Since the new streamlined processes introduced in 2008, no significant changes were made to internal ATIP processes in 2010-2011; however, much attention has been focused on education of departmental officials on their ATIP roles and responsibilities to ensure compliance and efficiencies.
During 2010-2011, the ATIP Office continued to ensure that all ATIP Analysts, regardless of their years of experience, received the necessary training and tools to do their job effectively via training sessions developed to meet the ATIP office’s training needs and via a dedicated mentor/coach (a.k.a. Team Leader). Team Leaders’ responsibilities are to ensure that there is a continuous and positive learning environment for employees’ proper development as ATIP specialists. Furthermore, learning plans have continued to be developed in consultation with each employee within the ATIP Office in order to effectively identify their training needs and to ensure that the necessary actions are taken to ensure that these needs are met.
The ATIP Office also continued to benefit from its ATIP Professional Development Program which is allowing DFAIT to “grow its own” ATIP analysts, given the lack of experienced ATIP analysts within the federal ATIP community. This program has been very successful in addressing recruitment, retention and succession planning issues.
While ATIP awareness sessions have been given to departmental officials over the years, the ATIP division continued to implement a more structured and departmental-wide ATIP awareness program to ensure that officials across the Department understand their roles and responsibilities vis-à-vis ATIP. The ATIP office also refined the training program for ATIP Liaison Officer and subject-matter experts within Offices of Primary Interest (OPIs) across the Department. These training programs are advertised with all other training programs available via the Canadian Foreign Service Institute and departmental messages are sent to all departmental employees on a regular basis to advise of the opportunities for training.
Employees are then able to register for these courses via an automated online service, which has improved the ATIP office’s ability to deliver training.
In all, one hundred and thirty seven (137) separate ATIP-related training sessions were delivered during the reporting period by the ATIP offices at both DFAIT and Passport Canada, comprising of approximately one thousand three hundred and thirty seven (1337) employees, including:
Ø its own ATIP Analysts, in regards to both Acts and certain exemptions/exclusions and the systems used to process requests received by the Department;
Ø new ATIP Liaison Officers and their back-ups;
Ø subject-matter experts within Offices of Primary Interest (OPIs);
Ø consular program officials and those preparing to work at missions abroad; as well as
Ø various departmental program officials including at Passport Canada.
Of all participants that evaluated the training sessions delivered by DFAIT’s ATIP Office to Liaison Officers and their back-ups as well as sessions delivered to subject-matter experts within OPIs, 89% of participants were very satisfied with the overall quality of the training, 90% of participants were very satisfied with the clarity of the information and 91% of participants felt that the trainer presented the information in a clear manner. Finally, 87% of all participants that evaluated the training sessions delivered felt that there was enough time allotted for these sessions to adequately address the material being presented.
During 2010-2011, the ATIP office created a dedicated Training and Policy Team whose responsibilities are to develop training material related to the processing of ATIP requests received by the Department and to deliver training to departmental employees. The Training and Policy Team is also responsible for updating the Guidelines, developed in 2009-2010, relating to the processing of ATIP requests, answering general questions from internal clients and providing advice, assistance and guidance with regards to the collection, protection and disclosure of personal information, the requirements and development of new Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs), Privacy Notice Statements (PNSs), Disclaimers, Consent forms and/or revisions to existing ones, as well as providing assistance in the development of the TBS Statistical Reports and of the Annual Reports to Parliaments for both the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.The team is also responsible for updating DFAIT's Chapter in the TBS Info Source Publication; registering Personal Information Banks with TBS and delivering Info Source training; providing awareness and/or questions and answers sessions; and reviewing policy instruments and tools in compliance with the Privacy Act, TBS ATIP-related policies and the Privacy Principles.
The creation of this new team has allowed the ATIP office to address the training needs of the Department and of the ATIP office, itself, on a full-time basis, ensuring the Department complies with all other aspects and regulations of the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act. DFAIT’s ATIP office continuously strives to refine its training tools and is very open to comments from employees participating in the various training session delivered. There are many plans in place to refine and enhance the effectiveness of current programs as well as to develop new ones.
The following are improvements that have been made over the last reporting year, as well as ongoing initiatives to improve the overall ATIP function at DFAIT:
Ø Many consultants have been hired to process a huge amount of backlog that had been carried over from previous years. To this day, out of the 405 files that were identified as ‘Backlog” in July 2010, 349 have been closed, for a total of approximately 200,000 pages.
Ø DFAIT’s Intranet ATIP website is always accessible to those that may have questions regarding the ATIP process at DFAIT.
Ø The ATIP Office had developed ATIP Guidelines which continue to be updated on a regular basis.
Ø Continued to implement a structured and departmental-wide ATIP awareness program to ensure that officials across the Department understand their roles and responsibilities vis-à-vis ATIP. DFAIT has also expanded on the type of forums within which ATIP training is delivered, such as during the staff meetings of subject-matter experts of Offices of Primary Interest (OPIs) and during DFAIT 101 courses, a course designed for employees that are new to the Department. ATIP sessions are also delivered during the various training sessions provided to employees leaving Canada in order to better prepare them to work at a mission. The trainer within the ATIP office also holds sessions with subject matter experts, during which records are reviewed in order to educate these employees on the exercise of discretion when making recommendations for severance.
Ø New types of training sessions have also been developed using new technologies. Sessions are also being delivered using technologies available to the Department in order to ensure that the ATIP office is able to capture a wider audience and to ensure that employees at mission also received the necessary training. For instance:
1. Access to Information Act and Privacy Act training sessions are being given to employees at missions (Locally Engaged Staff, Trade, Political and Consular Officers, as well as Administrative Assistants) using either videoconferencing or teleconferencing equipment.
2. An online interactive ATIP tutorial has been developed in collaboration with the Canadian Foreign Service Institute. The tutorial consists of an awareness module; however, additional modules will be added in the near future. This is an important tool as it allows employees to receive training without additional resources being allotted to such efforts. DFAIT intends to share this tool with other Departments in hopes of assisting the federal ATIP community.
Ø ATIP training sessions been provided in conjunction with Information Management officials as a test to evaluate the pros and cons of holding collaborative sessions, given the close relationship between ATIP and Information Management. Further discussions will be held in order to develop a more structured plan in order to provide such sessions in the future.
- A new training presentation is currently in development which will be presented to the federal ATIP community via the Treasury Board Secretariat. This presentation will educate other Departments on the responsibilities of DFAIT vis-à-vis both Acts, and will therefore give other federal Departments a better idea as to when DFAIT should be consulted, for instance. This will help alleviate the high volume of consultations received by DFAIT and will help other federal departments in identifying what type of information and/or records should be sent to DFAIT as consultation.
DFAIT's Access to Information and Privacy Protection Division (DCP) always strives to release information informally, whenever possible. Upon having requests assigned to them, analysts are instructed to conduct searches in the case management system to identify similar requests that may have been previously released in order to be able to offer access to these responses to applicants. Furthermore, during the ATIP training sessions provided by DCP, OPIs are always informed that, since the Access to Information Act is not meant to replace other means of access to records held under the control of the Department, informal releases of information are encouraged.
To assist requestors in obtaining records in the most expedient manner possible, during the processing of requests received by the Department, analysts are instructed to provide interim responses to applicants whenever possible.
Since December 2010, DFAIT also streamlined its approval process. Rather than having most responses funneled through the Director, responses to requests submitted under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act are approved by the Deputy Directors, and responses to consultations received from other Departments, as well as informal requests for information, can be signed by a Team Leader.