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Access to Information Act - Annual Report to Parliament 2010-2011

Table of Contents

Introduction

The Access to Information Act (R.S. 1985, c. A-1) came into force on July 1, 1983.

The purpose of the Act is to extend the present laws of Canada to provide a right of access to information in records under the control of a government institution in accordance with the principles that government information should be available to the public, that necessary exceptions to the right of access should be limited and specific, and that decisions on the disclosure of government information should be reviewed independently of government.

The Act provides every person who is a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident with a right of access to any record under the control of a government institution, with some specific, limited exceptions.

Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) is committed to both the spirit and the intent of the Access to Information Act to ensure openness and transparency within the department. This report summarizes WD’s implementation of the Act, and fulfils the requirement under Section 72, which stipulates that, “The head of every government institution shall prepare for submission to Parliament an annual report on the administration of this Act within the institution during each financial year.”

WD will post the annual report to Parliament on its public web site (www.wd.gc.ca/eng/59.asp) once it is tabled in the House of Commons and Senate. Alternatively, a request may be submitted to:

Access to Information and Privacy Coordinator
Western Economic Diversification Canada
Suite 1500, Canada Place
9700 Jasper Avenue N.W.
Edmonton, Alberta
T5J 4H7
atip-aiprp@wd-deo.gc.ca

Mandate

Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) was established in 1987 to help lessen Western Canada’s (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) strong economic dependence on natural resources. Under the Western Economic Diversification Act, 1988, the department is mandated to “…promote the development and diversification of the economy of Western Canada and to advance the interests of Western Canada in national economic policy, program and project development, and implementation.”

To support these outcomes, WD’s programs encourage business development, innovation and community economic development in rural and urban communities. The department plays an important leadership and coordination role in furthering western interests and responding to regional challenges. WD works strategically through partnerships with all orders of government, academic and research institutes, industry associations and non-profit organizations to implement initiatives that leverage funds and expertise for the benefit of the West and western Canadians.

The department organizes its programs and services to pursue its mandate effectively through the following Strategic Outcome: “The western Canadian economy is developed and diversified,” and specifically through program activities that include:

  • Business Development;
  • Innovation;
  • Community Economic Development;
  • Policy, Advocacy and Coordination.

WD’s strategic investments in these areas will help to fulfill its vision:

To be leaders in creating a more diversified western Canadian economy that has strong, competitive and innovative businesses and communities.

 

Access to Information and Privacy Unit

Overview

For the purposes of the Access to Information Act, the Minister of the Public Works and Government Services, Minister of Status of Women and minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification delegated her powers, authorities and responsibilities to the Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management (Access to Information and Privacy Coordinator) and Manager, Corporate Administration (Deputy Access to Information and Privacy Coordinator). These individuals are accountable for the development, coordination and implementation of effective policies, guidelines, systems and procedures to ensure the Minister’s responsibilities under the Act are met and enabling the appropriate processing and proper disclosure of information. In 2010, the delegation also extended limited authority to the Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Officer to acknowledge access requests and manage related extensions, which is consistent with the best practices identified in an April 2010 Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) study.

One full-time ATIP Officer in the Corporate Administration unit assists the Coordinator and Deputy Coordinator with ATIP functions at WD.

Regional ATIP Liaison Officers (RALOs) are located in WD’s regional offices in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, in the Policy and Strategic Direction office in Ottawa and within the Corporate Headquarters and Human Resources units. Access- and privacy-related responsibilities are not the primary work responsibilities of these individuals, but are in addition to responsibilities of their substantive positions. The RALOs include representation from Communications, regional Finance and Corporate Services units, the Corporate Secretariat, Corporate Finance and Human Resources. RALOs are the first point of contact and identify the appropriate subject experts, coordinate retrieval of records responding to access requests and liaise between the ATIP Unit and regional staff concerning enquiries.

The activities of WD’s ATIP Unit include:

  • processing requests in accordance with the Act;
  • responding to consultations submitted by other federal institutions on WD records being considered for release;
  • developing and maintaining policies, procedures and guidelines to ensure the Act is respected by staff;
  • promoting awareness of the Act within the department to ensure staff is aware of the obligations imposed by the legislation;
  • preparing annual reports to Parliament and other statutory requirements, such as annual statistical reports and the department’s Info Source chapter, as well as any material that may be required by central agencies;
  • representing WD in dealings with TBS, the Information Commissioner of Canada and other federal organisations regarding the application of the Act as it relates to WD;
  • monitoring departmental compliance with the Act, its regulations as well as relevant policies and procedures;
  • providing ongoing advice and guidance to senior management and all staff on information management and access to information legislation.

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Departmental Policies and Procedures

In accordance with the TBS Directive on Administration of the Access to Information Act that came into effect on April 1, 2010, WD updated its Access to Information Policy to ensure that its employees understand their duty to assist and to include internal procedures to address suspected obstructions of the right of access, which are defined in section 67.1 of the Act and section 6.2.10 of the Policy on Access to Information (see Appendix A).

The department’s internal Access to Information Procedures Manual underwent significant changes in 2010. The updated manual was completed in March 2011. Copies of the updated manual were provided to RALOs and posted to the department’s internal web site for general information.

In addition, WD improved information about ATIP on its public web site, including specific information about how to make a request under the Access to Information Act (see Appendix B).

Access to Information Training and Awareness

The ATIP Coordinator, Deputy ATIP Coordinator and ATIP Officer provide ongoing advice on access to information issues to RALOs and staff to increase awareness of the Act. They also provide guidance on how the department processes access requests, and the rationale required to apply the exemptions and exclusions, where appropriate.

WD ATIP Staff Training:

The Deputy ATIP Coordinator and ATIP Officer attended the Access and Privacy Conference held in Edmonton in June 2010. The ATIP Officer also attended TBS ATIP Community Meetings in April, May, September and November 2010 and February 2011 and participated in TBS training sessions on extensions and Section 20 in November and December 2010.

WD Staff Training:

  • In January 2010, an ATIP Meeting and Awareness Session with the RALOs was held in Edmonton (12 attendees). This two-day meeting was the first session held specifically for the RALOs and included an overview of the Act, annual reporting requirements, access procedures, training and in-depth exemptions and exclusions review, information security and records management information sessions as well as roundtable discussions.
  • In February 2010, an Access to Information Awareness Session was held in the Calgary office (nine attendees).
  • As part of its access procedures, the ATIP Officer meets with the appropriate RALO and subject experts before retrieving records responding to access requests. This has improved awareness and ensured understanding of requirements and timelines as well as clarifying the scope of requests to ensure that records and appropriate advice are received.
  • A WD Access to Information Act Exemption/Exclusion Guide was compiled by the ATIP Unit to assist subject experts who are responsible for providing advice on records under the care and control of the department and to help them consider whether information is sensitive and potentially requiring severance before being disclosed to the requestor.

“The ATIP Eye” tips are sent to WD staff via email and posted on the department’s internal web site. The tips provide advice on frequently asked questions, specific exemptions or areas where the department might improve on its obligations under the Act in 2010–2011, nine tips and specific access messages were prepared, including providing advice, third-party information, Cabinet confidences, the duty to assist, the “need to know,” security and federal–provincial affairs. The tips are shared with ATIP officials in federal departments, including the regional development agencies in Quebec and Atlantic Canada, the Canadian Space Agency, National Research Council of Canada and other departments that are part of the Small Agency Administrators Network.

The department also promoted Right to Know Week (September 27–October 1, 2010) via email to all staff as a news bulletin on WD’s intranet site.

The department also maintains an “Access to Information and Privacy” presence on its internal web site that includes policies, procedures, contact information, past training and awareness presentations, relevant links to useful sites related to access and privacy as well as “The ATIP Eye” tips noted above.

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Info Source

WD made substantial changes to its 2010 Info Source chapter to include improvements that the Treasury Board Portfolio office identified as part of the Management Accountability Framework review of Area of Management No. 12 in 2009, including assigning unique record numbers to each Institution-Specific Class of Record. TBS advised that the 2010 submission meet TBS requirements, needed minor corrections and provided general advice concerning the ongoing update and maintenance of the information contained in the chapter.

Access to Information Act and Privacy Act Delegation Order

Text version: Access to Information Act and Privacy Act Delegation Order
Display full-size graphic

Scanned image of Delegation Order for the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act.

Access to Information Act Delegation of Authority Schedule

Sections of the Act Powers and Duties Position
7(a) Notice where access requested
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
  • ATIP Officer
8(1)

Transfer to – transfer from institution

  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
9

Extension of time limits

  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
  • ATIP Officer
11(2), (3), (4), (5), (6) Additional fees
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
12(2) Language of access
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
12(3) Access in an alternative format
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
13 Information obtained in confidence
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
14 Federal-provincial affairs
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
15 International affairs and defence
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
16

Law enforcement and investigations

  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
17 Safety of individuals
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
18 Economic interests of Canada
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
19 Personal information
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
20 Third party information
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
21

Advice, etc.

  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
22

Testing procedures, tests and audits

  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
23 Solicitor-client privilege
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
24 Statutory prohibitions
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
25 Severance
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
26

Refusal of access where information to be published

  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
27(1), (4) Third party notification
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
  • ATIP Officer
28(1), (2), (4) Third party notification
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
  • ATIP Officer
29(1) Disclosure on recommendation of Information Commissioner
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
33

Advise Information Commissioner of third party involvement

  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
  • ATIP Officer
35(2) Right to make representations
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
37(4) Access to be given complainant
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
43(1) Notice of third party (application to Federal Court for review)
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
44(2) Notice to applicant (application to Federal Court by third party)
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
52(2), (3) Special rules of hearings
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
69

Excluded information

  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
71(2)

Exempt information severed from manuals

  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration
77 Responsibilities conferred on the head of the institution by the regulations made under section 77 which are not included above
  • Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Management
  • Manager, Corporate Administration

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2010–2011 Report on the Access to Information Act (Statistical Report)

Name of institution: Western Economic Diversification Canada / Diversification de l'économie de l'Ouest Canada

Reporting period:From: 2010/04/01
to: 2011/03/31

I – Requests under the Access to Information Act / Demandes en vertu de la Loi sur l'accès à l'information

Received during reporting period / Reçues pendant la période visée par le rapport 18
Outstanding from previous period / En suspens depuis la période antérieure 1
Total 19
Completed during reporting period / Traitées pendant la période visées par le rapport 19
Carried forward / Reportées 0

 

II – Dispositon of requests completed / Disposition à l'égard des demandes traitées

All disclosed / Communication totale 6
Disclosed in part / Communication partielle 7
Nothing disclosed (excluded) / Aucune communication (exclusion) 0
Nothing disclosed (exempt) / Aucune communication (exemption) 0
Transferred / Transmission 0
Unable to process / Traitement impossible 1
Abandoned by applicant / Abandon de la demande 5
Treated informally / Traitement non officiel 0
Total 19

 

III – Exemptions invoked / Exceptions invoquées

Section Number of requests
S. Art. 13(1)(a) 0
S. Art. 19(1)(a) 0
(b) 1
(c) 0
(d) 0
S. Art. 14 1
S. 15(1) International rel. / Art. Relations interm. 0
Defence / Défense 0
Subversive activities / Activités subversives 0
S. Art 16(1)(a) 0
(b) 0
(c) 0
(d) 0
S. Art. 16(2) 2
S. Art. 16(3) 0
S. Art. 17 0
S. Art. 18(a) 1
S. Art. 18(b) 1
(c) 0
(d) 0
S. Art. 19(1) 6
S. Art. 20(1)(a) 0
(b) 6
(c) 2
(d) 0
S. Art. 21(1)(a) 4
(b) 4
(c) 2
(d) 1
S. Art.22 0
S. Art 23 2
S. Art. 24 0
S. Art 26 0

 

IV – Exclusions cited / Exclusions citées

Section Number of requests
S. Art. 68(a) 0
(b) 0
(c) 0
S. Art. 69(1)(a) 0
(b) 0
S. Art. 69(1)(c) 0
(d) 0
(e) 1
(f) 0
(g) 1

 

V – Completion time / Délai de traitement

30 days or under / 30 jours ou moins 15
31 to 60 days / De 31 à 60 jours 2
61 to 120 days / De 61 à 120 jours 2
121 days or over / 121 jours ou plus 0

 

VI – Extentions / Prorogations des délais

  30 days or under / 30 jours ou moins 31 days or over / 31 jours ou plus
Searching / Recherche 0 0
Consultation 2 2
Third party / Tiers 0 1
Total 2 3

 

VII – Translations/ Traductions

Translations requested / Traductions demandées 0
Translations prepared / English to French / De l'anglais au français 0
Traductions préparées French to English / Du français à l'anglais 0

 

VIII - Method of access / Méthode de consultation

Copies given / Copies de l'original 13
Examination / Examen de l'original 0
Copies and examination / Copies et examen 0

 

IX – Corrections and notation / Corrections et mention

Net fees collected / Frais net perçus
Application fees / Frais de la demande $70.00 Preparation / Préparation $0.00
Reproduction $38.00 Computer processing / Traitement informatique $0.00
Searching / Recherche $0.00 TOTAL $108.00
Fees waived / Dispense de frais No. of times / Nombre de fois $
$25.00 or under / 25 $ ou moins 12 $107.00
Over $25.00 / De plus de 25 $ 0 $0.00

 

X – Costs / Coûts

Financial (all reasons) / Financiers (raisons) Amount ($)
Salary / Traitement $58,571
Administration (O and M) / Administration (fonctionnement et maintien) $15,005
Total $73,576

 

Person year utilization (all reasons) / Années-personnes utilisées (raisons)
Person year (decimal format) / Années-personnes (nombre décimal) .8

 

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Additional Reporting Requirements – Access to Information Act

Part III – Exemptions invoked
Paragraph 13(1)(e) WD did not invoke any of these exemptions during the 2010–2011 reporting period.
Paragraph 16.1(1)(a)
Paragraph 16.1(1)(b)
Paragraph 16.1(1)(c)
Paragraph 16.1(1)(d)
Subsection 16.2(1)
Subsection 16.3
Paragraph 16.4(1)(a)
Paragraph 16.4(1)(b)
Subsection 16.5
Paragraph 18.1(1)(a)
Paragraph 18.1(1)(b)
Paragraph 18.1(1)(c)
Paragraph 18.1(1)(d)
Paragraph 20(1)(b.1)
Subsection 20.1
Subsection 20.2
Subsection 20.4
Subsection 22.1(1)

 

Part IV – Exclusions cited
Subsection 68.1 WD did not invoke any of these exclusions during the 2010–2011 reporting period.
Paragraph 68.2(a)
Paragraph 68.2(b)
Subsection 69.(1)

 

Access to Information Trends and Statistical Overview

Highlights

  • Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) updated its Access to Information Policy to include the duty to assist and include internal procedures to address suspected obstructions of the right of access as well as its internal Access to Information Procedures Manual.
  • Training efforts increased substantially, including an awareness meeting and training session for the Regional Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Liaison Officers (RALOs), an Access to Information awareness session in the Calgary office and the implementation of pre-processing meetings to improve awareness and establish procedures for retrieval of records and providing advice.
  • In addition, the ATIP Unit reviewed and provided advice on 10 audit and evaluation reports and their related documents, as well as other reports, prior to information being posted to WD’s public web site.

Challenges

  • WD has identified no specific challenges in 2010–2011 pertaining to administering its obligations under the Access to Information Act.

2010-2011 Trends

  • WD has identified no specific trends in 2010-2011 pertaining to the formal requests received under the Access to Information Act.

Requests Received Pursuant to the Access to Information Act

In 2010–2011, WD received 18 requests for information under the Access to Information Act and one request carried forward from 2009-2010. The number of requests received in 2010-2011 is consistent with the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

Sources of Formal Requests

The breakdown of the sources of requests received in 2010-2011 is as follows:

  • seven (39 percent) from the general public;
  • five (28 percent) from business;
  • three (17 percent) from other organizations, two of which were from a political party;
  • two (10.5 percent) from the media;
  • one (5.5 percent) from academia.

The accompanying chart shows the comparison of sources between 2010-2011 and 2009-2010. In 2009-2010, 72 percent of the requests were received from the general public, 17 percent from the media and 11 percent from other organizations, one of which was a political party.

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Text version (Link 1): Comparison of Requests by Source – 2010-2011 vs. 2009-209-2010

Chart depicting the comparison of requests by source – 2010-2011 vs. 2009-209-2010.

Disposition, Completion Times and Method of Access

In total, 19 access requests were completed during the reporting period; no requests were carried forward to 2011-2012 fiscal year. Of the requests, five were abandoned by the applicant and the department was unable to process one.

The breakdown of the disposition and completion times of the requests is as follows:

Disposition, Completion Times and Method of Access
Disposition of Completed Requests 1–15 days 16–30 days 31–60 days 61–120 days Total
All information disclosed 2 4     6
Information disclosed in part   3 2 2 7
Request abandoned by applicant 4 1     5
Unable to process 1       1
Total 7 8 2 2 19

Only 13 requests required formal processing of records and copies of records were disclosed in whole or in part for all of these requests.

WD processed 1,004 pages of records responding to the requests, of which 908 pages were released in whole or in part. The balance was entirely withheld.

Extensions of Time Limits and Consultations

Section 9 of the Act provides for the extension of the statutory time limits if the request is for a large volume of records or necessitates a search through a large volume of records and meeting the original time limit would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the department; also, if consultations are necessary.

Extension statistics for 2010–2011 break down as follows:

  • WD did not extend any request for the purposes of search or volume or records.
  • Four requests required extensions to complete necessary consultations.
  • Only one request required both third-party and other government department (OGD) consultations.
  • Two extensions of 30 days or less were taken for consultations with OGDs. One on these consultations was delayed due to sensitivities identified as a result of the consultation. This resulted in WD’s longest response time of 106 days.
  • Two 120-day extensions were taken to accommodate consultations with the Privy Council Office’s Cabinet Confidences Unit. Prompt responses, however, enabled WD to close both of the affected requests in under 65 days.

WD undertook consultations on seven requests during the 2010–2011 reporting period. In total, 14 federal department consultations and two Cabinet Confidences Unit consultations were required. In addition, WD undertook consultations with third parties on five requests, three of which were closed within the original 30-day timeframe and did not require extensions.

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Exemptions Invoked

Excluding requests that were abandoned or that WD was unable to process, the department closed 13 requests in 2010–2011. Of these, information was disclosed in whole on six and exemptions were applied pursuant to the Act on the other seven. If five different exemptions were applied to a request, one exemption under each relevant section would be reported for a total of five; however, the same exemption claimed several times in the same request is captured only once in the statistics.

WD’s exemption statistics are depicted in the chart below and identified in the annual statistical report (see page 10). Section 21(1) of the Act was the most utilized exemption during the 2010–2011 reporting period (it was applied to five requests) and two or more subsections of 21(1) were applied on three of these requests.

Text version (Link 2): Exemptions Invoked in 2010-2011

Chart depicting the exemptions WD invoked in 2010-2011

Further to the request for statistical information on exemptions applied under the Act in the additional reporting requirements attached to the “Report on the Access to Information Act,” WD did not invoke any of the exemptions during the 2010–2011 reporting period (see page 11).

Exclusions Cited

The Access to Information Act does not apply to certain materials such as published material pursuant to Section 68 or confidences of the Queen’s Privy Council pursuant to Section 69.

During the 2010–2011 reporting period, WD did not invoke Section 68, while Section 69 was invoked and applied as required on two access requests. If WD applied two different exclusions to a request, one exclusion under each relevant section would be reported for a total of two; however, the same exclusion claimed several times in the same request is captured in the statistics only once. WD invoked sections 69(1)(e) and 69(1)(g) once each.

Further to the request for statistical information on exclusions applied under the Act in the additional reporting requirements attached to the “Report on the Access to Information Act,” WD did not invoke any of the exclusions during the 2010–2011 reporting period (see page 11).

Other Government Department Consultations

WD was consulted by other federal departments on 22 occasions in 2010–2011, a 45-percent increase from 2009-2010. Consultations ranged in length (1–128 pages) and the department responded to all consultations in 15 days or less, recommending disclosure of all but three of these consultations.

Fees

Access to Information fees collected during the reporting period totalled $108. These fees include application fees for 18 requests and $38 for reproduction costs. During the same period, WD waived fees totalling of $107, including reproduction fees of under $25 as well as a $5 application fee refund.

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Operational Costs to Administer the Act

WD’s cost for administrating the Access to Information Act is estimated as follows:

Operational Costs to Administer the Act
ATIP Unit salaries, including a portion of the ATIP Coordinator’s and Deputy ATIP Coordinator’s salaries and 60 percent of the ATIP Officer’s salary $58,571
Administrative operation and maintenance costs, including training $15,005
Total ATIP Unit Costs $73,576
Additional costs $18,185
Total Departmental Costs $91,761

The associated ATIP Unit employee resources for 2010–2011 are estimated at 0.8 of a full-time equivalent for administering the Act. Salary costs decreased in 2010–2011 due, in part, to the nature of the requests received and increased time spent administering and implementing aspects of the Privacy Act. On the other hand, administrative costs increased because of increased staff awareness and training. Overall, however, this still resulted in a small reduction in ATIP Unit costs from 2009–2010.

WD also tracks additional access-related costs incurred throughout the department, including salary costs of officials involved in the retrieval, review and recommendation phases of the request; translation services; ATIP case management system maintenance duties by a systems analyst; and travel costs specifically for WD officials attending RALO training. These additional costs result in an overall cost of $92,301 to the department to administer all aspects of its activities related to the Act.

Complaints and Investigations

WD received no complaints pursuant to the Access to Information Act in 2010–2011; however, the complaint carried forward from 2009–2010 was resolved and remedial action, taken.

 

Appendix A

Access to Information Policy

Policy Context

Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) is fully committed to both the spirit and the intent of the Access to Information Act to ensure openness and transparency within the Department. Therefore, WD’s Access to Information Policy ensures that:

  • the Department effectively and consistently administers it responsibilities in accordance with the Act ; and
  • the decision-making process to disclose information or apply specific exemptions or exclusions are limited and specific, and are approved by the Designated Authority as per the Minister’s Delegation of Authority pursuant to the Act.

Policy Statement

This Policy is based on the Access to Information Act, its Regulations and the principles of open government from which it is derived. Specifically, the objectives are to:

  • facilitate statutory and regulatory compliance, and enhance effective application of the Access to Information Act and its Regulations by WD; and
  • ensure consistency in practices and procedures in administering the Act and Regulations so that applicants receive assistance throughout the request process.

The expected results of this Policy are:

  • sound management and decisions in responding to requests from applicants who are exercising their right to access records under the control of WD, regardless of their identity;
  • complete, accurate and timely responses to requests made under the Act;
  • clear responsibilities in WD for decision-making and effective administration of the Access to Information Act and its Regulations; and
  • consistent public reporting on the administration of the Act through WD’s Annual Report to Parliament, annual statistical report, and the submission of departmental chapters to Info Source, which are published by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS).

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Policy Requirements

Chapter 1.1 – TBS Policy on Access to Information (April 1, 2008), and specifically Section 6.1 – Policy Requirements, provides guidance as follows which WD has adopted and incorporated into its Access to Information Procedures Manual:

  • Delegation: The head of the Department (the Minister) is responsible for deciding whether to delegate any of his/her powers, duties and functions under the Act. When the decision is made to delegate responsibilities, WD must have in place a current Delegation Order, signed by the Minister, authorizing which responsibilities may be carried out by particular officials. The powers, duties and functions that may be delegated appear in Chapter 3-1 of the TBS Policy.
  • Exercising Discretion: WD shall exercise discretion under the Act in a fair, reasonable and impartial manner with respect to decisions made in the processing of requests and the resolution of complaints pursuant to the Act, subject to the conditions set out in the Regulations.
  • Access to Information Awareness: WD is responsible for making its employees aware of the policies, procedures and legal responsibilities of the Act.
  • Protecting the Identity of Applicants: WD shall ensure that the applicants’ identities are protected and only disclosed when there is a clear need to know in order to perform duties and functions related to a lawful program or activity.
  • Duty to Assist: WD shall ensure that every reasonable effort is made to help applicants receive complete, accurate and timely responses in the format requested, in accordance with the Regulations and without regard to the applicant’s identity. This includes developing and implementing written procedures and practices that will effectively assist applicants.
  • Processing Access Requests: WD shall establish effective processes and systems to respond to access requests, as well as documenting deliberations and decisions made concerning each request received under the Act. The Department shall also establish procedures to ensure that:
    • the requested records are reviewed to determine if they are subject to the Act, whether any exemptions apply, and exemptions to the right of access are limited and specific;
    • the principle of severability is applied; and
    • any consultations necessary for the processing of requests are undertaken pursuant to the Act.
  • Cabinet Confidences: WD shall follow established procedures concerning consultations with the Privy Council Office prior to excluding Cabinet Confidences.
  • Contracts and Agreements: WD shall establish measures to ensure that it meets the requirements of the Act when contracting with private sector organizations or when entering into agreements or arrangements with public sector institutions.
  • Addressing Obstruction to the Right of Access: WD shall ensure that appropriate procedures align with the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act are in place in cases of alleged obstruction of the right of access under the Act. Obstructing the right of access is a criminal offence.
  • Monitoring and Reporting Requirements: The ATIP Coordinator is responsible for monitoring compliance of this Policy as it relates to the Act, and ensuring that: an Annual Report to Parliament is prepared and tabled in each House of Parliament, Info Source chapters are updated and submitted, an annual statistical report on the administration of the Act is submitted to TBS, and user fee information input into the WD’s Departmental Performance Report annually.

Departmental Procedures

WD’s ATIP unit has developed an Access to Information Procedures Manual, which summarizes the essential elements of the Access to Information legislation and Regulations, and Treasury Board policies. This manual helps WD meet the requirements of para. 5.1.1 of the Directive on Administration of the Access to Information Act that came into effect on April 1, 2010, which requires the establishment of consistent practices and procedures for the processing of access to information requests, including requirements to make every reasonable effort to assist applicants without regard to their identity.

The Procedures Manual serves as a reference manual and a tool for Regional ATIP Liaison Officers and WD staff that provides a balanced approach to the Department’s procedures and explaining how the legislation permits both the release and withholding of information that has been requested, with the objective to help WD staff better understand the implications of the Access to Information Act and to build a network within WD to ensure quality responses to requests for information.

In addition, as required in the Directive, WD must ensure that its employees understand their duty to assist (see Appendix A, Duty to Assist) and has established internal procedures to address suspected obstructions of the right of access, which are defined in section 67.1 of the Act and section 6.2.10 of the Policy on Access to Information (see Appendix B, WD Procedures for Suspected Obstruction of the Right of Access).

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Authorities

The Access to Information Act is supported by a number of legislative, regulatory, policy and procedural instruments that reinforce certain provisions of the Act, as well as provide interpretation and practical guidance of specific sections. These documents include:

Department of Justice Canada

  • Access to Information Act: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/A-1/8.html
  • Access to Information Regulations: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/A-1/SOR-83-507/45.html
  • Access to Information Act Heads of Government Institutions Designation Order:
    http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/showtdm/cr/SI-83-113
  • Library and Archives of Canada Act:
    http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/showdoc/cs/L-7.7/20081010/en?command=searchadvanced&caller=AD&fragment=Archives&search_type=all&day=10&month=10&year=2008&search_domain=cs&showall=L&statuteyear=all&lengthannual=50&length=50
  • Privacy Act: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/P-21/index.html
  • Privacy Regulations: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/showtdm/cr/SOR-83-508
  • Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act: http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/showtdm/cs/P-31.9

Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

  • Access to Information – Policies and Publications:
    http://publiservice.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pubs_pol/gospubs/tbm_121/siglist_e.asp
  • Communications Policy of the Government of Canada:
    http://publiservice.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pubs_pol/sipubs/comm/comm_e.asp
  • Directive on the Administration of the Access to Information Act (April 1, 2010):
    http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?section=text&id=18310
  • Directive on Privacy Impact Assessment (April 1, 2010):
    http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=18308
  • Policy on Access to Information (April 1, 2008)
    http://publiservice.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=12453
  • Policy on Government Security (July 1, 2009)
    http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=16578
  • Policy on the Use of Electronic Networks:
    http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pol/doc-eng.aspx?id=12419
  • Management of Government Information – Policies and Publications:
    http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pubs_pol/ciopubs/TB_GIH/siglist-eng.asp

Western Economic Diversification Canada

  • Access to Information Procedures Manual

In the event of a discrepancy, the Access to Information Act and its Regulations, Orders in Council, the Minister’s Delegation of Authority, directives and official Treasury Board policies shall take precedence over this Policy and WD’s procedures.

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Date of Application

This Policy was adopted at a Management Accountability Committee meeting of Western Economic Diversification Canada on November 19, 2008, as part of its Policy Suite. It was revised and approved by Executive Committee on January 19, 2011, and shall apply to all programs services of the Department.

Policy Change Control

Revision Number Date Issued Author Brief Description of Change
v1.0 November 19, 2008 ATIP Officer Policy based on the April 2008 updated TBS Access to Information Policy. (Replaces the ATI Policy – WD Financial Policies, dated December 5, 2005).
v2.0 January 19, 2011 ATIP Officer General update and addition of Appendix A, Duty to Assist, and Appendix B, WD Procedures for Suspected Obstruction of the Right of Access

Appendix A - Duty to Assist

Principles for Assisting Applicants

  1. WD will process access requests without regard to the identity of the requestor.
  2. WD will offer reasonable assistance throughout the request process.
  3. WD will provide information on the Access to Information Act, including information on the processing of an access request to the requestor and their right to complain to the Information Commissioner of Canada.
  4. WD will inform the requestor as appropriate and without undue delay when a request requires clarification.
  5. WD will make every effort to locate and retrieve the requested records under the control of the Department.
  6. WD will apply limited and specific exemptions to the requested records.
  7. WD will provide accurate and complete responses.
  8. WD will provide timely access to the requested information.
  9. WD will provide records in the format and official language requested, as appropriate.
  10. WD will provide an appropriate location within the Department for requestors to examine the requested information.

WD employees are responsible for:

  1. Limiting, on a need-to-know basis, the disclosure of information that could directly or indirectly lead to the identification of an applicant, unless the applicant consents to the disclosure.
  2. Adopting a board interpretation of an access request, yet communicating with the applicant to clarify the request if it is unclear or to general so as to understand what information is requested by the applicant without necessarily delaying processing of the request.
  3. Recommending to the ATIP Unit that the requested information be disclosed informally.
  4. Making every reasonable effort to locate records under the control of the Department that are responsive to the request.
  5. Providing a realistic estimate of search time or other fees, and its rationale to the ATIP Unit when required.
  6. Providing valid recommendations on the disclosure of the records requested, as well as contextual information when appropriate.
  7. Ensuring, if involved in contracting activities, that contracts and agreements do not weaken the right of public access to information.
  8. Contacting the ATIP Unit at any time to improve their awareness and obtain advice, guidance and/or training on the processing of an access request or the application of the Access to Information

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Appendix B - WD Procedures for Suspected Obstruction of the Right of Access

Preface

This document is intended to provide guidance to Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) employees to ensure that appropriate procedures are in place in cases of an alleged obstruction of the right of access under the Access to Information Act.

These procedures deal with general requirements under section 67.1 of the Access to Information Act, section 6.2.10 of the Policy on Access to Information, para. 6.2.28 of the Directive on the Administration of the Access to Information Act, and align with the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act. Obstructing the right of access is a criminal offence.

Questions pertaining to the proper application of these guidelines may be directed to the following WD officials:

ATIP Coordinator 1-780-495-4301
Deputy ATIP Coordinator/
Departmental Security Officer
1-780-495-6057
ATIP Officer 1-780-495-4982
Chief Information Officer 1-780-495-3549
Manager, Technology Services 1-780-495-5354

Legislation

Through Bill C-208, which was proclaimed on March 25, 1999, section 67.1 was added to the Access to Information Act (ATIA) to provide sanctions for any person who destroys, alters, falsifies or conceals a record, or directs anyone to do so, with the intent of obstructing the right of access that is provided by the ATIA.

The purpose of this document is to provide clear direction to staff as to the steps that must be followed with respect to any violation or suspected violation of section 67.1.

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What is obstruction to the right of access?

The Access to Information Act defines obstruction as follows (also identifies the offence and punishment for obstruction):

Obstructing right of access

67.1(1) No person shall, with intent to deny a right of access under this Act,

(a) destroy, mutilate or alter a record;
(b) falsify a record or make a false record;
(c) conceal a record; or
(d) direct, propose, counsel or cause any person in any manner to do anything mentioned in any of paragraphs (a) to (c).

Offence and punishment

(2) Every person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of

(a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine not exceeding $10,000, or to both; or
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding $5,000, or to both.

This section states that there must be intent to deny a right of access for an offence to be committed. Under the law, the term “intent” generally implies a situation where a person knows and desires the consequences of their act at the time the offence is committed. An example of intent to deny a right of access would be destroying records knowing that an access request for these has been received or is anticipated.

The offence under section 67.1 should not be viewed as inhibiting the application of proper, reasonable retention periods established by government institutions. The Library and Archives of Canada Act still enables government institutions to dispose of records which no longer have operational value. Section 67.1 prohibits the destruction of records in anticipation of a request under the Access to Information Act. Employees must not destroy any records, including transitory records, whether or not they qualify for destruction under a disposal schedule, if they are aware that an access request for them has been received or is anticipated.

Employees who require further information concerning federal government records management, retention and disposal practices, as well as the requirements of the National Archives of Canada Act, should contact the Chief Information Officer. The ATIP Unit should be consulted for any questions or concerns pertaining to these procedures or the Access to Information Act.

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Procedures / Responsibilities

Note: The Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act gives federal public sector employees and others a secure and confidential process for disclosing serious wrongdoing in the workplace, such as obstruction of the right of access.

The following procedures/responsibilities are provided for a rapid response to halt any suspected destruction or alteration activity intent on obstructing the right of access by any WD employee:

  1. WD Employees:
    • Employees must immediately report any suspected or known activities described in section 67.1 of the ATIA to the Departmental Security Officer or the WD Senior Officer for Internal Disclosure.
    • All employees involved in witnessing, reporting or investigating a violation or suspected violation of section 67.1 of the ATIA must provide a written account of the incident and cooperate with any inquiry or investigation being conducted.
  2. Departmental Security Officer (DSO) or Senior Officer for Internal Disclosure must:
    • Take immediate action to stop the activity and to secure the affected records or systems.
    • Notify the ATIP Coordinator in order to confirm that the activity does contravene the ATIA.
    • Document the suspected destruction or alteration activity.
      • Document in detail the circumstances that gave rise to the activity.
      • Take inventory of the information that was or may have been destroyed or altered.
      • Include other relevant information.
    • Report the incident to the Manager, Technology Services, if it involves electronic data.
    • Investigate security breaches within WD. Possible contraventions of section 67.1 of the ATIA will be treated by the department in the same manner as a suspected theft, destruction of property or other security breaches which may involve criminal activity in accordance with the Treasury Board Policy on Government Security.
    • Consult legal counsel prior to reporting the suspected obstruction of access to law enforcement agencies.
  3. ATIP Coordinator must:
    • Determine if the activity contravenes the ATIA.
    • Notify the Deputy Minister of the incident.

Appendix B - WD Public Website

Text version (1): Image of Access to Information section of WD Public Website

Screen shot image depicting the Access to Information and Privacy page on WD’s public website

Text version (2): Image of Access to Information section of WD Public Website

Screen shot image depicting the Access to Information and Privacy page on WD’s public website

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