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Public Safety Canada  

Part A: Requests carried over from the prior fiscal year (2007-2008)
1. Number of requests carried over: 59
2. Requests carried over from the prior fiscal year— in a deemed-refusal situation on the first day of the new fiscal year 8
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 235
4.A How many were completed within the statutory 30-day time limit? 137
4.B How many were completed beyond the statutory 30-day time limit where no extension was claimed ? 1
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: 1
  31-60 days:  
  61-90 days:  
  Over 91 days:  
5. How many were extended pursuant to section 9? 88
6.A How many were completed within the extended time limit? 39
6.B How many exceeded the extended time limit? 9
6.C How long after the expiry of the extended deadline did it take to respond?  
  1-30 days: 3
  31-60 days: 5
  61-90 days:  
  Over 91 days: 1
7. Number of requests carried over in 2009-2010? 53
8. As of April 1 st , 2009, how many requests are in a deemed-refusal situation? 9
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

The most significant issues affecting Public Safety Canada’s ability to respond to access to information requests in a timely manner are as follows:

1) Increased workload and complexity

  • Since the creation of Public Safety in December 2003, ATI requests received by the Department have increased by 84%, from 128 requests received in FY 03/04 to 235 requests in FY 08/09.
  • Processing requests takes time, given the sensitivity of the information held by the institution. Due diligence must be exercised in terms of applying exemptions/severances; given the potential for harm should sensitive information be mistakenly released. This, of course, is balanced against ensuring the public’s right of access.
  • Records held by Public Safety Canada invariably contain information obtained or prepared by agencies within the Public Safety portfolio (RCMP, CBSA, CSIS, CSC, NPB and review agencies), as well as information obtained from other federal institutions and levels of government with shared responsibilities relating to public safety. Consequently, most records require extensive consultation with other parties before they can be released. The Department holds many records which contain Cabinet confidences. At least half of the requests processed by the Department where records are located require consultations with PCO regarding Cabinet confidences.
2) Consultations
  • Most extensions invoked at Public Safety are to accommodate the consultation process. ATIP analysts work with record holders to identify the organizations that need to be consulted, and review the length of time taken by each organization to respond to previous consultation requests when assessing the length of extension to invoke.
  • In addition to having to consult others, Public Safety Canada is one of the institutions where consultation regarding the application of s. 15(1) is mandatory. Since 2003, consultations from other departments have increased by more than 120%, from 89 requests received in FY 2003/04 to 198 requests received in FY 08/09.

3) OPI Turnaround Time

The volume of records held by the Department, and the fact that most records are not stored electronically because of their level of classification, tends to slow down the process of finding and retrieving records.

4) Staffing Challenges

Like all federal institutions, the Department competes for scarce ATIP resources when it seeks to fill a vacancy. Consequently, positions can remain vacant for a period of time. In addition, most individuals within the ATIP Unit require high level security clearances. Obtaining these clearances can take time, delaying offers of employment.

5) Technology Throughout the reporting year, redaction was done manually as the Department had only limited capability to process records electronically.

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 Department took a number of measures to improve the timely delivery of its access to information program as follows:

1) Compliance with 10-Day Retrieval

The Department provides offices with 10 days to submit responsive records and recommendations to the ATIP Unit. To help ensure that this timeline is met, in 2007/08 all executive level performance management agreements included a commitment with respect to meeting ATIP obligations and timelines. Quarterly performance was monitored and provided to Senior Management which helped ensure that they paid regular attention to ATI timeliness. In FY 07/08, offices required on average 12.5 days before providing responsive records to the ATIP Unit. The average was reduced to 9.26 days in FY 08/09. This represents a significant improvement, which contributed to the Department’s ability to respond to 90% of requests on time in 08/09. The Department’s Executive Committee continues to receive weekly updates on processing of ATI requests within the organization.

2) Revised Delegation Instruments/Approval Process

  • The Minister signed a new delegation instrument in June 2009 which retains delegation at the senior management level. Given the nature of the Department’s activities, the complexity and sensitivity of the information involved and the possible ramifications of releasing information that could impact the nation’s security, this level of delegation ensures that the individual most familiar with the records is able to exercise discretion about exemptions and provide advice on consultations. It also helps ensure senior level attention is given to the processing of files.
    • If a file requires the approval of more than one senior official, every effort is made to seek approvals concurrently.
  • The Department’s ATIP Manager now has authority to apply s. 19(1) allowing for severances of personal info in the ATIP Unit in most instances without having to return to the relevant ADM.

3) Technology

In 2008/09, the Department obtained new software and, as a result, the ATIP Unit began working with electronic processing software, AccesPro Case Management and Redaction, in August 2009. It is expected that these tools will contribute to more timely responses because processes have been simplified and paper records are now being handled less frequently.

4) Training and awareness

  • In 2008/09, the ATIP Unit delivered targeted training for areas in the Department where training was most needed (e.g. because of patterns of delay or unfamiliarity with processes).
  • The ATIP Unit has committed to delivering 10 ATI awareness sessions over the current year. These sessions are now being coordinated by the Department’s learning centre, thereby ensuring the widest possible dissemination of the availability of this training within the institution. The impact of this change was quickly evident in that most sessions this fiscal year were fully booked within a week of being announced.
  • Training materials are also available to all employees on the Department’s intranet site.
  • Training of ATIP personnel remains a priority for the Department in spite of heavy workloads. All ATIP Unit employees participate in Treasury Board Secretariat learning events, and some are seeking certification through the University of Alberta’s Information Access and Protection of Privacy program.

5) Relocation of the ATIP Unit The ATIP Unit was moved within the main Headquarters’ building in November 2008. The Unit is now in closer proximity to delegated authorities and the Central Records office. Employees of the ATIP Unit are now more visible and accessible to senior management, and files do not have to travel between buildings as often, thereby saving time in the process.

6) Staffing

The Department created one new Senior ATIP Advisor (PM-05) position in FY 07/08 and one AS-02 positions in FY 08/09 to afford staff developmental opportunities and aid in succession planning.

7) Interim Responses

The ATIP Unit has implemented procedures to a) inform requesters when the statutory deadline will not be met and provide an approximate response date when possible, and b) provide interim responses to requesters when possible.

8) Regular Reporting to Executive Committee

An analysis of deemed refusals in 08/09 identified 10-day retrieval and final sign-off as areas requiring attention. In 2008/09, weekly reports were provided to the Department’s Executive Committee members to foster senior management awareness and accountability for ensuring that organizations were meeting ATI requirements. These reports identified:

  • All new requests which led to improved compliance with the 10-day retrieval timeline;
  • due dates of upcoming releases which led to improved compliance for final sign-off (senior managers have 48 hours to sign off a release package); and
  • new deemed refusals so that senior management was aware.
The DG responsible for ATIP also engaged ADMs directly and immediately if a file falling within their area of responsibility was approaching deemed refusal. In addition, Branches were provided with on time retrieval stats on a quarterly basis. All of these practices remain an integral part of the Department’s approach to managing ATIP performance.
Part D: Completion Time
11. What is the average completion time for all requests completed in 2008-2009?
  75 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.