Annual Report to Parliament 2014-2015
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.

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 of 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 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 in dealings 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;
  • 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.See Part III: Delegation Order.

Within the ATIP Office, 19 employees were dedicated on a full-time basis to the administration of the ATIA and related functions.

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 set out in the Processing Chart.

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 the 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.

Processing Chart

Processing Chart

Description

Administrative Issues

Salary and Administrative Expenditures

A total of 19 person-years were utilized on a full-time basis in the administration of the ATIA. The salary expenditures amounted to $1,379,982.

The administrative expenditures amounted to $327,548 which include professional services contracts.

These costs do not include resources expended by the Department’s other sectors to meet the requirements under the ATIA.

Accomplishments

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 2014–2015, the ATIP Office has accomplished the following:

  • To reduce internal processing timelines and paper consumption, the ATIP Office has implemented the use of SharePoint, a Web application platform, for the transfer of information with the Offices of Primary Interest where possible;
  • To better serve Canadians, the Department of Justice joined the Access to Information and Privacy Online Request Pilot Project. Canadians can submit requests under 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 has 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 as well as the summaries of completed requests to the Department’s Internet website, thereby improving communications with requesters and to promote transparency. This practice is in accordance with the Treasury Board Secretariat’s directives and policies as well as with the 10 principles of practice (see Appendix B) outlined on the ATIP Office’s website for the public;
  • 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 provided 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. This fiscal year, these sessions were provided to the following groups:

  • Policies and Planning Division, Policy Sector (10 employees);
  • Public Safety Canada, Legal Services (1 employee).

The Centre for Information and Privacy Law (CIPL) also offered training to 276 Departmental Employees:

  • Access to Information Act and Privacy Act in the Government Context (20 employees);
  • Cabinet Confidences (4 sessions for a total of 139 employees);
  • ATIP Exemptions for State-to-State Communications and Solicitor-Client Privileged Records (74 employees);
  • John Doe v. Ontario (Finance) (Legislative counsels – 10 employees); and,
  • Video Link Training Session (Ontario Regional Office – 33 employees).

In addition, formal training was offered through the Department of Justice’s Learning Program, for an additional 231 employees:

  • ATIP Fundamentals (2 sessions for a total of 47 employees);
  • CIPL Retreat (12 employees);
  • CIPL Training Day (116 employees); and,
  • Fundamentals of Solicitor-Client Privilege in the Government Context (2 sessions for a total of 56 employees).

ATIP training is also part of the recommended courses under the values and ethics component of the Department’s Roadmap for new managers. An e-orientation deck is also posted on the Department’s Intranet site for employee consultation.

Furthermore, a key priority in 2013-2014 was to increase outreach activities for the wider ATIP community. As previously indicated, as a complement to updating and communicating its service standards regarding consultations, the ATIP Office, in partnership with the CIPL, began offering a workshop that assists other practitioners in understanding solicitor-client privilege in the federal government context, when and how to apply the relevant exemptions to a record, and when to consult the Department for additional input. This training was developed to share expertise for the purpose of increasing consistency within the community as well as to encourage best practices that would assist in making the consultation process between the Department and other institutions more efficient. These bilingual sessions continued to be provided for this reporting period:

  • Library and Archives Canada (11 participants);
  • Public Works and Government Services Canada (24 participants);
  • Parks Canada (5 participants); and,
  • Canadian Heritage (9 participants).

The CIPL also provided an information session to other Government institutions on the John Doe v. Ontario (Finance) decision:

  • ATIP Coordinators (20 participants); and,
  • TBS ATIP ADM Steering Committee (20 participants).

Moreover, ATIP employees regularly participate in collective awareness sessions with the 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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