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CHAPTER 3- Facts and Figures

The charts and figures in this chapter set out the Office's complaints caseload for 2007-2008 from three perspectives: the complaints we received, the work we did to process them and the outcomes of our investigations.

Receiving complaints

The complaints we receive in any given year tend to fall into a handful of broad categories. Our caseload in 2007-2008 was no exception to this; we had three main types of complaints: administrative complaints, refusal complaints and complaints related to exclusions for Cabinet confidences, as follows:

Administrative complaints

  • Extensions: The institution extended the time it required to process the request.
  • Delays: The institution failed to provide access to the information within the time limits set out in the Act.
  • Fees: The fee the institution proposed to charge was unreasonable.
  • Miscellaneous complaints, including the following:
    • Access to records: The institution did not give the requester an opportunity to examine the information.
    • Official language of choice: The institution did not provide the information in the requester's official language of choice.
    • Alternative format: The institution did not provide the information in an alternative format that a person with a sensory disability could use.
    • Other matters: This includes complaints about any other matter relating to requesting or obtaining access to records under the Act.

Refusal complaints

  • Exemptions: The institution withheld the records under a specific provision of the Act, for reasons such as that the information was obtained in confidence from foreign governments, the information was related to the safety of individuals or the records contain personal information.
  • Incomplete response: The institution did not provide all the information it was allowed to release that matched the request.
  • No records: The institution found no documents that matched the request.
  • Published information: The information had already been published.

Cabinet confidences exclusion complaints

  • Access to records refused: The documents contained Cabinet confidences and were, as a result, not released.

Figure 1 sets out the complaints we received in 2007-2008 according to these three categories. Administrative complaints comprised 58 percent of all the complaints we received, compared to 54 percent last year. They included time-related complaints associated with delays (29 percent) and extensions (21 percent). Figure 2 sets out the complaints received by month.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Table 1 looks at the complaints we received according to the institution involved.

Table 1.
Complaints received in 2007-2008, by institution

Institution Number of complaints
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 536
Department of National Defence 256
Privy Council Office 239
Royal Canadian Mounted Police 134
Canada Revenue Agency 123
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade 102
Canada Border Services Agency 71
Public Safety Canada 63
Citizenship and Immigration Canada 60
Correctional Service of Canada 56
Health Canada 56
Public Works and Government Services Canada 53
Department of Justice 50
Department of Finance 47
Transport Canada 41
Others (66 institutions) 500
Total 2,387

Processing complaints

We usually complete investigations of administrative complaints in six months to one year, but many investigations of refusal and Cabinet confidence exclusion complaints take more than a year to investigate. Much of this delay is the result of the large backlog, which keeps complaints on hold for a significant period. Figure 3 shows the turnaround times for closing the 1,381 investigations we completed this year. The average for the year was eight months.

Figure 3

Completing our investigations

When an investigation is complete, it is assigned as being resolved, not substantiated or not resolved:

  • resolved: when a complaint has merit and the institution has resolved it to the Commissioner's satisfaction;
  • not substantiated: when a complaint could not be substantiated; the institution acted correctly; and
  • not resolved: when a complaint has merit but the institution did not accept the Commissioner's recommendations. To resolve the complaint, the Commissioner or the requester may consider taking court action.

Complaints may be cancelled because complainants withdrew or abandoned them before investigations began. Examples of cancelled complaints are those that we received that should have gone to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner or complaints made beyond the time allowed.

Complaints may be discontinued because complainants withdraw them or abandon them after investigations began. Examples of abandoned complaints are those that are resolved without our intervention.

Figure 4 breaks down the findings for this year's completed investigations by type of complaint. We found both refusal complaints and Cabinet confidence exclusion complaints to be not substantiated considerably more often than we did administrative complaints. We were able to satisfactorily resolve all the complaints.

Figure 4

Figure 4

Figure 4

Table 2 gives the overall number of complaints we closed in 2007-2008 by institution, and the number we found to be substantiated and that we then resolved satisfactorily. We closed the remainder because we found them to be not substantiated or we cancelled or discontinued them.

Table 2.
Complaints closed in 2007-2008, by institution

Institution Number of complaints
Overall With merit
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 385 355
Department of National Defence 112 67
Privy Council Office 80 42
Library and Archives Canada 66 50
Royal Canadian Mounted Police 66 39
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade 61 39
Fisheries and Oceans Canada 52 33
Canada Revenue Agency 50 25
Public Works and Government Services Canada 49 27
Health Canada 43 38
Canada Border Services Agency 43 28
Correctional Service of Canada 37 17
Citizenship and Immigration Canada 36 17
Public Safety Canada 32 25
Transport Canada 32 24
Others (48 institutions) 237 149
Total 1,381 975


Table 3 summarizes the caseload for the whole year and compares it to that of 2006-2007. We received 2,387 new complaints in 2007-2008, which is an increase of 1,070 new complaints (81 percent) from last year. We closed the investigations into 1,381 complaints; however, because of the increase in new complaints, 2,318 were pending at year-end.

Table 3 also includes figures for investigations into systemic issues. The Commissioner may launch his own investigations to address what appear to be widespread problems. These may be chronically late responses, improper management of extensions, large backlogs of unanswered requests and administrative practices that may result in requesters receiving slower or less forthcoming responses to access requests than they might otherwise. Individual requesters may also ask us to undertake a systemic investigation about the same matter taking place in several federal institutions. In 2007-2008, the Commissioner started to address systemic issues, such as delays, through a more balanced and comprehensive report card process (see Chapter 1).

Table 3.
Summary of caseload, 2007-2008

Institution April 1, 2006, to March 31, 2007* April 1, 2007, to March 31, 2008
Complaints carried over from the previous year 1,453 1,420
New complaints received during the year 1,317 2,387
Complaints cancelled during the year 82 108
Complaints closed during the year 1,268 1,381
Complaints pending at year-end 1,420 2,318
Complaints carried over from the previous year 423 237
New complaints initiated during the year 393 0
Complaints closed during the year 579 237
Complaints pending at year-end 237 0
Report Cards initiated during the year 17 10

* figures adjusted at year end

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