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Annual Report to Parliament on the Administration of the Access to Information Act - 2011-2012

Table of Contents


We are pleased to table the Annual Report to Parliament on the administration of the Access to Information Act (ATIA) for fiscal year 2011-2012, as required under subsections 72(1) and 72(2) of the Act.

Purpose of the Access to Information Act

The Access to Information Act gives Canadian citizens and permanent residents, as well as individuals and corporations present in Canada, the right to seek access to federally-controlled information and records.

Departmental Mandate

On behalf of the Government of Canada, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is Canada’s face and voice to the world, working to advanceCanada’s political and economic interests in the international community as well as to apply Canadian experience to help address global issues.

The Department's legal mandate, as set out in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act,RSC 1985, c. E-22, is to:

Passport Canada, which is a Special Operating Agency of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, is responsible for issuing, refusing, revoking and withholding Canadian passports, in addition to administering their use and recovery. PassportCanadasupervises all matters relating to Canadian travel documents and provides guidance to Canadian government offices abroad, enabling them to issue passports. Besides serving the public directly, Passport Canada also works with national and international police authorities, security agents, border officials and any federal, provincial and territorial authorities that provide identification documents. Please see the delegated authorities section for more information.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs is also responsible for the Export and Import Permits Act, RSC 1985, c. E-19, which authorizes the government to control and monitor the transborder flow of specified goods, and for the Special Economic Measures Act, 40-41 Elizabeth II, c. 17, which authorizes the government to apply economic sanctions in response to a serious threat to international peace and security.

The Department also provides administrative support to other government departments with personnel abroad.

Organizational Structure

The Access to Information and Privacy Protection Division (ATIP Office) is responsible for the administration of the ATIA, including the processing of requests and consultations.  The Director of the ATIP Office reports to the Corporate Secretary, who in turn reports to the Associate Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In 2011-2012, the ATIP staff varied from 45 to 53 employees which included contractors. Effective September 2011 the office had 45 staff to fulfill DFAIT’s obligations under the Access to Information and Privacy Acts. The ATIP office consisted of: the Director, four Deputy Directors, six team leaders, twenty two analysts at various levels, five clerical staff and six consultants. The work ranges from processing complex and/or voluminous requests to more straight forward, routine requests and consultations from other government departments as well as providing advice to internal and external stakeholders and providing training to departmental staff.

Recent changes to the ATIP Office’s structure include a new fast-track Consultation team and an Intake Unit, which were implemented in the 2011-2012 reporting period.

Some staffing actions were completed during this reporting period, including an external staffing process which was carried over to 2012-2013

Delegated Authorities

Under Section 73 the Act, the Minister’s authority is delegated to enable the Department to meet its legislated requirements as well as exercise its powers.  Since October 2009 responsibility for all sections of the Act was delegated to the Deputy Ministers, to the Corporate Secretary, to the Director of the Access to Information and Privacy Protection Division, as well as to the Deputy Directors of the Division. (See Annex A)

As noted above, Passport Canada is a special operating agency and it obtained its own ATIP delegated authority to respond to requests under both the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act as they relate to its records. This delegation came into effect on April 1, 2011.

Administration of Requests

The following section explains in more detail the TBS statistical report as provided in Annex B.

Access to Information Requests

Between April 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012, the Department received eight hundred and ninety-two (892) requests for information under the Access to Information Act, which was a 12% increase over the previous fiscal year. Along with those new requests received, four hundred and twenty-seven (427) requests were carried over from the previous fiscal year, for a total of one thousand, three hundred and nineteen (1319) requests.

During the reporting period, nine hundred and sixty-two (962) requests were completed and three hundred and fifty-seven (357) still active files were carried over to the next reporting period.

Requester Sources

The Access to Information requests received during this reporting period break down as follows:

Table 1: Requester Sources
Access to Information RequestsNumber of Requests

Disposition of Completed Requests

The distribution of completed requests is as follows:

Table 2: Disposition of Completed Requests
Access to Information RequestsNumber of Requests
All disclosed96
Disclosed in part443
Nothing disclosed (excluded)55
Nothing disclosed (exempted)23
Unable to process178
Abandoned by applicant145
Treated informally3

Exemptions and Exclusions

The exemptions most commonly used by the Department during the period were sub-sections 15(1) [International affairs] and 19(1) [personal information] as well as paragraphs 21(1)(a) [advice] and 21(1)(b) [consultations and deliberations].  These were invoked for 367, 364, 218 and 264 requests, respectively. The Department also applied exclusions under sub-section 69(1) [confidences of cabinet] in 173 instances.


During the reporting period, the Department claimed extensions pursuant to paragraphs 9(1)(a), 9(1)(b) and 9(1)(c): 240, 271, and 40 times, respectively

Fees and Costs

For the reporting period, the Department collected $9,415.00 in fees, and waived $3,307.00 in fees.

Consultations Received from Other Institutions

When a request contains records that are of a greater interest to another institution, the ATIP Office of that institution is consulted.

Given its mandate and various responsibilities at the international level, DFAIT plays a key role in its responsibilities under the ATIA on behalf of other government departments (OGDs). More specifically, DFAIT consults with foreign organizations abroad on behalf of other federal government institutions that are processing requests for records originating from abroad.

Between April 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012, the Department received one thousand three hundred thirty-nine (1,339) ATI Act consultations from other government institutions, which represents a 28% increase over the last reporting period. In fact, as in the previous year, DFAIT received more requests for ATI consultations than ATI requests for access to records under its control (892). Most requests originated from federal institutions subject to the Access to Information Act. However, a small percentage of consultations originated from other organizations.

During the reporting period, nine hundred and fifty-eight (958) consultations were completed representing fifty seven thousand, nine hundred and fifty-three (57,953) pages.

Complaints and Other Investigations

Complaints Received and Completed

During the reporting period, fifty two (52) complaints against the Department were filed with the Information Commissioner of Canada.

Table 3: Complaints Received and Completed
Reason for ComplaintNumber of Complaints
Refusal - Exemptions25
Refusal - General4

Fifteen (15) investigations were completed during the reporting period.

Table 4: Findings and Results
FindingNumber of FindingsResultNumber of Results
Discontinued6No Action Required14
Not substantiated0Remedial Action Taken0
Well Founded8  
Not Well Founded1  

Federal Court

No new Federal Court proceedings under the ATI Act were initiated during the reporting period.

Amir Attaran v. Minister of Foreign Affairs(2009 FC 339; 2011 FCA 182; leave to appeal to Supreme Court of Canada denied March 29, 2012)

On January 24, 2007, the applicant sought access to the annual human rights reports on Afghanistan from 2002-2006 prepared by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT).

Initially, the applicant received copies of the requested reports in a form he characterized as heavily redacted.  He complained to the Office of the Information Commissioner on April 25, 2007.  In mid-November 2007, as a result of the Information Commissioner’s investigation, the applicant was provided with less-redacted versions of the reports, since these versions had been produced in an unrelated proceeding before the Federal Court.  The Information Commissioner concluded that the remaining redactions properly fell within section 15(1) of the Access to Information Act (ATIA).

The applicant commenced an application for judicial review in the Federal Court with respect to DFAIT’s application of section 15 of the ATIA on December 28, 2007.  In his application, he stated that he was only seeking disclosure of the references to torture in the reports and that he accepted that references to individuals or agencies or allies in Afghanistan were exempt from disclosure under the ATIA.

The Federal Court dismissed the application for judicial review on April 2, 2009, with the exception of material that had previously been published in media outlets.  The applicant appealed to the Federal Court of Appeal on May 1, 2009.

In its decision dated May 27, 2011, the Federal Court of Appeal accepted the position of the Attorney General that the material at issue was properly exempt from disclosure pursuant to section 15 of the ATIA.  However, the Court allowed a portion of the appeal only on the grounds that the evidence before it did not demonstrate that DFAIT had adequately considered the public interest in exercising its discretion to decide whether to release the information at issue.  Consequently, the matter was referred back to DFAIT officials for a reconsideration of their exercise of discretion. 

In August 2011, the Attorney General of Canada filed a motion seeking leave to appeal the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada on the grounds that there is uncertainty as to the issue of which party bears the burden of proving the reasonableness of discretionary decisions not to release information that is exempted from disclosure under the ATIA and the Privacy Act.  On March 29, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the motion seeking leave to appeal with costs.

Amir Attaran v. Attorney General of Canada (T-582-12)

On March 29, 2007, the applicant made a request pursuant to the Access to Information Act (ATIA) for all correspondence between DFAIT and DND concerning the applicability in Afghanistan of the Geneva Conventions on monitoring of transferred detainees by the International Committee of the Red Cross from December 2005 to March 2007.

On July 4, 2008, DFAIT informed the applicant that a preparation fee of $210 was being levied pursuant to subsection 7(2) of the Access to Information Regulations (Regulations).  This fee was based on an estimate that it would require 26 hours to prepare the records responsive to the request.

On July 29, 2008, the applicant filed a complaint with the Office of the Information Commissioner regarding the preparation fee levied by DFAIT.  The Office of the Information Commissioner launched an investigation into the matter.

In a report dated February 17, 2012, the Information Commissioner found that the applicant’s complaint was well-founded on two issues.  First, the Information Commissioner disagreed with DFAIT’s interpretation of the term “non-computerized” record.  According to the Information Commissioner, this term in subsection 7(2) of the Regulations must be interpreted to mean records which do not exist in electronic format.  Second, the Information Commissioner stated that DFAIT’s practice of automatically levying fees in all cases involving more than 500 pages of responsive records is inconsistent with the proper exercise of discretion given to the head of the institution under the ATIA.

The applicant commenced an application for judicial review in the Federal Court filed on March 20, 2012.  The applicant sought: 1) a declaration that DFAIT may not levy fees under subsection 7(2) of the Regulations for computerized records, meaning those created or maintained in electronic format, including but not limited to email and documents created by word processors; and 2) a declaration that DFAIT may not automatically levy fees under the Regulations for voluminous files, such as those exceeding 500 pages.  On May 30, 2012, the applicant discontinued the application for judicial review.

Internal Operations

Backlog Project

With the injection of new funding in June 2010, the ATIP Office created ten (10) new full-time equivalents and launched a Backlog Project in July 2010 in order to clear the bulk of the late files. The Backlog Project has been a tremendous success; only three (3) files remain and are subject to consultations with other government departments.

Policy and Governance

DFAIT’s ATIP Office’s Policy & Governance Team (P&G) provides ATIP policy advice to the department, as well as to develop and deliver ATIP training to departmental employees, other government departments, and to new members of the ATIP Office.

The Policy & Governance Team’s responsibilities include: updating the Guidelines for processing ATIP requests; providing departmental staff with privacy policy advice, assistance and guidance; providing input and assistance with the preparation of the TBS' Statistical Reports and the Annual Reports to Parliament for both the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act (Acts); reviewing policy instruments and tools in compliance with the Acts, as well as TBS' ATIP-related policies; and continuing to develop new privacy policy instruments to assist the Department to meet its responsibilities.

The P&G team is also responsible for updating DFAIT's Chapter in TBS' Info Source Publication, registering Personal Information Banks with TBS and delivering Info Source training, awareness and advice.

Info Source:  Further to the full sweep conducted last fiscal year, the ATIP Office continued in its efforts to keep the department’s chapter up-to-date and in line with TBS requirements, making numerous changes to align with the Department’s ever changing structure and activities.  Further to a TBS pilot project, Info Source is now published on the DFAIT public website.

Internet/Intranet Process: In the previous fiscal year, a new process was initiated whereby all new or updated forms published for the departmental Internet and Intranet required the approval of the ATIP Office.  Due to the complexity of privacy policy and its many components (Class of Records, Class of Personal Information, Personal Information Bank (PIB), Privacy Notice Statement (PNS) and/or Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA)), the P&G Team strives to ensure that all components are reviewed in a thorough and timely fashion.

As anticipated, following the implementation of this new approval requirement, the number of forms received and reviewed by the ATIP Office has significantly increased during the reporting period. The ATIP Office believes that the numbers will rise even further when a similar process is implemented for all PDF forms.

It should be noted that this process is also beneficial to the Department as it provides another avenue/opportunity for ATIP awareness.

Training and Development

During 2011-2012, the ATIP Office continued to ensure that all analysts received the necessary training to do their job effectively via training sessions developed to meet the ATIP Office’s training needs and via a dedicated mentor/coach (a.k.a. team leader).  The responsibilities of the team leaders are to provide a continuous and positive learning environment for employees’ development as ATIP specialists.  Furthermore, learning plans are developed in consultation with each employee in order to effectively identify training needs.

The ATIP Office also continued to benefit from its ATIP Professional Development Program which allows DFAIT to “grow its own” ATIP analysts due to the lack of experienced candidates within the federal ATIP Community. This program has been very successful in addressing recruitment, retention and succession planning issues.

The Policy & Governance Team addresses the training needs of the Department and of the ATIP Office on a full-time basis and educates new employees as soon as they start working. It also ensures the Department complies with all other aspects of the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act.

DFAIT’s Intranet ATIP website is accessible to all employees at DFAIT as is a newly designed Wiki page. The Wiki page is still under development and will be fully implemented in 2012-2013.

The ATIP Office maintains a structured, department-wide ATIP awareness program to ensure that officials across the Department understand their roles and responsibilities. DFAIT has also expanded on the type of forums within which ATIP training is delivered to include staff meetings and “DFAIT 101” courses, for new employees.  ATIP sessions are also delivered during the various training sessions provided to employees going abroad in order to better prepare them for their work at a mission.

The ATIP office also holds sessions with subject matter experts, during which records are reviewed in order to educate employees who exercise discretion when making recommendations for severance, on obstruction and injury.

To ensure that employees at mission also receive necessary training, sessions are delivered using videoconferencing or Webinar technology. During this reporting period 11 missions received training via videoconference. In addition, an online interactive ATIP tutorial, developed in collaboration with the Canadian Foreign Service Institute, is now available.  DFAIT also shares this tool with other Departments to assist the federal ATIP community.

As previously reported in the 2010-2011 Annual Report to Parliament, a new training program on section 15 of the Act (injury to international affairs) was developed and delivered during the reporting period to the federal ATIP community.  This presentation provides information on the responsibilities of DFAIT vis-à-vis both Acts when it pertains to records that have international implications, and provides other federal institutions with clear direction as to when DFAIT should be consulted.  It is hoped that such training will help to decrease the high volume of consultations received by DFAIT and will aid other federal departments to identify what type of information and/or records should be sent to DFAIT for consultation.

In collaboration with the Consular Operations Bureau, a specific training program was designed for Consular Officers to assist in understanding their roles and responsibilities vis-a-vis the Acts in the context of providing consular services offered to Canadians. Scenario- based practical exercises were developed to better prepare them for possible situations they may encounter in the course of their duties. During the reporting period eight (8) training sessions were held with 99 participants.

The ATIP Office also redesigned and refined both the training program for ATIP Liaison Officers and subject-matter experts within Offices of Primary Interest (OPIs) across the Department.  Employees are now able to register for these courses via an automated online service, which has improved the ATIP Office’s ability to deliver training.

In all, sixty-seven (67) separate ATIP training sessions were delivered during the reporting period, comprising of approximately nine hundred sixteen (916) employees, including:

DFAIT’s ATIP Office continuously strives to refine its training tools and receives comments from employees participating in the various training session delivered.  These comments result in refinements and enhancements to current programs as well as to develop new ones.

Policies, Guidelines and Procedures

As of January 1, 2012, the ATIP Office began posting summaries of Access to Information requests to the department’s website on a monthly basis to promote transparency in compliance with TBS guidelines. An internal process was established for the monthly postings, as well as for the processing of informal requests for previously released information.

No significant changes were made to internal Access to Information Act processes or policies in 2011-2012. However, much attention has been dedicated to educate departmental officials on their ATIP roles and responsibilities to ensure compliance and efficiencies. 

During the reporting period, the Policy & Governance Team continued to revise its existing privacy-related policy instruments and initiated the drafting of new instruments which are better aligned with new and/or revised TBS ATIP-related policies. The policy instruments include the drafting of a new PIA Template, Privacy Protocol, etc. These instruments were close to being finalized at the end of the reporting period.  Additional instruments are being considered and will be created in the next fiscal year.


The following are improvements that have been made over the last reporting year 2011-2012 as well as ongoing initiatives to improve the overall ATIP function at DFAIT:


Annex A: Designation Order

Privacy Act Designation Order

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, pursuant to section 73 of the Privacy Act, hereby designates the persons holding the positions set out in the schedule hereto, or the persons acting in those positions, to exercise the powers and perform the duties and functions of the Minister of Foreign Affairs as the head of a Government institution under the Act. This designation replaces the designation dated March 11, 1998.

The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, P.C., M.P.
Ottawa, October 2nd, 2009


Table 5: Schedule
PositionSections of Privacy Act
1. Deputy Minister of Foreign AffairsAll Sections
2. Deputy Minister for International TradeAll Sections
3. Director General Corperate SecretariatAll Sections
4. Director, Access to Information and Privacy Protection DivisionAll Sections
5. Deputy Director, Access to Information and Privacy Protection DivisionAll Sections
6. Heads of diplomatic/consular missionsParagraph 8(2)(m)

Annex B : 2011-2012 Statistical Report

Reporting period: 2011/04/01 2012/03/31

PART 1 – Requests under the Access to Information Act

1.1 Number of Requests
Table 6: Number of Requests
SourceNumber of Requests
Received during reporting period892
Outstanding from previous reporting period427
Closed during reporting period962
Carried over to next reporting period357
1.2 Sources of requests
Table 7: Sources of requests
SourceNumber of Requests
Business (Private Sector)114

PART 2 – Requests closed during the reporting period

2.1 Disposition and completion time
Table 8: Disposition and completion time
Disposition of requestsCompletion Time
1 to 15 days16 to 30 days31 to 60 days61 to 120 days121 to 180 days181 to 365 daysMore than 365 daysTotal
All disclosed643301223096
Disclosed in part27705498388373443
All exempted820190323
All excluded31422615455
No records exist341112012100178
Request transferred1630000019
Request abandoned41711231512145
Treated informally30000003
2.2 Exemptions
Table 9: Exemptions
SectionNumber of Requests
* I.A.: International Affairs Def.: Defence of Canada S.A.: Subversive Activities
15(1) - I.A.*367
15(1) - Def.*25
15(1) - S.A.*8
2.3 Exclusions
Table 10: Exclusions
SectionNumber of requests
69(1)(g) re (a)21
69(1)(g) re (b)0
69(1)(g) re (c)47
69(1)(g) re (d)3
69(1)(g) re (e)40
69(1)(g) re (f)1
2.4 Format of information released
Table 11: Format of information released
DispositionPaperElectronicOther formats
All disclosed8745
Disclosed in part369740
2.5 Complexity
2.5.1 Relevant pages processed and disclosed
Table 12: Relevant pages processed and disclosed
Disposition of requestsNumber of pages processedNumber of pages disclosedNumber of requests
All disclosed8636863696
Disclosed in part12867074112443
All exempted2433023
All excluded9628055
Request abandoned43710145
2.5.2 Relevant pages processed and disclosed by size of requests
Table 13: Pages processed and disclosed by size
DispositionLess than 100 pages processed101-500 pages processed501-1000 pages processed
Number of requestsPages disclosedNumber of requestsPages disclosedNumber of requestsPages disclosed
All disclosed891242572000
Disclosed in part2309104138220684515772
All exempted10013000
All excluded5302000
Table 14: Disposition and Pages Processed
Disposition1001-5000 pages processedMore than 5000 pages processed
Number of requestsPages disclosedNumber of requestsPages disclosed
All disclosed2667400
Disclosed in part302716800
All exempted0000
All excluded0000
2.5.3 Other complexities
Table 15: Other Complexities
DispositionConsultation requiredAssessment of feesLegal advice soughtOtherTotal
All disclosed1460020
Disclosed in part1803100211
All exempted820010
All excluded3910040
2.6 Deemed refusals
2.6.1 Reasons for not meeting statutory deadline
Table 16: Reasons for no meeting statutory deadline
Number of requests closed past the statutory deadlinePrincipal Reason
WorkloadExternal consultationInternal consultationOther
2.6.2 Number of days past deadline
Table 17: Number of days past deadline
Number of days past deadlineNumber of requests past deadline where no extension was takenNumber of requests past deadline where an extension was takenTotal
1 to 15 days11516
16 to 30 days71421
31 to 60 days10919
61 to 120 days82028
121 to 180 days102232
181 to 365 days92635
More than 365 days185068
2.7 Requests for translation
Table 18: Request for translation
Translation RequestsAcceptedRefusedTotal
English to French000
French to English000

PART 3 – Extensions

3.1 Reasons for extensions and disposition of requests
Table 19: Reasons for extensions and disposition of requests
Disposition of requests where an extension was taken9(1)(a) Interference with operations9(1)(b) Consultation9(1)(c) Third party notice
Section 69Other
All disclosed150142
Disclosed in part1777610436
All exempted6170
All excluded47320
No records exist180111
Request abandoned208111
3.2 Length of extensions
Table 20: Length of extensions
Length of extensions9(1)(a) Interference with operations9(1)(b) Consultation9(1)(c) Third party notice
Section 69Other
30 days or less701161
31 to 60 days74127213
61 to 120 days72225217
121 to 180 days2153259
181 to 365 days34140
365 days or more0000

PART 4 – Fees

Table 21: Fees
Fee TypeFee CollectedFee Waived or Refunded
Number of requestsAmountNumber of requestsAmount
Alternative format0$00$0

PART 5 – Consultations received from other institutions and organizations

5.1 Consultations received from other government institutions and organizations
Table 22: Consultations received from other government institutions and organizations
ConsultationsOther government institutionsNumber of pages to reviewOther organizationsNumber of pages to review
Received during reporting period11348028423
Outstanding from the previous reporting period2051552400
Closed during the reporting period9585795311
Pending at the end of the reporting period3813785512
5.2 Recommendations and completion time for consultations received from other government institutions
Table 23: Recommendations and completion time for consultations received from other government institutions
RecommendationNumber of days required to complete consultation requests
1 to 15 days16 to 30 days31 to 60 days61 to 120 days121 to 180 days181 to 365 daysthan 365 daysTotal
Disclose entirely496110095991324
Disclose in part211445514461278460
Exempt entirely730300013
Exclude entirely00000000
Consult other institution31000004
5.3 Recommendations and completion time for consultations received from other organizations
Table 24: Recommendations and completion time for consultations received from other organizations
RecommendationNumber of days required to complete consultation requests
1 to 15 days16 to 30 days31 to 60 days61 to 120 days121 to 180 days181 to 365 daysthan 365 daysTotal
Disclose entirely10000001
Disclose in part00000000
Exempt entirely00000000
Exclude entirely00000000
Consult other institution00000000

PART 6 – Completion time of consultations on Cabinet confidences

Table 25: Completion time of consultations on Cabinet confidences
Number of daysNumber of responses receivedNumber of responses  received past deadline
1 to 15112
16 to 30221
31 to 60217
61 to 1202312
121 to 180824
181 to 36509
More than 36504

PART 7 – Resources related to the Access to Information Act

7.1 Costs
Table 26: Costs
Goods and Services$1,726,072
Professional services contracts$1,618,296 
7.2 Human Resources
Table 27: Human Resources
ResourcesDedicated full-time to ATI activitiesDedicated part-time to ATI activitiesTotal
Full-time employees39.100.0039.10
Part-time and casual employees3.400.003.40
Regional staff0.000.000.00
Consultants and agency personnel26.350.0026.35
Date Modified: