Annual Report - Access to Information Act

Table of contents

Access to Information Act

Annual Report
(April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018)

Introduction

The Access to Information Act provides 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.

This report has been prepared and will be tabled in Parliament in accordance with Section 72 of the Access to Information Act.  The information contained in this report pertains to the administration of the Access to Information Act within the Parks Canada Agency. 

The Parks Canada Agency’s mandate is to protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage and to foster public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in ways that ensure their ecological and commemorative integrity for present and future generations.  The Agency is responsible for 46 national parks, 171 national historic sites, 4 national marine conservation areas and one national urban park.  The Agency is highly decentralized with team members located across the country and often in remote areas.

Parks Canada’s Access to Information and Privacy Office coordinates all activities related to the legislation for the Agency.  It is comprised of six (6) full-time employees.  The Parks Canada Access to Information and Privacy Office has developed and continues to improve internal policies and procedures in order to meet its obligations in compliance with the Access to Information Act, regulations and Treasury Board policies.

As a result of improvements made to the review and processing of the Agency's access to information requests initiated in 2016-2017, Parks Canada has responded to all requests within prescribed timelines during the reporting period. Moreover, following the implementation of a mandatory training program, increased awareness across the Agency of the policies and procedures for access to information has been achieved. Parks Canada is committed to transparency, service to Canadians and the expeditious processing of access to information requests and has put in place the systems and processes necessary to meet this commitment.

The following report represents an overview of activities carried out within the Agency during the reporting period of April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018.

Statistical report - Access to Information Act requests

The appended report (Appendix A) contains detailed statistics on the information requests processed under the Access to Information Act.

Interpretation of the Statistical Report
Access to Information Act Requests

Between April 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018, the Agency received three hundred and thirty-six (336) formal information requests under the Access to Information Act.  One hundred and three (103) requests were carried forward from the previous reporting period.  Four hundred and thirty-nine (439) requests were completed before the end of March.  Thirty-five (35) requests were carried forward to the next reporting period for the following reasons: eleven (11) requests required additional time to allow for consultations with third parties and twenty-four (24) requests were received at the end of the reporting period.

During fiscal year 2017-2018, the Agency has experienced a 9 percent increase in formal information requests.  Additionally, Parks Canada continues to process one very large request received in 2017 which encompasses approximately 1,000,000 pages related to one subject matter.

The following is a percentage breakdown by source of information requests received during 2017-2018:

  • 52.1%                         public
    30.7%                         media
    11.0%                         business
     0.9%                          academia
     5.3%                          other organizations

In most cases, the information that was exempted from disclosure from records that were “disclosed in part” was personal information pertaining to other individuals, third party financial and/or commercial information, advice or recommendations developed by the Agency or accounts of internal discussions.

The fourteen (14) requests that were abandoned were received from individuals who, after being informed of the provisions of the Act, either withdrew their requests or did not respond to our correspondence.

The thirty-nine (39) requests included in the “no records exist” category were received from applicants who requested access to records that either did not exist or were not described clearly enough to allow for their identification.  When appropriate, an information note is provided to the requester to explain the reason that no records exist and efforts are made to assist the requester in obtaining the information they require, wherever possible.

Fees

As a result of the government’s decision in 2016 to waive all fees beyond the initial $5 application fee, no waiver is granted for the initial fee.  It is however, reimbursed when the request is for information that is available under the Privacy Act.

Time limitations

During fiscal year 2017-2018, 48 percent of completed requests (192 cases) were processed within the initial 30-day period.  In 14 percent of completed requests (55 cases), a 30-day time extension was required in order to conduct consultations with either third parties and/or other government departments.  In 25 percent of completed requests (103 cases), an extension of over 30 days was required because of the number of records requested and to enable the Agency to conduct necessary consultations.  In 13 percent of completed requests (54 cases), additional time was required due to the complexity of the requests.

Costs

The costs reported in the statistical report are only those costs incurred for the processing of requests.

Formal / Informal Interface

Agency officials continue to respond to informal requests from the public.  Program officers are aware of the importance of the legislation and promptly refer formal information requests to the ATIP Office.  Program officers also contact the Office for guidance on the disclosure of information through informal processes.

Between April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018, one hundred and eighty-two (182) informal requests were processed under the Access to Information Act, which represent an 8 percent increase from the previous reporting period. These requests concerned documents that were previously disclosed in response to information requests.

The ATIP Office also reviews responses to parliamentary questions and audit and evaluation reports for publishing on the Agency’s internet site, in addition to providing strategic advice dealing with Agency programs.

Complaints / Investigations

During the reporting period under review, one hundred and forty-five (145) complaints were filed with the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada.

In 2017-2018, the Agency experienced an extraordinary number of requests related to three (3) subject matters.  A large number of complaints have been filed relating to these requests.  The complaints largely concern the extensions taken in order to process the requests and on the non-disclosure of the information.  Parks Canada has worked closely and collaboratively with the Office of the Commissioner to resolve these complaints. 

Federal Court of Canada

The one (1) appeal that was carried forward from the previous reporting period has been resolved at the end of the reporting period under review.

Consultations Received from Other Institutions and Organizations

Between April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018, the Agency received eighty-seven (87) consultations under the Access to Information Act.  Seven (7) consultations were carried forward from the previous reporting period.  Eighty-nine (89) consultations were completed before the end of March.  Five (5) consultations were carried forward to the next reporting period as they were received at the end of the reporting period under review.

Administrative practices

Delegation of authority

In 2017-2018, decision-making responsibility for the application of the various provisions of the Access to Information Act is fully delegated to the Vice-President, External Relations and Visitor Experience Directorate and the Agency’s Access to Information and Privacy Coordinator. The Agency continues to ensure that only those with the properly delegated authorities have an ability to have an impact on the disclosure process.

Procedures

The ATIP Office acts as a central coordinating point for the processing of information requests received under the Access to Information.  As such, it maintains data banks and keeps statistical records on requests processed.  Requests are received by the ATIP Office and forwarded to the appropriate Program for retrieval of the requested records.  Program officials retrieve the records and prepare preliminary recommendations concerning their disclosure.  These recommendations are reviewed by the Office.  The ATIP Office assesses the application of the Act, conducts all necessary consultations with and/or notifications of third parties, and prepares final recommendations for review by the appropriate delegated authority.  When the final recommendations have been approved by the appropriate delegated authority, the Office prepares the records for disclosure.

The Agency monitors the time required to process access to information requests.  When the need for improvements to the management of requests are identified, internal processes are adjusted.

In addition, weekly meetings are held between the ATIP Office and senior officials in order to monitor the effectiveness and efficiency of the Agency’s access to information processes and procedures, including compliance with legislative obligations.

 

Training sessions

Facilitating efficient and transparent access to information and privacy for Canadians is a priority for Parks Canada.  The Agency implemented a two-phased mandatory training program consisting of an online course on access to information and privacy given by the School of the Public Service and a 1.5 day formal, classroom-based and instructor-led course for employees that are regularly involved in access requests. 

Since the delivery of the mandatory training, the School has reported that 1,886 employees have taken the online course. As part of the second phase of the training program, forty-one (41) sessions were given to Agency employees across Canada in 2017-2018. In total, eight hundred and thirty-two (832) employees attended these sessions. 

To ensure that all employees of the Agency are aware of the legislation and their obligations, general awareness sessions are also given periodically to provide basic information on the provisions of the Access to Information Act.