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Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada 

Part A: Requests carried over from the prior fiscal year (2007-2008)
1. Number of requests carried over: 459
2. Requests carried over from the prior fiscal year— in a deemed-refusal situation on the first day of the new fiscal year 219
Part B: New Requests received in fiscal year 2008-2009— Exclude requests included in Part A
3. Number of requests received during the fiscal period 665
4.A How many were completed within the statutory 30-day time limit? 183
4.B How many were completed beyond the statutory 30-day time limit where no extension was claimed ? 95
4.C How long after the expiry of the statutory 30-day time limit did it take to complete the request where no extension was claimed ?  
  1-30 days: 51
  31-60 days: 19
  61-90 days: 5
  Over 91 days: 20
5. How many were extended pursuant to section 9? 313
6.A How many were completed within the extended time limit? 90
6.B How many exceeded the extended time limit? 68
6.C How long after the expiry of the extended deadline did it take to respond?  
  1-30 days: 17
  31-60 days: 13
  61-90 days: 6
  Over 91 days: 32
7. Number of requests carried over in 2009-2010? 385
8. As of April 1 st , 2009, how many requests are in a deemed-refusal situation? 288
Part C: Contributing Factors
9. Please describe the most significant issues that affected your institution’s ability to respond to access to information requests in a timely manner (within 30 days and/or statutory timelines). These may include:
  • Requests for large volume of records
  • Approval process of access requests
  • Difficulties to retrieve records (OPIs turnaround time)
  • Staff shortages
  • Requests filed in bulk
  • Consultations with other institutions
  • Others

Over the years, the Department has been chronically challenged in delivering on all aspects of its ATIP responsibilities. There are various factors affecting DFAIT’s performance and ongoing efforts to improve compliance with both ATIP Acts.   DFAIT has experienced a significant increase in ATIP requests including consultations from OGDs. In addition, DFAIT continues to face a growing array of very sensitive and challenging ATIP requests including parallel litigation, which have totally consumed the limited ATIP resources.

In just a four-year span from 2004/2005 to 2008/2009 DFAIT experienced a 51.5% total increase in all types of ATIP requests.

DFAIT is now the 8th largest volume department in terms of number of requests.  The Department has a dual set of responsibilities with respect to the Access to information and Privacy (ATIP) legislation. In addition to responding to its own requests for access, other government departments (OGDs) and agencies consult with DFAIT about information that might, if released, affect Canada’s international relations. As such, DFAIT also provides a unique service to OGDs under s. 15 of the ATI Act and s. 21 of the Privacy Act (international relations).

In 2008/09, 42% of the overall ATIP workload at DFAIT consisted of consultations from OGDs. Exemptions under s. 15 and 21 represent 20.4% of total exemptions claimed federally; making it the 2nd most frequently used exemption across the Government. Thus, a very heavy burden on DFAIT’s limited capacity. Related challenges facing DFAIT include:  

  • Globalization – with the ever-expanding global environment, the volume of access requests received by DFAIT including consultations from OGDs will continue to grow;
  • Complexity – dense, complex (multiple stakeholders), sensitive information with serious consequences to the national interest if improperly released;
  • Organization – rotational staff; 170+ offices abroad; matrix organization with overlapping responsibilities;
  • IM/IT infrastructure challenges – no common information repository due to security requirements and thus difficulties/delays in retrieving records;
  • Lack of ATIP Awareness across DFAIT; and
  • Limited resources for ATIP not only in the ATIP Office but across the department due in part to Strategic Review and internal re-allocation to meet other government and departmental priorities.
  A recent study of the ATIP function at DFAIT was conducted by Andr ée Delagrave of Sussex Circle. This study which was part of DFAIT’s ongoing efforts to improve its ATIP performance concluded that DFAIT lacks the capacity to comply with ATIP legislative and TBS policy obligations and that attempts to address the gap have led to a patchwork of short-term insufficient fixes.
Please describe any practices or policies developed/undertaken by your institution to improve the timely delivery of your access to information program and where possible, indicate how successful these practices/policies have been. These may include:
  • Informal treatment of requests
  • Streamlined approval process
  • Partial release of records
  • Fast track process for common requests
  • Others
The following are improvements that have been made over the last reporting year as well as ongoing initiatives to improve the overall ATIP function at DFAIT:  
  • In 2008-2009, the ATIP Office closed approximately 1,000 more ATIP files compared to the previous fiscal year due in large part to the increased permanent capacity (12 new FTEs in 2007-2008) as well as the use of ATIP consultants to help reduce the backlog.
  • Continued to work towards building amore stable and robust capacity within the departmental ATIP Division. Improved recruitment and retention of ATIP personnel to build towards a more sustainable ATIP function for the long-term, including the development of a Professional Development Program for succession planning purposes. The majority of the positions were staffed from competitive processes and deployments. In addition, staff morale and commitment to the Department have improved. DFAIT is also advocating government-wide solutions to staffing such as more centralized recruitment of ATIP specialists.
  • Maintained the reduction of the workload per analyst ratio with the addition of new staff and the continued use of consultants to help with the backlog. A revised case management strategy was implemented to align available resources to address the backlog as well as the current and expected workload.
  • Built a more structured training capacity for ATIP divisional staff drawing on both in-house and external ATIP educational programs. The ATIP Office now has two Deputy Directors, a Manager of Business Practices and Systems as well as five Team Leaders whose primary responsibilities are to ensure that all necessary training, mentoring and coaching is provided to divisional staff and that all the necessary tools are made available. Also worked on new and improved ATIP Guidelines to update and consolidate the divisional policy and procedures manuals.
  • Subject to available resources, started to build a permanent policy capacity within the ATIP Division in order to ensure that the necessary resources are available to meet various ATIP-related TBS requirements such as: the Privacy Impact Assessment Policy. There is a significant volume of Privacy Impact Assessments that are currently being prepared to meet both the PIA Policy as well as TBS’ Management of Information Technology and Security (MITS) requirements. Other reporting requirements, that require extensive work by a Policy team, include annual ATIP reports to Parliament, annual statistical reports to TBS, Report Cards to the Information Commissioner of Canada as well as continuous updates to the departmental ATIP websites (Intranet and Internet), all of which have a direct impact on MAF results.
  • Submitted to TBS in June 2008 an update to the annual publication InfoSource after almost 7 years of neglect due to lack of resources within the ATIP Division, which improved compliance with Indicator #12 of the TBS Management Accountability Framework (MAF). Given the extent of the work required due to years of neglect, TBS accepted that DFAIT start as a first phase in 2008 by aligning its InfoSource chapter with DFAIT’s current Program Activity Architecture as well as primary program holdings. Subject to available resources, the next phase of the update in 2009-2010 will be an in-depth review of all its information holdings including all personal information banks.
  • Another long overdue project that saw fruition in 2008-2009 is DFAIT’s Internet ATIP website which was revamped and updated. As required by TBS’ Privacy Impact Assessment Policy, the website also now includes summaries of Privacy Impact Assessments that were completed by DFAIT over the last seven years since the Policy was in effect in May 2002.
  • Continued to participate in a departmental IM/IT/ATIP Working Group to address various issues within DFAIT relating to information management and technology. For example, the ATIP Office’s inability to liaise with all DFAIT clientele in an efficient and effective manner on the secure network causes an over-reliance on hardcopy.
  • In October 2008 implemented a new streamlined ATIP tasking process across DFAIT with designated ATIP Liaison Officers for a single gateway into all the Bureaux and Branches. This in turn provides a much-improved ATIP tracking system in order to measure performance and to gain ATIP efficiencies.
  • Introduced monthly ATIP performance reports to senior management, which in turn has already proved to improve overall departmental understanding and commitment to ATIP compliance.
  • Implemented a structured and departmental-wide ATIP awareness program to ensure that officials across the Department understand their roles and responsibilities vis-à-vis ATIP. Preliminary steps have also been taken to develop an on-line ATIP tutorial for the departmental Intranet site, which will be implemented in 2009-2010 subject to available funding.
  • At the end of 2008-2009, the ATIP Office also hired two consultants with expertise in ATIP and business processes, respectively, to examine the ATIP function at DFAIT in order to provide recommendations for additional improvements to the overall ATIP program activity.
  • And finally, the ATIP Office also developed another Business Case in January 2009 in the hope of securing additional funding to ensure that the required permanent resourcesare in place which would result in:
  • sustainable departmental ATIP capacity to support legislative and TBS policy obligations;
  • improved compliance of ATIP Acts and better performance (i.e., timely responses in terms of 80% or better);
  • significant reduction of the long-term use of expensive ATIP consultants;
  • stable and reliable source of ATIP expertise resulting in better informed departmental officials and a culture that understands and values the departmental commitment to openness and transparency;
  • effective succession planning by gaining and retaining in-house ATIP expertise;
  • more timely external ATIP consultations with other government institutions and with other jurisdictions;
  • better service to stakeholders and clients;
  • a less stressful and taxing working environment for the current under-resourced staff; and
  • a more efficient and effective streamlined ATIP process within DFAIT.
Part D: Completion Time
11. What is the average completion time for all requests completed in 2008-2009?
  163 calendar days
Part E: Statistical Report on the Access to Information Act
12. Please attach your institution’s completed Report on the Access to Information (Form TBS/SCT 350-62) for the 2008-2009.