The year 2011–2012 was one of transition for the Office of the Information Commissioner in many ways. We made a conscious decision to tackle some of our most complex files. We also entered 2011–2012 with our inventory composed largely of refusal files (those about information being exempted or excluded, no records or no response). Over the year, we also received fewer administrative complaints than we had in the previous two reporting periods.
Our evolving caseload challenged us to find new and more efficient ways of investigating the more complex refusal complaints (Chapter 1). The net result was that for the third year in a row we were able to close more files than we received. In total, we closed 1,496 files, which allowed us to make a further, albeit small, dent in our inventory.
|Complaints received||Commissioner-initiated complaints||Total|
|Complaints carried over from the previous year||2,513||2,083||1,833||1||3||20||2,514||2,086||1,853|
|Complaints discontinued during the year*||575||692||642||0||0||0||575||692||642|
|Complaints settled during the year||n/a||18||34||n/a||0||0||n/a||18||34|
|Complaints completed during the year with findings||1,508||1,350||819||34||1||1||1,542||1,351||820|
|Total complaints closed during the year||2,083||2,060||1,495||34||1||1||xxxxx||2,061||1,496|
|Total inventory at year-end||2,083**||1,833+||1,798||3||20||24||2,086||1,853||1,822|
*We discontinue complaints at the request of complainants, often after a substantial amount of investigative work has been put into the file.
**Includes 127 complaints on hold pending ongoing litigation. +Includes 190 complaints on hold pending ongoing litigation.
Text version of this graphic
These are three pie charts that show the results of our investigations for three categories of complaint.
The chart on the top left sets out the outcomes for 606 administrative complaints. Clockwise from the top right, the first section shows the 55 percent of complaints (334) that were well founded, resolved without recommendations. The second section shows 17 percent (100 complaints) that were not well founded. This is followed by four sections, as follows: 2 percent (13 complaints) settled; 24 percent (145 complaints) discontinued; 2 percent (11 complaints) well founded with recommendations—resolved; and 0 percent (3 complaints) well founded with recommendations—not resolved. The percentages in this graph are rounded to the nearest whole number.
The chart on the top right sets out the outcomes for 874 refusal complaints. Clockwise from the top right, the first section shows the 21 percent of complaints (180) that were not well founded. The second section shows 21 percent (180 complaints) that were well founded, resolved without recommendations. This is followed by three sections, as follows: 2 percent (21 complaints) settled; 56 percent (490 complaints) discontinued; and 0 percent (3 complaints) well founded with recommendations—resolved. The percentages in this graph are rounded to the nearest whole number.
The chart on the bottom left sets out the outcomes for 16 Cabinet confidence exclusion complaints. Clockwise from the top right, the first section shows the 43 percent of complaints (7) that were discontinued. The second section shows 19 percent (3 complaints) that were well founded, resolved without recommendations. The third section shows 38 percent (6 complaints) that were not well founded. The percentages in this graph are rounded to the nearest whole number.
Ensuring compliance with the Act
Our core business is investigating complaints. Among the cases we completed this year (Chapter 2) are those that illustrate important principles in the Access to Information Act that institutions must respect when processing requests, such as the duty to assist and the proper application of exemptions, as well as procedural issues, such as the requirement to retrieve and review all responsive records, regardless of whether any of them will actually be released. We also prepared our third major report on institutions timelines' in responding to access to information requests. This report found signs of improvement among 18 institutions that we re-assessed after their performing at the average level or worse in 2008–2009.
Pursuing important principles of law
Important decisions on the issue of access to information were rendered in 2011–2012 (Chapter 3). One from the Supreme Court of Canada concerned the status of ministerial offices, while a second reviewed the obligation to notify third parties about the application of the exemption limiting the disclosure of information provided by them. Two cases provided guidance on the exercise of discretion under the international affairs and defence exemption found in section 15 of the Act. In another case, the Federal Court of Appeal confirmed the Commissioner’s authority to compel the production of documents that were subject to the exclusion found in section 68.1.
Engaging with stakeholders
The Commissioner uses a variety of venues to work with partners and interested parties to bolster the case for access to government information—both in Canada and abroad (Chapter 4). Of note in 2011–2012 was the 7th International Conference of Information Commissioners, which we co-hosted in October 2011. Among the fruits of the Commissioner’s engagement efforts are that she can offer to Parliamentarians, upon request, her perspective on national and international developments in the world of access to information, with the goal of contributing to the development of a leading access regime in Canada. The Commissioner appeared before parliamentary committees five times in 2011–2012.
Ensuring operational integrity and corporate support to investigations
We continued to practice sound governance and stewardship of our limited resources (Chapter 5). Our work in these areas has provided a solid foundation for our core business—investigations—and will help us ensure ongoing operational integrity. In 2011–2012, for example, an internal audit of our investigative function proved crucial to our ongoing efforts to improve our performance.