Annual Report to Parliament 2015-2016
Access to Information Act
Part I: General Information
Department of Justice
To better understand the context within which the ATIA is administered, this section provides background information about the Department of Justice.
The Department of Justice has a dual mandate. This mandate stems from the dual role of the Minister of Justice, who is also the Attorney General of Canada.
In support of the Minister of Justice, the Department is responsible for providing policy and program advice and direction through the development of the legal content of bills, regulations, and guidelines. In support to the Attorney General of Canada, the Department is responsible for litigating civil cases by or on behalf of the Federal Crown and for providing legal advice to federal law enforcement agencies and other government departments.
Access to Information Activities
The Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Coordinator is accountable for the development, coordination, and implementation of effective policies, guidelines, systems, and procedures in order to enable efficient processing of requests under the ATIA. The Coordinator is also responsible for related policies, systems, and procedures stemming from the ATIA.
Activities of the ATIP Office include:
- Processing requests under the ATIA;
- Acting as spokesperson for the Department of Justice in dealing with the Treasury Board Secretariat, the Information Commissioner, and other government departments and agencies regarding the application of the ATIA;
- Responding to consultation requests submitted by other federal institutions on Department of Justice documents located in their files, and on records that may be subject to solicitor-client privilege;
- Coordinating, reviewing, approving, and publishing new entries and modifications to Info Source, an annual Government of Canada resource that describes its organization and information holdings;
- Preparing the Annual Report to Parliament and other statutory reports, as well as other materials that may be required by central agencies;
- Developing policies, procedures, and guidelines for the orderly implementation of the ATIA by the Department;
- Providing advice regarding the ATIA, as well as promoting awareness, to ensure departmental respect of the obligations imposed on the government; and
- Monitoring departmental compliance with the ATIA, its regulations and relevant procedures and policies.
Organization for the Implementation of Access to Information Activities
The ATIP Coordinator, who is also referred to as the ATIP Director, has full authority delegated by the Minister for the administration of the Act. For the purpose of increased executive oversight, full authority is also conferred to the Assistant Deputy Minister and Chief Financial Officer, Management Sector and the Chief Information Officer. The Delegation Order can be found at Appendix A of this report.
Within the ATIP Office, 17 employees were dedicated on a full-time basis to the administration of the ATIA and related functions. The organizational chart of the ATIP Office is as follows:
Organizational Chart of the ATIP Office
Organizational Chart of the ATIP Office – Text version
Listing the title of each position, this organizational chart describes the reporting structure of the ATIP Office:
- The head of the Office is the Director.
- 1 Chief of Policy, 1 Chief of Operations, 1 Legal Counsel and 1 Administrative Assistant report to the Director.
- 1 Policy, Evaluation and Reporting Advisor and 1 Systems Administrator report to the Chief of Policy.
- 2 Senior Advisors/Team Leaders and 3 Senior Advisors report to the Chief of Operations.
- Each team reports to a Team Leader:
- Team 1 is composed of 4 ATIP Advisors, ATIP Analyst and 1 Junior Analyst.
- Team 2 is composed of 4 ATIP Advisors and 1 Junior Analyst and 1 Processing Assistant ”
Officials of the Department were directly involved in the application of the ATIA by making recommendations concerning the disclosure of records and by ensuring compliance with the provisions of the Act.
The stages for processing requests are as follows:
Stages for Processing Requests
Stages for Processing Requests – Text version
This flowchart tracks the processing life cycle of an Access to Information request. Once a request has been received, it is analyzed and a search for relevant records is conducted. The records that are found are reviewed in light of recommendations that have been received. The records are then prepared for release as a response package. Once the response package has been finalized, it is reviewed and approved by the ATIP Director. Upon approval, the response package is sent out to the requester.
The reading rooms at the Department of Justice headquarters and those located in the regional offices across Canada make available to the public the most recent published version of Info Source, as well as departmental publications and manuals. Many of these publications can be found on the Department of Justice and the Treasury Board Secretariat’s websites.
Salary and Administrative Expenditures
A total of 17 person-years were utilized on a full-time basis in the administration of the ATIA. The salary expenditures amounted to $1,291,079.00.
The administrative expenditures amounted to $1,500,234.00, which included professional services contracts.
These costs do not include resources expended by the Department’s other sectors to meet the requirements under the ATIA.
The Department of Justice continues to strive to provide leadership and improve its performance in order to maintain the highest standards of service. For fiscal year 2015-2016, the ATIP Office has accomplished the following:
- To reduce internal processing timelines and paper consumption, when appropriate, the ATIP Office used SharePoint, a Web application platform, for the transfer of information with the Offices of Primary Interest;
- To better serve Canadians, the Department of Justice continued to be part of the Access to Information and Privacy Online Request Pilot Project. Canadians can continue to submit requests under the ATIA through an online channel. This channel also incorporates the Receiver General Buy Button service, enabling requesters to pay the requisite $5.00 application fee for access to information requests, which avoids the need to mail in a personal cheque with their request. The button also allows for substantial economy on the administrative processing of a physical cheque;
- To ensure that the consultation process remains as efficient as possible, the Department developed guidelines for the ATIP community that clarify the ATIP Office’s role in requests that have been received by other federal government institutions pursuant to the ATIA. Additionally, the Office has updated and communicated its service standards to assist the community in estimating the turnaround time for consultations with the Department. The timeframes continue to be reviewed periodically to ensure that they remain current;
- Since the majority of consultations with the ATIP Office involves the application of solicitor-client privilege, the Office has continued to provide training to the ATIP community that focuses on the application of solicitor-client privilege;
- The Department of Justice continues to post its annual reports to Parliament to the Department’s website as well as the summaries of the completed requests on the Open Government Portal, thereby improving communications with requesters and promoting transparency. This practice is in accordance with the Treasury Board Secretariat’s directives and policies and with the 10 principles of practice outlined on the ATIP Office’s website for the public;
- Continued to develop internal guidance documents and tools to ensure consistency, and to document best practices and lessons learned. These guidance documents are routinely discussed at regular staff meetings and updated as required;
- Continued to update its internal procedures in order to process ATIA requests more efficiently and to share its best practices with other government institutions; and
- Continued to reduce paper consumption by printing double-sided, as well as providing release packages electronically to requesters when appropriate.
Education and Training
ATIP officers regularly provide advice and informal training on the application of ATIP legislation to departmental employees who must review relevant records requested under the ATIA.
Formal awareness information sessions are also offered to other sectors within the Department. Particular emphasis is placed on those aspects of the Act that are directly related to the employees’ areas of responsibility. No sessions were provided this fiscal year.
The Centre for Information and Privacy Law (CIPL) also offered training to 315 departmental employees:
- Cabinet Confidences Training (3 sessions for a total of 71 participants – CIPL Counsel and ATIP Designated Counsels and paralegals)
- Cabinet Confidentiality in Canada (30 participants – Department of Justice Advisory Counsel and others)
- The Access to Information Act and the Legislative Services Branch: Process, Solicitor-Client Privilege and Cabinet Confidences (60 participants – Legislative Services Branch)
- Overview of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act (3 sessions for a total of 96 participants)
- Brown Bag Lunch – Cabinet Confidences (35 participants – Public Law Sector)
- Web X SharePoint (4 sessions for a total of 23 participants – ATIP Designated Counsel)
In addition, formal training was offered through the Department of Justice’s Learning Program, to an additional 82 employees:
- ATIP Fundamentals – 2015 (2 sessions for a total of 37 participants)
- Fundamentals of Solicitor-Client Privilege in the Government Context (2 sessions for a total of 45 participants)
ATIP training is part of the recommended courses under the values and ethics component of the Department’s Roadmap for new Managers. An e-orientation deck is posted on the Department’s Intranet site for employee consultation.
The CIPL also provided information sessions outside the Department of Justice, to other government institutions (total of approximately 320 participants):
- 2 Sessions with the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Privy Council Office to the ATIP Community on the Review of the Cabinet Confidences Process (for a total of approximately 250 participants)
- The Application of the Access to Information Act to the External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Ontario (3 participants – Panel Members)
- To the Public Service Commission (40 participants)
- Solicitor-Client Privilege (20 participants – Transport Canada ATIP Office)
- Access to Information Act (7 participants – Consular Services, Global Affairs Canada Legal Counsel)
ATIP employees regularly participate in collective awareness sessions with ATIP Counsel to review recent jurisprudence and case law related to the ATIA. The ATIP Counsel participates in monthly ATIP Practice Group meetings during which information is exchanged and viable solutions are proposed. The Practice Group is open to all departmental counsel, including those from Legal Services Units, and its mandate is to discuss questions such as the right of access to information or privacy issues.
In addition to mentorship and partnership relationships, workshops and presentations are also regularly provided within the ATIP Office on various topics concerning the application of the ATIA and related policy and procedures. This allows ATIP employees to benefit from each other’s respective levels of experience and knowledge.
Finally, ATIP employees participate in training sessions, conferences and seminars organized by the Treasury Board Secretariat or by various associations on matters relating to both access and privacy. These exchanges provide updates for employees in the development of ATIP and upcoming trends in this area.
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