Appendix A: Findings

Based on all of the above, the Commissioner has made the following findings:

  1. Members of the Minister’s staff, who had no delegated authority under the Act, were improperly involved in the processing of access and consultation requests during the time period under examination.
  2. Information identified for review at the weekly access meetings (such as the information in “high profile” or “interesting” requests) was only released once the Minister’s Office signalled that it was satisfied with the information being disclosed.
  3. Identifying requests for review during weekly access meetings increased the risk of delay and interference in the processing of these requests and of reduced disclosure of information.
  4. PWGSC had inadequate practices to ensure that proper communication channels with the Minister’s Office were followed, thereby allowing direct communications between departmental staff and ministerial staff members to occur.
  5. Ministerial staff members failed to follow the proper communication channels, set out in Accountable Government (2008), when they communicated directly with departmental staff members in the ATIP Directorate.
  6. PWGSC’s zero-tolerance policy was not always respected when members of the Minister’s staff became involved in the review process, since their involvement increased the response time of requests.
  7. The involvement by the Minister’s Director of Parliamentary Affairs in the processing of five separate access and consultation requests and his directions to members of the ATIP Directorate in those five requests constitute improper involvement with requesters’ right of access.
  8. The involvement by the Minister’s Policy Advisor in the processing of a consultation request, his directions to members of the ATIP Directorate and his interactions with Health Canada ministerial staff members, constitute improper involvement with the requester’s right to access (file AC-2009-00039).
  9. The involvement by the Minister’s Special Assistant in the processing of an access request and her directions to the members of the ATIP Directorate in that request constitute improper involvement with the requester’s right to access (file A-2008-00519).
  10. The involvement of the Minister’s Director of Parliamentary Affairs, the Minister’s Policy Advisor, and the Minister’s Special Assistant in five access files contributed to delay in responding to requests (or in the case of consultations, providing recommendations to the institution) because an issue remained unresolved with the Minister’s Office (file A-2009-00033) or the Minister’s Office either did not sign the Notice of Release or Notice of Reply within the allocated time in the following four files:

    File A-2009-00169: The Notice of Release was signed by the ATIP Directorate on September 22, 2009. As per the “zero-tolerance policy,” all levels of review were required to sign the notice no later than September 30, 2009. The notice arrived in the Minister’s Office on September 29, 2009. The Minister’s Office signed the notice on October 19, 2009. In total, the file was in the Minister’s Office 14 working days.

    File A-2008-00588: The Notice of Release was signed by the ATIP Directorate on June 29, 2009. As per the “zero-tolerance policy,” all levels of review were required to sign the notice no later than July 8, 2009. The notice arrived in the Minister’s Office on July 10, 2009—that is, two days beyond the time allocated for review. The Minister’s Office signed the notice on August 4, 2009. In total, the file was in the Minister’s Office 17 working days.

    File AC-2009-00039: The Notice of Reply was signed by the ATIP Directorate on July 6, 2009. As per the “zero-tolerance policy,” all levels of review were required to sign the notice no later than July 14, 2009. The notice arrived in the Minister’s Office on July 10, 2009. The Minister’s Office signed the notice on July 20, 2009. In total, the file was in the Minister’s Office six working days.

    File A-2008-00519: The Notice of Release was signed by the ATIP Directorate on July 23, 2009. As per the “zero-tolerance policy,” all levels of review were required to sign the notice no later than July 31, 2009. The notice arrived in the Minister’s Office on July 24, 2009. The Minister’s Office signed the notice on August 5, 2009. In total, the file was in the Minister’s Office eight working days.

    The delays occasioned by these reviews, conducted by persons without delegation under the Act, were contrary to the legislative duty to provide access to information in a timely manner, as set out in subsection 4(2.1) of the Act.