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Report Cards

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Introduction

The Access to Information Act gives Canadian citizens, residents and companies the right to request and receive information that federal institutions hold, including documents, pictures, letters and emails. The right of access is limited by a number of exemptions and exclusions that permit, and in some instances require, institutions to withhold portions of records requested under the Act. These exemptions and exclusions balance freedom of information with the need to protect individual privacy, commercial confidentiality, national security and the frank communications necessary for effective policy-making.

The Office of the Information Commissioner helps ensure that federal institutions respect the Act and provide timely access to information, to keep the federal government accountable to Canadians.

In the Three-Year Plan for Report Cards, the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) set out to take an in-depth look at delays in the response of federal institutions to requests under the Access to Information Act. In the first year of the plan, the OIC examined a large sample of federal institutions, which accounted for 88 percent of all the requests the government received in 2008–2009. That exercise confirmed that chronic delays had yet to be properly addressed and continued to erode requesters' right to information. This report contains a progress report on the work undertaken by the institutions who were the worst performers among the 2008–2009 cohort to improve their compliance with the Act.

In the second year of the plan, the OIC selected for review Crown corporations and Agents of Parliament that were brought under the Access to Information Act as a result of the Federal Accountability Act. These institutions, listed below, have never been reviewed before and were selected because the OIC had received more than five complaints about them since they had become subject to the Act in 2007:

  • Atomic Energy Canada Limited
  • Canada Post Corporation
  • Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
  • National Arts Centre Corporation
  • Office of the Auditor General of Canada
  • Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada (report card prepared by the Information Commissioner ad hoc)
  • Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
  • VIA Rail Canada Inc.

Chapter 1 examines the changes to the Access to Information Act introduced by the Federal Accountability Act-the new institutions covered and the exemptions and exclusions added. Chapter 2 offers a progress report on the implementation of the recommendations the OIC made to institutions that performed below average or worse in 2008–2009 and to the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, as well as actions that the OIC undertook to improve in some of its areas of responsibility. Finally, Chapter 3 presents the report cards for the eight institutions assessed for 2009–2010.

The information in this report comes from a number of sources, including institutions' responses to the OIC's questionnaire, which asked for both statistics and narrative answers to specific questions, as well as interviews with key access to information officials to follow up on their answers to the questionnaire. The OIC supplemented that information with printouts from institutions' case management systems, institutions' annual reports on access to information and its own files. The OIC brings a unique perspective to its assessment of institutions' overall performance. The conclusions in this report stem from its expertise and analysis of all the information these sources brought to light.

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