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Questionnaires

Year


Telefilm Canada  

Part A: Requests carried over from the prior fiscal year (2007-2008)
1. Number of requests carried over: 34
2. Requests carried over from the prior fiscal year— in a deemed-refusal situation on the first day of the new fiscal year 0
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 46
4.A How many were completed within the statutory 30-day time limit? 25
4.B How many were completed beyond the statutory 30-day time limit where no extension was claimed ? 0
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 ? 0
  1-30 days: 0
  31-60 days: 0
  61-90 days: 0
  Over 91 days: 0
5. How many were extended pursuant to section 9? 40
6.A How many were completed within the extended time limit? 40
6.B How many exceeded the extended time limit? 0
6.C How long after the expiry of the extended deadline did it take to respond?  
  1-30 days: 0
  31-60 days: 0
  61-90 days: 0
  Over 91 days: 0
7. Number of requests carried over in 2009-2010? 15
8. As of April 1 st , 2009, how many requests are in a deemed-refusal situation? 0
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
  Factors that prevented TFC from responding more quickly to access requests.  1. Legitimate application of the Access to Information Act  Subsection 9(1) of the Act sets out circumstances under which the initial period of 30 days may be extended. These are limited to the following:
  • if the request is for a large number of records or requires a search through a large number of records and meeting the original time limit, under either of these circumstances, would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the institution(paragraph 9(1)(a) of the Act). Such an extension was granted in the case of two requests;
  • if consultation is necessary and it cannot be completed within 30 days. Consultation in this context refers to consultation of the type undertaken with other government institutions or other governments (paragraph 9(1)(b) of the Act). Such an extension was granted in the case of 37 requests;
  • notice is given to a third party pursuant to subsection 27(1) (paragraph 9(1)(c) of the Act). Such an extension was granted in the case of one request.
 

In 2008–2009 access requests generally concerned international television co-productions. Where access requests involve information obtained in confidence from the government of foreign states or their institutions, application of subsection 13(1) does not allow the federal institution any discretion. This is a mandatory class test exemption. Consequently, when the notices of extension were given, TFC had engaged in consultations with institutions of foreign states.

In 37 cases consultations were engaged with partners of foreign, provincial and/or federal states.  Consultations with institutions of foreign states are of course long and arduous undertakings, the outcome of which may not always be successful.  In one case TFC had to consult with a third party.   In two other cases on account of the large number of records requested, TFC had to extend the initial period because meeting the time limit would have unreasonably interfered with the operations of the institution.  

As the Information Commissioner is aware, extension of the time limit must also take into account the amount of work required to respond to the request. Where the time limit is extended under paragraphs 9(1)(a) or (b), the notice must specify the length of the extension (although it is not necessary to do so in the case of extensions under paragraph 9(1)(c) of the Act). TFC met the requirements of the Act at all times.
 

Pursuant to subsection 9(1) of the Act, the notice of extension must be given to the person who made the request within the initial 30-day period. TFC continues to meet that requirement. 

TFC adheres to the following procedures prior to giving notice of extension:

1. TFC reviews the request as soon as possible after it is received. TFC then determines whether it is necessary to provide the requester with reasonable notice of extension within 30 days of receipt of the request.

2. TFC undertakes to process the records as expeditiously as possible.

3. TFC acts prudently and diligently, taking into account the conditions set by the Information Commissioner, whereby processing of files is to be finalized within the time limit stipulated in the notice of extension.

As the Information Commissioner is aware, federal institutions must respond to access requests within 30 days of receipt or seek an extension of the time limit. Institutions may request extensions only under the special circumstances described in section 9 of the Act. Furthermore, extensions must be for a reasonable amount of time. There are no other constraints in terms of utilization of extensions or the length thereof.
 

2. Structural context of ATIP within TFC 

TFC is a small agency with fewer than 200 employees. Normally, a singleemployee performs the duties of Access to Information and Privacy Analyst and Paralegal concurrently

In actuality, this employee (equivalent to 0.5 FTE for access to information duties) sees to application of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act on a part-time basis. This employee’s workload is phenomenal. 

3.There was a sudden influx of access requests. 

In 2008–2009 TFC had to manage a sudden and temporary influx of access requests from a group of commercial corporations. The situation has been dealt with for the most part. 

4. Access requests were for “old” documents. 

The group of commercial corporations in question submitted access requests for records in TFC Archives. Accessing such records was not always easy. 

5. Access requests concerned a large number of records. 

Despite TFC’s efforts to assist the requesters, the access requests were difficult to manage because they were formulated in very broad terms. The requests also involved a large number of records.

 

6. Access requests concerned sensitive information belonging to third parties. 

Generally speaking, TFC processes access requests concerning financial, commercial, scientific and technical information provided to federal institutions by third parties, which is given in confidence and is always treated as such by the latter. These types of files require special attention. Improper disclosure could have serious consequences for the third parties and federal institutions concerned.

Also, generally speaking TFC processes access requests for information the disclosure of which would likely result in significant financial losses or gains for third parties, or harm their competitiveness.

Under bilateral and multilateral international co-production agreements, audiovisual works produced by different producers residing in countries signatory to these agreements can be duly classified and recognized as such by each of the countries concerned, and can receive benefits and assistance from each country.

Co-production combines resources for the purpose of creating a work that would otherwise be difficult to achieve with a single producer.

All information concerning international co-productions is provided by third parties to TFC in confidence. TFC is committed to maintaining such confidentiality.

Information provided to TFC pursuant to the establishment of classification criteria to be met for deciding whether a particular status (certification) may be granted can result in fiscal benefits.

It should be noted that under co-production agreements, two or more parties agree to:

  1. collaborate and share property, rights and/or services enabling the successful co-production of an audiovisual work regardless of its nature;

  2. assign to each other ownership of the rights to the work resulting from their collaboration; and

  3. proceed jointly with its use and share in the profits (or losses) of the co-production in question in the established proportions.

The fiscal implications of these agreements are different each time, and can vary from country to country, resulting in the need to maintain strict confidentiality of information provided to TFC.

A major drawback with international co-productions is that the contractual relationships between the parties are governed by different legal systems that are not harmonized with each other. Consequently, inappropriate and improper disclosure can have unpredictable and adverse consequences.

7. Access requests concerned information obtained in confidence from governments of foreign states or their institutions. 

Generally speaking, in 2008–2009 nearly 50% of the packages processed contained information obtained in confidence from governments of foreign states or their institutions. Application of subsection 13(1) of the Access to Information Act does not allow federal institutions any discretion. This is a mandatory class test exemption.

These kinds of files require special attention because improper disclosure can have serious consequences for the third parties (foreign states) and the federal institutions concerned. Under such circumstances, consultations with the third parties are required. 

8. Management of complaints systematically filed by a group of requesters took up a great deal of resources. 

In 2008–2009 TFC had to manage a sudden and temporary influx of access requests submitted by a group of commercial corporations. This group filed complaints in 90% of all cases in which access requests had been made, without giving any reasons or explanations. These systematic complaints significantly reduced TFC’s institutional ability to respond more quickly to access requests that were submitted. 

Complaints management is particularly arduous for small federal agencies that do not have specialized computer facilities such as ATIP Flow, ATIP Image, etc.

The Information Commissioner cannot deny that complaints management is a priority issue, takes up a considerable amount of time and monopolizes a substantial amount of resources. This factor significantly delayed processing of access requests.

10.
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

Practices or policies developed/undertaken by TFC to speed up execution of its access program. Indicate the degree of effectiveness of these practices/policies. 

1. Efficient management of voluminous requests 

Some access requests made to TFC under the Access to Information Act involved hundreds and even thousands of pages or records. Processing these requests is hard work!  Handling voluminous requests requires a comprehensive understanding of all aspects of request processing, including the requirements for proper searches, fee estimates, interim notices, final decisions, time extensions and third party notification.  There is usually a story behind a request and knowing the story makes the search and review for relevant information much simpler and more focused. It can often lead to the request being treated informally simply by providing an answer to the question the person wanted to ask. Consequently, TFC has adopted a customer service model. TFC believes that this model is effective, particularly when compared with the defensive model in use in other institutions. However, TFC’s customer service model requires co-operation from persons making access requests. In 2008–2009 TFC carefully documented the conduct of requesters. Those who were uncooperative had to contend with reasonable, albeit longer, processing times.  

Initial stages 

The initial stages are critical to the successful processing of a voluminous request.  

Clarity the Request 

A voluminous request can often involve broad subject areas, and may require clarification before it can be processed.   In the case of an unclear voluminous request, it may be helpful to quickly obtain a general understanding of the types of records that may be responsive to the request. Identifying what is and is not relevant and available in response to the request through TFC program staff prior to seeking clarification from the requester can be most beneficial. It generally reduces the time needed for clarification by identifying at the outset what information is or is not available and allows the institution to suggest alternatives (e.g., the information may not be available in the format requested but may be available in another format). This step can be accomplished by reviewing record indexes, communicating with program areas and determining whether the records have been the subject of previous requests. Where clarification of a voluminous request is necessary, a general understanding of the categories of records will allow an institution to explore with the requester the types of records being sought. This method is reliant on the co-operation of the requester. 

Where appropriate, work with the requester to narrow down the request 

Narrowing down a request refers to working with the requester to reduce the scope of the request or the number of records involved. It is especially useful in situations where the voluminous request is very broad and the requester is generally unaware of the types of records the institution might have. It allows the institution to familiarize the requester with the organization, the role the institution would have played in the event around the records they are seeking, and what records the institution may or may not have. With this knowledge, the requester can then decide how to proceed. This method is reliant on the co-operation of the requester. 

Consider alternative ways of meeting the requester’s needs 

TFC explores the possibility of finding other ways of meeting a requester’s needs at the outset of a request that may yield voluminous records. For instance, does it appear that the requester has a specific interest that can be addressed in an alternative manner, such as meeting with a particular program area? Can the request be broken down into segments and processed in order of importance to the requester? These approaches may benefit both parties. This method is reliant on the co-operation of the requester.  

Ascertain whether a time extension is required 

Time extensions may be granted in accordance with the Access to Information Act. The reader should refer to the conditions for granting time extensions already described in the previous section. Notices of extension are issued within 30 days (unless the request was put on hold following an unanswered request for clarification) after processing has begun.   TFC always issues the release package before the end of the extended time limit.  

Contact the requester  It is important for an institution to establish a rapport with the requester during the early stages of processing a voluminous request. Working together with the requester can often save time and effort, expedite request processing and may help avoid an unnecessary appeal.007A   As noted above, TFC makes immediate contact with the requester to seek clarification and attempt early narrowing or alternative resolution. This method is reliant on the co-operation of the requester. 

2. Knowledge of the Access to Information Act 

TFC officials are of the view that the Access to Information Act is an essential tool for the performance of their duties. 

3. Requests are processed as they are received  Requesters do not receive preferential treatment by virtue of their status or any “pressure” they may bring to bear. Requests are processed as they are received.  

4. Prudence and diligence 

TFC acts prudently and diligently, taking into account the conditions set by the Information Commissioner, whereby processing of files is to be finalized within the time limit stipulated in the notice of extension.  

5. Effective records management procedures  TFC utilizes effective records management procedures, which lead to efficient practices and prevent a significant amount of time being wasted in searching for requested material.  

6. Use of consulting experts  TFC uses the services of consulting experts where necessary. In case of doubt, notifications are required and files must be documented accordingly.

Part D: Completion Time
11. What is the average completion time for all requests completed in 2008-2009?
  Less than 30 days = 38% 31 – 60 days = 5% 61 – 120 days = 5% 121 days or more = 52%
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.

  

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