution must consult with other institutions or third parties. The Department invoked a total of 143 extensions over the year, and most of these (135) were for 31 days or more. One hundred and twenty-seven (127) extensions were required in order to undertake consultations with other federal government institutions. This high number is due to Public Safety Canada's role in coordinating activities involving federal institutions within the Public Safety portfolio as well as with other organizations at all levels of government whose mandates involve issues of national security and the safety of Canadians. The Department extended the time limits for search on six occasions, and four of these extensions were for 31 days or more. The Department extended the time limits to consult with third parties on four occasions, and all of these extensions were for 31 days or more.

Disposition of requests for 2007-2008

As many of the documents processed by Public Safety Canada's ATIP Unit contain sensitive information relating to national security and law enforcement, as well as advice to the Minister and Cabinet records, the majority of departmental responses contain exempted and/or excluded information. The following graph identifies the disposition of requests completed during the year.

Disposition of requests

chart

Consultations from other institutions

Due to the Department's responsibilities for coordinating and supporting the efforts of federal organizations to keep Canadians safe, a significant amount of the ATIP Unit's workload involves responding to consultations in response to formal requests received by other federal institutions.

The graph below provides details on the increase in the number of consultations from other federal institutions since the Department was created in December 2003.

Number of ATI consultations from other institutions

graph

Investigations

Thirty-four (34) new complaints were brought to the attention of Public Safety Canada by the Information Commissioner during fiscal year 2007-2008, which represents a 34 per cent decrease from the previous year. Most of these complaints (26) concerned the length of extensions invoked, while six concerned the exemptions applied to withhold information. One complaint concerned the delay in responding, and one complaint concerned exclusions applied to withhold information.

The investigations of 29 complaints were completed during the reporting period. The Information Commissioner's findings with respect to the complaints are as follows: 26 were resolved, two were discontinued and one was not well-founded.

Appeals to the Court

There were no appeals to the Federal Court for fiscal year 2007-2008.

Informal Processes

Whenever possible, information is provided informally to the public by departmental employees. For example, the Communications Directorate responds to many media and other requests for information. Additionally, the departmental website serves as a valuable source of information, where audits, evaluations, reports, contracts over $25,000 and expenses of senior officials are routinely updated. Given the sensitivity of much of the information held in Public Safety Canada, there are few opportunities to disclose other types of information informally.

Training

The departmental training plan for 2007-2008 consisted primarily of ATIP awareness sessions sponsored by the ATIP Unit. Seventeen sessions took place over the year. A total of 383 employees, representing nearly half of Public Safety Canada's workforce and including employees in regional offices, participated in these full day sessions. The ATIP Unit also provides ongoing individualized training on departmental procedures to Public Safety Canada's employees who assume ATIP responsibilities.

Public Reading Room

The Access to Information Act requires that institutions maintain a reading room where the public can review records that have been disclosed by the Department's ATIP Unit over the past three years. Records are available for review at no charge. Photocopying costs are applied at $0.20 per page. The reading room also maintains a supply of the Department's publications covering various aspects of public safety in Canada and other subjects of interest to the Department.

Public Safety Canada's public reading room is located at the departmental library on the 10th floor of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier Building, 340 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa and is open from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday to Friday. Individuals who wish to review records must schedule an appointment with the ATIP Unit.

Report on the Privacy Act

Introduction

The Privacy Act protects the privacy of all Canadian citizens and permanent residents regarding personal information held by a government institution. It also gives individuals, including those in Canada who are not permanent residents or citizens, the right to access their own personal information.

Section 72 of the Privacy Act requires that the head of every government institution submit an annual report to Parliament on the administration of the Act during the financial year. This report describes how Public Safety Canada administered the Privacy Act throughout fiscal year 2007-2008.

About the Public Safety Portfolio

The Public Safety portfolio includes:

In previous years, institutions within the Public Safety portfolio prepared their respective portions of the report and the Minister submitted one consolidated report on behalf of all institutions in the Minister's portfolio. As of 2007-2008, the Minister will submit separate reports for each institution in accordance with common practice with other portfolios throughout the Government of Canada.

About Public Safety Canada

Public Safety Canada was created in 2003 to provide leadership and coordination across all federal departments and agencies responsible for the safety of Canadians. The Department delivers a range of programs related to national emergency preparedness, critical infrastructure protection and community safety. Working towards a safe and resilient Canada, the Department provides leadership, coordinates and supports the efforts of federal organizations responsible for the national security and safety of Canadians. The Department also works with other levels of government, first responders, community groups, the private sector and other countries to achieve its objectives.

To keep Canadians safe from a range of threats, the Department provides strategic policy advice and support to the Minister of Public Safety on issues related to public safety, including: national security; emergency management; policing and law enforcement; interoperability and information-sharing; border management; corrections and conditional release; Aboriginal policing; and, crime prevention.

Providing strategic public safety leadership, the Department works within a portfolio consisting of five agencies and three review bodies. These entities, including the Department, are united under the Public Safety portfolio and report to the same minister, resulting in enhanced integration among federal organizations dealing with public safety issues. The Department supports the Minister in all aspects of his mandate and plays a national public safety leadership role while respecting the separate accountability of each portfolio agency.

Also situated within the Department is the Office of the Inspector General of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), which carries out independent reviews of CSIS' compliance with the law, Ministerial direction and operational policy.

The Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Unit

The Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Unit is part of Public Safety Canada's Executive Services Division within the Department's Strategic Policy Branch. It is comprised of one Manager, four analysts and two administrative officers. The Director of the Executive Services Division served as the Department's ATIP Coordinator throughout the reporting year, in addition to directing the Department's Ministerial Correspondence and Speech-writing Units.

The ATIP Unit is responsible for the coordination and implementation of policies, guidelines and procedures to ensure departmental compliance with the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. The Unit also currently provides the following services to the Department:

Delegation of Authority

The responsibilities associated with the administration of the Privacy Act, such as notifying applicants of extensions and releasing records to applicants, are delegated to the departmental ATIP Coordinator through a delegation instrument signed by the Minister of Public Safety. The approval of all exemptions remains with the Deputy Minister, the Associate Deputy Minister, the Senior Assistant Deputy Minister and all Assistant Deputy Ministers.

A detailed delegation instrument is at Annex C.

Statistical Report - Interpretation and Analysis

Annex D provides a summarized statistical report on Privacy Act requests processed by Public Safety Canada between April 1, 2007 and March 31, 2008. The following section provides explanations and interpretations of this statistical information by analyzing the workload trends.

Overall workload trend

graph

The graph above indicates a significant increase in the number of overall requests received and processed by the ATIP Unit. The yearly totals include formal access and privacy requests, and consultations from other institutions. These figures do not reflect requests processed informally or other services that the ATIP Unit provides to the Department.

There has been a 98 per cent increase in the number of formal ATI requests received in the Department over the past five years, and the number of consultations received from other institutions has increased by 96 per cent over this same period. The number of privacy requests and privacy consultations has remained relatively stable. The graph below provides a detailed breakdown by category.

Workload trend by category

graph

Departmental efforts to address change in workload

In order to address the increasing workload, the Department is planning for investments in the ATIP Unit including new case management and imaging software commonly used by most institutions, a more capable hardware platform and an appropriate facility at the Department's headquarters.

The ATIP Unit has also modified its organizational structure to allow greater flexibility in recruitment and intends to create developmental positions in order to retain experienced employees. Public Safety continues to examine staffing levels in the ATIP Unit. As with most federal institutions, recruitment and retention of qualified ATIP professionals remains the most significant challenge. The challenge at Public Safety is complicated by the requirement that many ATIP staff require security clearances to the very highest level, given the nature of the Department's business.

Privacy Act requests received

Throughout the year, the Department received 17 requests pursuant to the Privacy Act, which is slightly higher than the number received last year. Two were carried forward from the previous year, resulting in a total of 19 requests to process during 2007-2008. Of these requests, 14 were completed within the year. The remaining five requests have been carried forward to the following reporting year.

The number of privacy requests has remained fairly constant over the years, and this number is not expected to increase significantly. Public Safety Canada collects little information directly from Canadians and therefore receives very few privacy requests. In comparison, portfolio agencies whose mandates are more operational in nature, such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), receive thousands of privacy requests annually.

Number of formal requests received by Public Safety Canada

graph

Extensions

Section 15 of the Privacy Act allows institutions to extend the legal deadline for processing a request if a search for responsive records cannot be completed within 30 days of receipt of the request or if the institution must consult with other institutions. The Department invoked one extension of less than 30 days in order to undertake consultations with other federal government institutions during the 2007-2008 reporting period.

Performance in meeting statutory deadlines for responding

Public Safety Canada responded to 12 of the 14 completed requests in 30 days or less. One was completed within 31 to 60 days, and another was completed within 61 and 120 days.

Disposition of requests for 2007-2008

Most of the privacy requests received in Public Safety Canada's ATIP Unit are intended for one of the institutions within the Minister's portfolio, such as the RCMP, CSC, CBSA or CSIS. For this reason, the Department is unable to process most of the requests we receive, as we often do not hold the records requested. The following graph identifies the decisions taken for requests completed during the year.

Disposition of Requests

chart

Consultations from other institutions

The Department received seven consultations from other institutions processing requests pursuant to the Privacy Act in 2007-2008. The graph below summarizes the number of consultations received over the past five years.

Number of Privacy Act consultations from other institutions

graph

Investigations

Two complaints were filed with the Privacy Commissioner this year, and both of these were closed during the reporting period. The Privacy Commissioner informed the Department that both complaints were settled in the course of the investigation.

Appeals to the Court

There were no appeals to the Court for fiscal year 2007-2008.

Training

The departmental training plan for 2007-2008 consisted primarily of ATIP awareness sessions sponsored by the ATIP Unit. Seventeen sessions took place over the year. A total of 383 employees, representing nearly half of Public Safety Canada's workforce and including employees in regional offices, participated in these full day sessions. While the focus of these sessions was primarily centered on the Access to Information Act, some privacy-related information was provided as well. The ATIP Unit also provides ongoing individualized training on departmental procedures to Public Safety employees who assume ATIP responsibilities within the branches, and responds to various privacy-related inquiries posed by departmental colleagues.

Privacy Impact Assessments completed during the year

The Department completed one Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) during the year, entitled the Passenger Protect Data Matching Report.

The Passenger Protect Program (PPP) is intended to prevent individuals who pose an immediate threat to aviation security from boarding an aircraft at a designated Canadian airport, or at an international airport with flights destined for Canada. Based upon information received from Canadian security and intelligence agencies, Transport Canada (TC) will compile a list of individuals on a Specified Persons List (SPL) who are to be denied boarding. Once a match between a person wishing to board an aircraft and someone on the SPL is discovered by an air carrier and subsequently confirmed by TC, the person will be denied boarding.

A PIA has been conducted on the PPP related to the implementation of section 4.81 of the Aeronautics Act. This PIA covers the policies and procedures that are to be established within the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to receive airline passenger information collected by TC, in accordance with section 4.82 of the Aeronautics Act, subsequent to an individual on the SPL being identified by an air carrier.

This PIA report examines the privacy-related impact associated with TC disclosing passenger data to CSIS and the RCMP, subsequent to an individual on the SPL being identified by an air carrier and proposes appropriate mitigation strategies for the identified risks.   The Passenger Protect Data Matching Report has been prepared as an addendum to the Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) of the Passenger Protect Program (PPP), to describe the points in the process when a data match occurs.

A summary of this PIA will be posted on the Public Safety Canada website once the summary has been finalized.

Data Matching and Data Sharing Activities reported for the period

There were no data matching or data sharing activities to report.

Disclosures pursuant to paragraph 8(2)(e), (f), (g) and (m) of the Privacy Act

Subsection 8(2) of the Privacy Act provides limited and specific circumstances under which institutions may disclose personal information without an individual's consent. Treasury Board Secretariat identified four categories of disclosures made by virtue of specific paragraphs of this subsection that institutions must include in this year's annual report. These categories concern disclosures made for law enforcement purposes, to Members of Parliament and those made in the public interest.

During the reporting period, Public Safety Canada did not disclose personal information pursuant to paragraphs 8(2)(e), (f), (g) and (m) of the Privacy Act.

Annex A:

Delegation Orders - Access to Information Act (PDF 129 KB)

Annex B:

Statistical Report - Access to Information Act (PDF 32 KB)

Annex C:

Delegation Orders - Privacy Act (PDF 132 KB)

Annex D:

Statistical Report - Privacy Act (PDF 28 KB)

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