Annual Report to Parliament 2013-2014
Access to Information Act

Part II: Report on the Access to Information Act

Requests Under the Access to Information Act

I. Statistical Report

The annual statistical report for Fiscal Year 2013-2014 is included at the end of this chapter.

II. Interpretation of the Statistical Report

Overview of Requests Pursuant to the Access to Information Act
Fiscal Year # of Requests Received # of Requests Completed # of Pages Processed # of Pages Released
2013-2014 548 528 189,383 46,737
2012-2013 343 323 114,650 34,368
2011-2012 331 313 73,640 29,977
Requests Received Pursuant to the Access to Information Act

548 requests were received during the period under review. In addition, 93 requests were carried forward from previous years, for a total of 641 requests. The number of requests received represents an increase of 205 requests from last year’s total of 343 requests.

The media was the largest group of requesters. Of the 548 requests received during this reporting period, 245 (45%) requests came from the media, followed by 189 from the public (34%), and 74 from businesses (14%).

Sources

Sources

Description

Request Completed Pursuant to the Access to Information Act

528 requests were completed during the period under review. 113 requests were carried forward to be completed in fiscal year 2014-2015.

Of 528 requests, 476 (90%) were completed within the allowable time limits.

There was an increase in the number of pages reviewed from those of the previous year (61%). Responding to formal access to information requests involved the review of 189,383 pages, of which 46,737 pages were partially or entirely disclosed.

Disposition of Completed Requests

Of the 528 requests completed in Fiscal Year 2013-2014:

  • 57 were transferred to other federal institutions that possessed a greater interest in the subject matter of the request;
  • No relevant records existed under the control of the Department of Justice for 87 requests;
  • 56 requests were abandoned by the applicant. In the majority of cases, the applicant did not pursue the requests, either by withdrawing them or by not providing the clarification that was requested by the ATIP Office;
  • 4 were treated informally, with the consent of the applicants.

The remaining 324 requests were released in the following manner:

  • 75 were fully disclosed (23%);
  • 232 were partially disclosed (71%);
  • 15 were exempted in their entirety (5%);
  • 2 were excluded in its entirety (1%).

Dispositions

Dispositions

Description

Completion Time and Extensions

Out of the 528 requests completed in 2013-2014, 380 (72%) were processed within 30 days or less.

Processing Timeframes

Processing Timeframes

Description

The ATIP Office routinely monitors the processing time for access to information requests. This routine monitoring is done through various statistical reports (weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly) and meetings with ATIP staff to ensure that requests are being processed in a most timely manner. All ATIP staff, portfolio contacts and senior management are made aware of the performance metrics.

In some instances the Department found it necessary to seek extensions to the prescribed time limits due to the large number of records (65 times) and/or to consult with other government institutions (73 times); or third parties (2 times).

Exemptions Invoked

The Department invoked exemptions under the Access to Information Act for 247requests. Section 21 was invoked most often (210 times), which exempts information relating to the internal decision-making processes of government. This is followed by section 19 (164 times), which exempts personal information, and section 23 (153 times), which exempts information relating to solicitor-client privilege. For further details regarding all of the exemptions invoked, please refer to the Statistical Report at the end of this chapter.

Exclusions Cited

Exclusions were invoked a total of 7 times pursuant to section 68 (information available to for purchase by the public) and 75 times pursuant to section 69 (confidences of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada) of the Access to Information Act.

Method of Access

A total of 234 requesters wanted copies and 73 requesters chose to receive information on CD-ROM at no extra charge, thereby eliminating the costs for photocopies as well as reducing the ATIP Office’s paper footprint.  

Fees and Fee Waivers

During the reporting period, $2,435.00 was collected in application fees, and fees were waived in 41 instances ($205.00). Search fees were collected in eight instances for a total of $2,885.00 and were waived or refunded in thirteen other instances ($9,924.00). An additional $5,439.30 was waived in production fees (233 instances).

The policy of the Department of Justice is to waive the reproduction fees under 200 sheets (double-sided = 400 actual pages in total). However, when more than 200 sheets are released, fees are calculated for the total number of sheets. For extensive or complex requests, search and preparation fees are charged as determined on a case-by-case basis. The Department offers the requesters the possibility of receiving the release package on CD-ROM at no charge, an option which tends to be more widely accepted.

During the reporting period, the Department of Justice waived all reproduction fees.

III. Consultations by other Federal Institutions or Departments

Overview of Consultations Requests Received from Other Government Institutions
Overview of Consultations Requests Received from Other Government Institutions
Fiscal Year # of Requests Received # of Pages Received # of Requests Completed # of Pages Reviewed
2013-2014 919 40,681 1,046 57,145
2012-2013 1,343 71,139 1,293 56,128
2011-2012 1,340 68,527 1,295 61,305

During the period under review, the Department received 919 requests from other government institutions and organizations requesting our recommendations regarding records originating, pertaining to, or of interest to the Department of Justice. In addition, 216 consultations outstanding from previous years were carried over, for a total of 1,135. In total, the Department was asked to review 65,650 pages of information for these consultations.

Of the 1,135 consultations active throughout the reporting period, 1,046 were completed during the 2013-2014 fiscal year and the remaining amount, 89, were carried forward to be completed in Fiscal Year 2014-2015.

IV. Other Types of Requests

Informal Requests

The policy of the ATIP Office is to process requests on an informal basis when records have already been released in response to previous ATIA requests or where the Department has already informally released documents elsewhere. As a result of the online posting of summaries of completed ATIA requests, there was an increase of informal requests for previously released information.

The ATIP Office processed 206 informal requests, as compared to 144 requests in the previous year. This number does not include the numerous emails or telephone calls from potential applicants who were responded to informally or were redirected to other institutions.

Advice

The ATIP Office also acted as a resource on several occasions for departmental officials as well as those from other government institutions, offering advice and guidance on the provisions of the legislation as well as related policies. The Office was consulted on the disclosure and collection of information on a wide range of issues.

V. Complaints, Investigations and Federal Court Cases

Complaints Filed

50 complaints were filed with the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) during the reporting period. The reasons for the complaints were as follows:

  • 4 related to time limits;
  • 1 related to the extension;
  • 34 concerned the exemption or exclusion of information; and
  • 11 concerned the handling of the request.
Completed Investigations

Complaint findings are defined as follows:

  • Well founded: The OIC found evidence of the complainant’s rights being denied under the Access to Information Act;
  • Not well founded: As a result of the investigation, the OIC found that the institution applied the Access to Information Act correctly;
  • Discontinued: The complaint was withdrawn or abandoned by the complainant before allegations were fully investigated; and
  • Settled: The complaint was settled to the satisfaction of all parties without the need for the OIC to make a finding.

A total of 29 investigations were completed during the reporting period, some of which had been carried forward from previous years. Out of these 29, two complaints were resolved to the satisfaction of the OIC, ten were well founded, six were not well founded, and 11 were discontinued by the complainant.

The key issues raised and actions taken
Legal Billings:

Many complaints related to the application of solicitor-client privilege in the context of the Access to Information Act request submitted for legal billings costs were addressed with the Information Commissioner. In four recent complaints, the OIC challenged the Department on the application of solicitor-client privilege to legal billings. The Department of Justice maintained its position in three of the four cases.

Information to be published:

The OIC has challenged the Department on its broad interpretation of section 26 of the Act and whether it may be interpreted to include the preparation of records for posting on a website as outlined in its internal guidance document. Although the Department maintains its position, at the request of the OIC, it has amended its internal guidance document to clarify that section 26 is a discretionary exemption.

Grants and Contributions:

As mentioned earlier in this report, further to a complaint, the Department has amended its Grants and Contributions Application Form to include a caveat informing applicants that the information provided to the Department will be entirely disclosed, with the exception of personal information, which will be treated in accordance with the Privacy Act.

At the end of the fiscal year, 67 complaints were still under investigation by the OIC.

Review by the Federal Court of Canada

One new application was filed before the Federal Court pursuant to section 41 of the Access to Information Act during this fiscal year.

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