Annual Report to Parliament on the Administration of the Access to Information Act 2014-2015

Table of contents

Introduction

The Access to Information Act became law on July 1, 1983.

The Act gives Canadian citizens, permanent residents and any person present in Canada the right of access to information contained in government records, subject to certain specific and limited exceptions.

Pursuant to section 72, the head of every federal institution shall prepare an annual report on the administration of this Act within its institution. This report is submitted to Parliament at the end of each fiscal year.

This report is intended to describe how the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) administered its responsibilities in relation to the Act during the 2014–2015 period.

General information – Part I

1. Canadian Space Agency

To better understand the context in which the Access to Information Act is implemented within the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the following provides a general overview of the Agency's objectives and activities.

The Canadian Space Agency reports to the Minister of Industry. Its mandate, as defined in the Canadian Space Agency Act, is to "promote the peaceful use and development of space, to advance the knowledge of space through science and to ensure that space science and technology provide social and economic benefits for Canadians."

Mission

The Canadian Space Agency is committed to leading the development and application of space knowledge for the benefit of Canadians and humanity.

To achieve its mission, the CSA:

  • pursues excellence collectively;
  • advocates a client-oriented attitude;
  • supports employee-oriented practices and open communication;
  • commits itself to both empowerment and accountability;
  • pledges to cooperate and to work with partners to our mutual benefit.

The Canadian Space Agency has been a source of inspiration for Canadians for 25 years now. In addition to consolidating major federal space programs, it coordinates all the components of the Canadian Space Program and manages Canada's major space-related activities. The CSA has the expertise to lead knowledge in Canadian speciality fields, and to sponsor, support and encourage the best Canadian companies to make the next steps in space development.

More information on the Agency's activities can be found at: www.asc-csa.gc.ca.

2. Organization of the implementation of Access to Information activities

The head of our institution pursuant to the Access to Information Act is the Minister of Industry. The Minister has delegated certain powers, duties and functions pursuant to the Act to the Vice President of the Canadian Space Agency position incumbent and to some CSA officers and employees position incumbents.

The responsibility for implementing the Act at the CSA has been delegated to the Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Coordinator position incumbent, who reports to the Vice President.

The Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Office is managed by the Coordinator, who has a close working relationship with the Executive Committee members concerning the application of, and compliance with, the Act.

Processing of requests

When an access to information request is received, the Coordinator consults the appropriate managers and, as required, the Legal Services Directorate, the Treasury Board Information Practices Group or other institutions.

When the Coordinator identifies a record as one that should be protected under the Act, an exemption is recommended to the Vice President. When a record is identified as an exclusion under the Act, the Coordinator consults with the Legal Services Directorate, which consults with the Privy Council Office, as needed, to confirm that it is an excluded record.

Formal requests made under the Act are carefully documented for reporting purposes and future reference.

Report – Access to Information Act – Part II

1. Interpretation of the statistical report on Access to Information requests

Highlights

  • The number of requests received (22) declined substantially from 2013–2014, which was an exceptional year. However, it can be noted that the number recorded in 2014–2015 falls within the average number of requests received over the last five years.
  • Only 4 requests were carried forward to the next fiscal year.
  • Once again, the media submitted the greatest number of requests.
  • The decrease in the number of requests received throughout the year directly affected the number of pages disclosed, which dropped from 11,061 to 2,613.
  • Although the nature and processing of some requests proved to be challenging, 50% of the requests received were processed within 30 days.
  • External consultations were once again a challenge for the Agency. Of the 18 requests processed, 13 required extensions.
  • Compared with the previous year, the CSA reduced by 57% the number of requests that were not processed within the statutory deadlines.

The statistical report from the period of April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015 is included at the end of this chapter.

Requests received and processed

The number of access requests received and processed dropped from the previous fiscal year, from 38 to 18. However, it can be noted that the number recorded in 2014–2015 falls within the average number of requests received and processed annually (approximately 20) over the last five years.

The significant number of requests received in 2013–2014 is largely attributable to applicants' increased interest in the Agency's activities, particularly Commander Chris Hatfield's space mission, which took place from December 2012 to May 2013.

In 2014–2015, the CSA received a total of 17 requests during the reporting period, compared with 38 in 2013–2014. In addition to the requests received in 2014–2015, 5 requests were carried forward from the previous year. Therefore, the Agency processed a total of 22 requests in 2014–2015.

The following table displays the trend among requests carried forward and received in the last four fiscal years:

Processed Requests

Graph. Data table follows.
2014-2015 2013-2014 2012-2013 2011-2012
Carried forward from the previous fiscal year 5 6 1 3
Received throughout the year 17 38 23 20

Informal requests

Informal requests are those for which the requested information has already been disclosed pursuant to the Act. No fees can be charged and the request is not subject to a processing time frame. Moreover, the Act does not give the applicant the right to file a complaint with the Information Commissioner.

The CSA processed four informal requests in 2014–2015. These requests began to be recorded as part of the CSA's annual statistical reports only four years ago. The following chart displays the variances in informal requests:

Informal Requests

2014-2015 2013-2014 2012-2013 2011-2012
Number of informal requests 4 7 0 3

Sources of requests

Again this year, the media accounted for the lion's share of requests (59%), while the commercial sector accounted for 23% and members of the public 18%.

The following table shows the sources of requests.

Sources 2014-2015

Public: 18% Organizations: 0% Business: 23% Academia: 0% Media: 59%
18% 0% 23% 0% 59%

Dispositions and processing times

The Act stipulates that access requests must normally be answered within 30 calendar days. Of those processed in 2014–2015, 9 requests (50%) were answered in less than 30 days, and of these, 4 requests were answered in less than 15 days.

It is also important to note that the Act provides for extended deadlines for certain requests where consultations are needed with third parties or other organizations. Given the nature of the documents sought from the CSA in 2014–2015, several requests required such consultations. The CSA therefore had to extend the deadlines to be able to discharge its obligations under the Act.

Thus, a total of 13 requests were extended throughout the fiscal year. Of these, answers to 9 extended requests were delivered within the time frames specified in the Act.

In 18% of the requests processed, the requested records were delivered late, for a total of 4 requests that were not answered within the statutory time frames. This is mainly because the 4 requests carried forward from the previous fiscal year were already delayed owing to external consultations.

Processing Times and Dispositions

1 to 15 16 to 30 31 to 60 61 to 120 121 to 180 181 to 365 365 +
Full disclosure 2 0 1 0 0 0 0
Partial disclosure 1 4 3 2 0 0 3
No record exists 1 1 0 0 0 0 0

Exceptions and exclusions invoked

Given the number of requests answered in 2014–2015, the CSA made full disclosure, without applying any protection, for 3 requests (19%) and invoked exemptions and exclusions for 13 other cases (81%).

In addition to certain Cabinet confidences, the CSA has many documents containing commercial, technical and financial information from third parties, all because of its activities. In most cases, these documents require the application of exemptions and exclusions.

The following table shows the frequency of exemptions and exclusions invoked in 2014–2015. Note that more than one section may be invoked for a given request.

Exemption and Exclusion Sections Invoked Frequency

Information that could be detrimental to international affairs

  • 15(1)
  • 2

Information on the vulnerability of particular buildings or systems

  • 16(2)(c)
  • 2

Economic interests of Canada

  • 18(a)
  • 18(b)
  • 18(d)
  • 1
  • 4
  • 3

Personal information

  • 19(1)
  • 7

Third party information

  • 20(1)(a)
  • 20(1)(b)
  • 20(1)(c)
  • 20(1)(d)
  • 1
  • 8
  • 10
  • 3

Advice and recommendations to the government

  • 21(1)(a)
  • 21(1)(b)
  • 21(1)(c)
  • 5
  • 5
  • 2

Solicitor-client advantage

  • 23
  • 4

Confidential records

  • 69(1)(a)
  • 69(1)(c)
  • 69(1)(d)
  • 69(1)(e)
  • 69(1)(g) re (a)
  • 69(1)(g) re (b)
  • 69(1)(g) re (c)
  • 69(1)(g) re (d)
  • 1
  • 1
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 1
  • 2
  • 1

Format of information disclosed

In 2014–2015, a total of 16 requests resulted in partial or full disclosure. Of this number, 7 responses (44%) were disclosed on paper, while 9 others (56%) in electronic format.

For the first time since this type of information has been collected, the number of documents disclosed in electronic format exceeded the number of documents disclosed on paper.

Again this year, as has been the case for many years, no records were consulted in the Agency's reading room.

Pages reviewed and disclosed

With the introduction in 2011–2012 by the Treasury Board Secretariat of a new detailed statistical report, it is now possible to report the number of pages reviewed and compare it with the number of pages disclosed.

These page numbers may vary considerably from year to year, depending on the subjects and the quantity of relevant records held by the Agency.

In 2014–2015, fewer pages were reviewed (5,024) than in the previous year (11,577). This gap is the direct result of a decrease in the number of requests received throughout the year.

The number of pages disclosed also decreased from 8,448 pages to 2,613 pages in 2014–2015.

Number of Pages Disclosed

2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015
Number of pages 7703 7318 11061 2613

Consultations and extensions

Given the nature of the CSA's operations, particularly with respect to funding granted under the Canadian Space Agency Class Grant and Contribution Program to Support Research, Awareness and Learning in Space Science and Technology, the CSA collects information from a number of third parties.

It is not unusual for requests processed to require consultations with third parties and hence extensions of the times stipulated in the Act. The CSA consults its third parties and sometimes other federal institutions to provide as much information as possible, as required by both the spirit and the letter of the Act.

In order to meet the demands of the Act, extensions were granted for 13 out of 18 requests processed (72%) by the CSA. In each case, applicants were advised of the extension in accordance with the Act.

Consultations from other federal institutions

In 2014–2015, the CSA processed a total of 35 consultation requests from other federal institutions. These requests accounted for a total of 516 pages for processing.

The number of consultation requests has been comparable for the past three fiscal years, as shown by the chart below.

Consultations from Other Federal Institutions

2014-2015 2013-2014 2012-2013 2011-2012
Number of consultations 35 32 30 7

Of these 35 consultations, 23 CSA recommendations resulted in full disclosure (66%) and 10, partial disclosure (29%). The CSA also requested that the advisory documents of a file be exempted in their entirety and that one organization be consulted for a second file.

The majority of these requests were processed within 30 days (94%), while 2 other requests were processed within a time frame of 31 to 60 days (6%).

Cabinet confidences consultations

In 2014–2015, consultations were already underway for the requests carried forward from the previous fiscal year to confirm with the Privy Council Office the applicability of section 69. These consultations required more than 365 days for processing. 

In addition, throughout the year, one consultation request was made to Justice Canada. This department was consulted under the 2013 guidelines, according to which it could now confirm the applicability of section 69. This consultation request was processed in less than 60 days.

Consultations to determine the applicability of section 69 require that the CSA consult with Justice Canada or the Privy Council Office, which always causes an issue with respect to the delivery of the response to the applicant. However, the 2013 guidelines on initial consultations with Justice Canada are improving consultation time frames.

Fees and exemptions

The CSA complies with the Treasury Board Secretariat guidelines regarding the imposition of and the exemption from access fees. It determines, based on the perceived public interest, whether to collect reproduction, research and preparation fees in full or not.

In 2014–2015, a net amount of $85 was collected for the submission of requests. However, no research, production, programming, preparation, alternative format or reproduction fees were charged. Submission fees were waived for one request.

Costs

The cost of administering the Access to Information Act is estimated at $98,147 for the reporting period. This cost represents a portion of the salary of the ATIP Coordinator and management overhead. This estimate covers the direct processing of requests and related correspondence with different levels of government and industry.

It does not include the time of Executive Committee members, directors and managers or legal counsel consulted about requests.

2. Complaints and investigations

No complaints were filed or pending in 2014–2015.

3. Awareness sessions

In addition to managing access to information and privacy requests, the ATIP Coordinator provides CSA employees with advice and guidance on compliance with the legislation. This is done by means of weekly information sessions on access to information and privacy request processing and on marking documents at the CSA. Employees attend these sessions as needed.

In total, one group information session was attended by 12 employees, and another 10 people received individual training.

Note that access to information and privacy policies and procedures are part of mandatory information management training given to all CSA employees.

4. Policies and procedures

The CSA's policies and procedures for administering the Access to Information Act, including subsection 67.1, are accessible on the Agency's intranet. No changes were made to the policies and procedures in 2014–2015.

5. Info Source

The Treasury Board Secretariat requires an updated account of all the CSA's information holdings so that they can be included in Info Source. This update is done annually by the ATIP Coordinator.

Info Source is hosted on the CSA's Web site and the most recent version is available at: www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/transparency/aipa/info-source.asp.

6. Reading room

In addition to using the Act to access various records, the public is encouraged to use existing mechanisms to obtain information held by federal institutions. To that end, the CSA has designated the library at the CSA Headquarters in Longueuil as the reading room.

7. Planned activities

Through its Access to Information and Privacy Office, the CSA will continue its mandate to respond to all requests for access to information in accordance with the spirit and letter of the Act.

In 2015–2016, it will also focus on developing effective, efficient tools, including the following:

  • Posting the summaries of completed access to information requests on open.canada.ca;
  • Implementing an electronic system for managing access to information requests.