Annual Report, Access to Information Act, 2008-2009

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 and that necessary exceptions to the right of access should be limited and specific.

Section 72 of the Access to Information Act requires that the head of every federal government institution submit an annual report to Parliament on the administration of this Act during the fiscal year. This report describes how the Correctional Service Canada (CSC) fulfilled its access to information responsibilities during the reporting period covering 2008-2009.

ORGANIZATION

CSC contributes to public safety by administering court-imposed sentences for offenders sentenced to two years or more. This involves managing institutions (penitentiaries) of various security levels and supervising offenders on different forms of conditional release, while assisting them to become law-abiding citizens. CSC also administers post-sentence supervision of offenders with Long Term Supervision Orders for up to 10 years.

CSC works closely with its Public Safety Portfolio partners, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the National Parole Board, the Canada Border Services Agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and three review bodies, including the Office of the Correctional Investigator.

CSC manages a broad range of information holdings which relate to its five major program activities: Custody, Correctional Interventions, Community Supervision, Corcan, and Internal Services. As a result of its mandate CSC also collects a substantial amount of personal information.

THE ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND PRIVACY DIVISION

CSC is organized into three levels of management: national, regional and local operations. The Access to Information and Privacy Division reports to the Director General of Rights, Redress and Resolution, under the Policy Sector, and is responsible for the overall administration of the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act. In addition, each region and institution has an Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) liaison which assists the national ATIP Division in administering its overall responsibilities.

The responsibilities of the ATIP Division are:

  • respond to access to information and privacy requests including consultation requests from other government institutions and informal requests for information;
  • respond to public and internal inquiries relating to the administration of the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act;
  • promote awareness and providing training regarding the Access to Information Act and Privacy Actand related policies and guidelines;
  • develop corporate-wide Access to Information and Privacy policies and practices to guide access to and protection of personal information;
  • oversee and manage privacy breaches;
  • coordinate and oversee the Privacy Impact Assessment Process;
  • revise Info Source and modify information holdings and personal information banks as required;
  • Liaise and coordinate efforts with Information and Privacy Commissioners, other government departments and agencies and other key stakeholders;
  • Analyse privacy practices in relation to CSC programs and policies.

As a result of an approved business case developed by the ATIP Division in fiscal year 2006-2007, the Division received additional permanent resources which resulted in staffing six administrative positions, three junior ATIP analysts, seven ATIP analysts, six senior ATIP analysts, two team leaders and two deputy directors this reporting period.

In consideration of the sensitive information CSC ATIP handles, on a daily basis, recruitment of knowledgeable and experienced ATIP professionals remains an ongoing challenge. It is anticipated that the new senior ATIP analyst positions and two additional deputy director positions will promote greater retention of the current staff; this promotes job advancement opportunities for experienced analysts who would otherwise have to move to another government institution for advancement opportunities. The retention of competent ATIP analysts allows for them to develop a much needed specialty in public safety issues. Retaining such analysts is paramount to improving CSC's compliance rates and for overall better administration of the legislation.

There are a total of 54 FTEs in the CSC ATIP Division.

TRAINING AND AWARENESS

During the reporting period, training on both the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act was delivered to approximately 100 employees in various sectors at national headquarters, as well as to approximately 300 employees in the Pacific Region. The ATIP Division has provided training in all regions in the last two reporting years, with the exception of the Quebec region where their ATIP liaison provides general ATIP training on a regular basis.

A policy and training unit was created during this reporting period, which will play a fundamental role in developing a comprehensive learning and training plan geared to various parts of the organization on ATIP related matters, such as processing requests under both the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act, privacy breaches, Privacy Impact Assessments, and other related policies and guidelines. Though this unit only consisted of one permanent FTE during the reporting period, the unit will be expanding during fiscal year 2009-2010.

WORKLOAD

As highlighted in the 2007-2008 ATIP Annual Report, recruitment and training of new ATIP analysts, combined with the high volume of requests, continue to make meeting compliance a challenge. It is expected that, with more training and mentoring, and with increased retention of the current ATIP staff, compliance rates will increase in future reporting years.

STATISTICS

In 2008-2009, CSC received 407 Access to Information Act requests, which marks a slight decrease from fiscal year 2007-2008; however, 126 requests were carried over from the previous reporting period for an increased total of 533 requests. Seventy-eight requests were carried forward into 2009-2010.

The Division completed 455 requests during the reporting period which was an increase of 70 requests from the previous year. This increase in completion rates is attributed to the additional senior ATIP analysts hired throughout the reporting year. It is expected that fewer requests will be carried over in future reporting years, and that compliance in responding within the statutory deadlines will improve as these analysts gain more experience in CSC.

In addition to formal Access to Information Act requests, the Division processed 69 consultation requests from other government institutions, as well as 22 informal requests which primarily consisted of audit reports internal to CSC.

The majority of requests (255) were made by the public for various information holdings under the control of CSC, including many from offenders and their families for Boards of Investigation reports at both the national and regional levels. Eighty-one requests were made by the media, 42 by the business sector and 29 from other organizations. Requests made from these categories of requestors were for a wide-range of information, including general information relating to CSC programs and operations, contracts and requests for call-ups and terms and casuals.

Exemptions

Of the 455 requests completed during this reporting period, full disclosure was provided in response to 68 requests and partial disclosure was provided in 198 cases. Information was withheld in its entirety pursuant to exemptions in 34 cases and in 11 cases where the information was excluded. CSC was unable to process 95 requests; 47 were abandoned; and 2 were transferred to other federal government institutions.

A breakdown of the exemptions/exclusions applied during this reporting period is as follows:

Exemption/Exclusion Description Number of times applied
Information obtained in Confidence 37
Federal Provincial Affairs 2
International Affairs and Defence 31
Law Enforcement and Investigation 153
Economic Interests 12
Personal Information 183
Third Party Information 65
Operations of Government (Advice) 144
Testing Procedures 11
Solicitor-Client Privilege 14
Statutory prohibitions 1
Information to be published 3
Published for Library/Museum Material 18
Cabinet Confidences 13

Method of Access

Of the 266 requests completed during this reporting period, copies were provided in 262 cases, where information was available for release. In four cases, examination was requested and copies were subsequently given.

Extensions

A total of 114 extensions were required during this reporting period, as shown in the chart below.

Extensions
Less 30 days Over 30 days
Searching 16 11
Consultation 21 44
Third Party 0 22

Completion Time

During the reporting period, CSC completed 154 requests in less than 30 days; 108 between 31 and 60 days; 82 requests between 61 to 120 days; and 111 were closed over 121 days. The majority of the requests which required extensive processing time resulted from mandatory consultations with other federal government departments.

Fees

A total of $2,768.00 was collected as per Access to Information Act regulations. Application fees totaling $1,675.00 were collected and the initial $5.00 application fee for requestors requesting Boards of Investigation reports was waived in light of the duty to assist.

Complaints

During the reporting period, the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) notified CSC of 60 complaints made against CSC in relation to requests for information. At the end of this reporting period, nine findings were issued for these complaints; three were resolved; four were discontinued; and two were not substantiated. The remaining complaints are still under investigation.

In addition, 27 findings were made in relation to complaints carried forward since fiscal year 2002. Thirteen of these were resolved; six were discontinued; four were not well founded; two were not-substantiated; and only two were well founded.

Resources

A total of $688,556 was spent in salary budget and $35,310.00 in operational spending.