CIC is the most accessed federal institution, having received over 14,000 requests in 2008-2009. Volumes continue to increase – in 2008-2009, the department received over 20% more ATI requests than in 2007-2008, with no corresponding increase in resources. The number of pages reviewed has also increased substantially from just over 600,000 in 2007-2008 to 808,196 in 2008-2009.
Difficulties retrieving records
At CIC most of the requested files come from missions overseas. Some of them are remote and/or because of budget restraints, diplomatic bags are relied on to send the documents to Canada. This often means that it can take weeks for documents to reach Canada. In order to manage our unique situation and respond to requests in a timely manner, we have identified a list of missions that encounter difficulties in providing the documents to us within the 30 day statutory deadline prescribed in the Act and take reasonable and justifiable extensions. Our practice in that regard was endorsed by the OIC in 2005, recognizing CIC’s unique situation.
Again, due to CIC’s high ATI volumes and the fact that records are coming from outside national headquarters, staff shortages are not only an issue for the ATIP Division but a challenge throughout the organization. There are areas (in particular in certain overseas missions) with limited resources and no specific funding for ATIP duties.
To illustrate this, in 2008-2009 4,310 callouts for records were made to missions. Of those, the top five missions were: Chandigarh (731 callouts which represents 17%), Beijing (724 callouts which represents 16.8%), New Delhi (433 callouts which represents 10%), Hong Kong (364 callouts which represents 8.4%) and Buffalo (192 callouts which represents 4.5%). This represents a considerable volume of extra work for these missions in particular, as there are no dedicated resources for it.
Requests filed in bulk
CIC has several bulk requestors that regularly file several (upwards of 50) requests all at the same time. Given the legislative deadline for responding, this practice puts a significant strain on the Division’s resources. Again, it also has an impact beyond the Division, as often the records have to be retrieved from overseas missions.
Consultations with other institutions
External consultations with other government departments and agencies are having an impact on our ability to meet legislative deadlines. This is particularly the case for mandatory consultations with, for example, PCO on section 69 and DFAIT on section 15.
In October 2008, multiculturalism became part of CIC’s portfolio. This resulted in an increase in volume for the Complex Cases and Issues Unit in terms of new requests, as well as inheriting nine files from Heritage Canada (representing almost 10,000 pages).