ANNUAL REPORT TO PARLIAMENT, 2000-2001
Return on Investment
The administration of the Access to Information Act (AIA) and Privacy Act in The Department of National Defence
Table of Contents
Annual report to Parliament
Section 72 of both the Access to Information Act (AIA) and the Privacy Act requires that the head of every Government institution prepare and submit to Parliament an annual report on the administration of the Acts within the institution during each financial year. This is the eighteenth Annual Report to Parliament by the Department of National Defence (DND) on its performance in respect to administration of the Acts.
The purpose of this annual report is to describe how the Department administered Access to Information and Privacy activities and fulfilled its responsibilities in relation to the Acts during the period from April 1, 2000 to March 31, 2001.
One coordinator administers both the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act within the DND and the Canadian Forces (CF). The Canadian Forces Ombudsman's Office, the Canadian Forces Grievance Board and the Military Police Complaints Commission are all separate institutions under the control of the Minister of National Defence, and, as such, are responsible for their own ATIP administration.
This annual report has been prepared using the Information Mapping® methodology.
The Access to Information Act (AIA) and the Privacy Act (PA) were proclaimed on July 1, 1983.
Purpose of AIA
The purpose of the Access to Information Act is to afford Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and any person present in Canada, the right to access information contained in Government records, subject to certain specific and limited exemptions.
Purpose of the Privacy Act
The purpose of the Privacy Act is to extend to individuals the right of access to information about themselves held by the Government, subject to specific and limited exemptions; and to protect individuals' privacy by preventing others from having access to their personal information, and by affording individuals substantial control over how their personal information is collected, used and disclosed.
Formal requests for rights of access
In addition to establishing rights of access to Government information, both Acts provide for a formal request mechanism that individuals may use to exercise those rights. These mechanisms include:
- Time limits and other response obligations for the institutions holding the information; and
- The procedure for lodging a complaint if an individual is not satisfied with how the institution handled a formal request.
Granting informal access
The statutes, regulations, and Treasury Board (TB) guidelines clearly encourage institutions to afford individuals access to information to which they are entitled without having to resort to the formal procedures provided for in the legislation. The Access to Information and Privacy Acts are intended to complement, not replace, other less formal administrative procedures for obtaining government information.
Importance of informal access
Extensive use of informal access is recognized by the Department of National Defence as an effective and simplified way to further the principles of open government on which Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) legislation is based.
The Minister of National Defence is responsible for all matters relating to national defence, including the management and control of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces.
Mission of the DND and the Canadian Forces
The mission of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces is to defend Canada and Canadian interests and values while contributing to international peace and security.
Defence White Paper
The 1994 Defence White Paper confirms the federal government's commitment to maintain multipurpose, combat-capable, sea, land, and air forces for the protection of Canadian sovereignty and the projection of Canadian interests and values abroad. The Department and CF continue to focus on their employees and members, placing strong emphasis on Quality of Life issues and ensuring that personnel receive the proper training and equipment to enable them to carry out operational missions without unnecessary risk.
Defence Plans and Priorities Report
In the 2001 Defence Plans and Priorities Report, the Minister set five priorities for the Department. They are:
- to put people first, and continue our efforts to make National Defence and the Canadian Forces employers of choice for Canadians, in order to address our recruitment challenge and retain the people we have;
- to optimize the military force structure and invest in the defence capabilities – like deployability, strategic lift, and Maritime Helicopters – that Canada needs for the future;
- to modernize Defence's management practices to ensure National Defence and the Forces maximize the value-for-money that Canadians receive from their defence investments;
- to foster our defence relationship with the United States, work with our neighbours to protect critical North American infrastructure, and ensure the Canadian Forces can inter-operate with Canada's key international allies in NATO; and
- to contribute to the achievement of broader national priorities.
Military and civilian components
The Department's unique personnel structure is made up of two separate components – one military and one civilian. This table depicts the number of personnel in each component:
|Departmental Personnel Figures by Component as at 31 March 2001|
Primary Reserve force:
|Total Military and Civilian Personnel:||98,640|
Chain of command
National Defence Headquarters (NDHQ) in Ottawa provides broad direction for administration and operations, with specific execution being assigned to the various elements of the Canadian Forces located across the country. CF regular and reserve forces personnel live, train, and work in every province and territory of Canada, as well as at bases, stations, and operational missions around the world.
The DND/CF Ombudsman reports directly to and is accountable to the Minister of National Defence. His office was established to act as a direct source of information, referral and education to assist individuals to access existing channels of assistance and redress within DND/CF. To ensure the confidentiality of information brought to his attention, the Ombudsman has been given autonomy for ATIP matters related to his office. Accordingly, a separate annual report will be tabled respecting the administration of the Access to Information and Privacy Acts within the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Canadian Forces Grievance Board and the Military Police Complaints Commission are institutions separate and apart from the Department of National Defence and are recognized as such in the corresponding schedules to both the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. Consequently, neither of these institutions are accounted for in this Annual Report
DND organization chart
The following diagram shows the organization of National Defence as of March 31, 2001.
DND/CF ATIP organization
Departmental ATIP Co-ordinator
At DND, the Director of Access to Information and Privacy (DAIP) administers and co-ordinates both the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. The DAIP organization comes under the authority of the Assistant Deputy Minister Finance and Corporate Services. DAIP seeks specialist advice on legal, public affairs, and policy matters from other NDHQ organizations and specialists as required.
The departmental designation order, dated 12 July 2000, for Access to Information and Privacy reads as follows:
"The Minister of National Defence, pursuant to Section 73 of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act, hereby designates the person holding the position of Director Access to Information and Privacy and the person holding the position of Deputy Director Access to Information and Privacy to exercise all powers and functions of the Minister as the Head of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces under the Acts.
In the absence of the Director and Deputy Director, the Minister, pursuant to Section 73 of the Acts, hereby designates the person holding the position of Assistant Deputy Minister (Finance and Corporate Services) to exercise the powers and perform the duties and functions of the Minister under the Acts.
The Minister also designates, pursuant to Section 73 of the Acts, to the persons holding the positions of Team Leaders, Access to Information and Privacy, the following powers and functions of the Minister under the Acts:
- with the exception of Subsection 8(2) of the Privacy Act, Team Leaders are designated to exercise all powers associated with all other sections of the Privacy Act;
- Team Leaders are designated to exercise powers associated with the application of Section 9 (Extensions), Section 11 (Fees), Sections 27 and 28 (Consultations) of the Access to Information Act; and
- Team Leaders are also designated to respond to requests made under the Access to Information Act where no records exist."
The mandate of DAIP is to act on behalf of the Minister of National Defence in enforcing compliance with legislation, regulations, and government policy and create departmental directions, including standards, in all matters relating to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. DAIP's authority in this regard extends to all elements of the Canadian Forces and the Department National Defence – except for the Office of the Ombudsman, the Military Police Complaints Commission and the Canadian Forces Grievance Board.
Organization across DND/CF
Within each subordinate headquarters, base, station, and unit, there is a designated senior CF member or Departmental employee who is responsible for local ATIP administration.
The national ATIP coordinator (DAIP) is responsible for ensuring that these officers have the necessary policies and guidance to carry out their duties and responsibilities in this regard.
In last year's annual report, the statement was made that "in previous years, DND's ATIP performance has been observed as needing improvement". While this continues to be true, significant improvement in DND's ATIP performance has been achieved. This was most recently confirmed in the Information Commissioner's January 2001 National Defence Report Card on Compliance with Response Deadlines under the AIA, in which DND achieved a ratio of 17% deemed refusals to total AIA cases received. This is the lowest ratio recorded by DND since the inception of such reporting by the Information Commissioner. This figure is significantly lower than the 69.6% and 38.9% ratios reported for DND by the Information Commissioner in his first and second "report cards" respectively. It is reflective of the commitment of the Minister, senior DND/CF management and all staff, to ensure sustainable improvement in institutional ATIP performance
The ATIP organization at National Defence (DAIP) employs 32 civilian and 5 military personnel. Contract personnel were engaged at various levels during the year on an as required basis.
In FY 00/01, DAIP received 1,088 requests for information under the Access to Information Act, and 5,279 requests for personal information under the Privacy Act. Figures for FY 99/00 were 1063 and 6579 respectively.
|Fiscal Year||Number of AIA Requests Received||Number of AIA Requests Responded To|
DND continues to aggressively pursue reductions in its backlog of unanswered Privacy Requests. The number of such cases has been reduced from 731 on 1 April 2000 to a total of 342 by 31 March 2001. Monthly reports have been provided to the Privacy Commissioner to keep him informed of the Department's steady progress.
Team Structure and Recruitment
In pursuing the organizational refinements made to DAIP's Team structure that were reported last year, the staffing of Public Service positions has progressed to the point that reliance on "contract" personnel will soon be related to surge requirements only. The opportunity for junior support staff to learn new skills and progress in their careers as ATIP case officers has produced dividends in increased cost-effectiveness, productivity and morale. This has resulted in a momentum that has facilitated recruitment of additional Public Service employees to a field and a department that had been previously avoided by many of those seeking careers in the ATIP community.
Improved ATIP Case Management
Building on recommendations made by the Information Commissioner, DAIP has continued to proactively manage individual AIA case files to ensure that legally allowable and appropriate extensions to response deadlines are claimed consistently, and systematically. The same action is being taken with respect to requests for personal information submitted under the Privacy Act. The percentage of AIA cases completed within allowable time frames increased from 35.7% for FY 98/99, to 47.8% for FY 99/00 and most recently to 68.6% for FY 00/01. The number of Privacy Act requests responded to within allowable time frames increased from 16.4% to 77.8% over the same period.
Previously reported amendments to institutional policy have provided increased opportunity for employees and members to gain access to many categories of personal information about themselves – without having to make formal requests under the Privacy Act. These amendments have been successful. In the period following their promulgation in August of 1998, the number of formal Privacy Act requests received by DND has decreased sharply as reflected in the following table:
|FY||Number of Formal Privacy Requests Received|
It is not expected that DND will return to the period when upwards of 13,000 formal Privacy Act requests could reasonably be expected annually – of which 75 to 85% were for routine records such as annual performance evaluation reports, individual merit list standings, medical records and dental documents.
On 1 April 1998, the Department began development and delivery of formal ATIP education. In the three years that have passed, generic and custom designed ATIP courses, briefings, and information sessions have been delivered to more than 3,600 members and employees. This continues to relieve the pressing need for ATIP training that had accumulated in some parts of the institution, and enabled the delivery of future training to become increasingly proactive, ‘outreaching', and systematic. To this end, all Departmental Assistant Deputy Ministers, their Canadian Forces counterparts, and other members of the institution's senior management team have been asked to identity the ATIP training needs of their respective organizations for programming and delivery by DAIP during FY 01/02. This shift to proactive training and sensitization has resulted in greater awareness and compliance with federal Access to Information and Privacy laws.
In order to evolve institutional ATIP training to its next logical step, senior leaders and managers have been asked to provide their input into the requirement for a standardized, detailed and accredited ATIP training course to be completed by prospective incumbents of specific administrative and ATIP-related positions across the institution. This is an ambitious initiative, but one that will ensure long term sustainability of progress made in institutional ATIP performance over the past two years.
DND/CF Reading Room
DND began providing an informal access service in FY 95/96 that enabled individuals to request and receive copies of records requested by, and released to previous applicants – without having to submit a separate formal AIA request themselves. While the informal process does not confer the rights of complaint that accompany formal requests, the number of individuals opting for the informal method of access remains quite high as evidenced by the following table.
|% of total requests represented
by informal requests
National Defence has lead the Public Service in applying Web-based technology to provide Canadians with information respecting records released under the AIA. To improve the delivery of informal access services, for example, the Department began posting synopses of many of its closed AIA cases to the Internet in 1997. Not only has this initiative successfully enabled the delivery of these services to an increasing number of Canadians as indicated in the table above, it has provided tangible evidence of the department's commitment to the principles of openness and transparency.
DND is actively pursuing opportunities to increase institutional transparency by exploring technological opportunities to make copies of records released under the AIA electronically available through links to AIA request synopses that are presently placed on the DND ATIP website. Throughout the coming year, DND intends to pursue this initiative either individually or in partnership with other ATIP offices in the federal government. The issues related to this project have complexities associated with them that will take vision and energy to resolve. While progress may not be rapid in this area, it is anticipated to be steady and ultimately successful. Related to options that will be explored in this regard, are those that have to do with electronic receipt of and reply to, AIA requests – and, where indicated, electronic payment of chargeable fees.
Management of Information Holdings
As DND migrates from a paper-based environment to one that is primarily electronic, the requirement for improved records keeping and information management remains paramount. Departmental ATIP staff continue to act as a catalyst for improving the capture and retrieval of information in hard-copy and electronic media. It goes without saying that effective records and information management practices will contribute to the Department's ability to respond fully and completely to AIA requests in a timely manner.
DND continues to revise and update Defence Administrative Orders and Directives (DAOD) relating to policy and legislative requirements of the AIA and Privacy Act. Recent examples include clear and specific direction regarding: the disclosure of draft harassment investigation reports to the complainant and respondent; and, limitations on what medical and social work information may be disclosed to Unit Commanding Officers in cases where operational restrictions and/or limitations may apply to CF members under their command.
Training and Education
Departmental ATIP staff will continue to provide specialized and institutionally unique ATIP training to address the requirements of individual organizational elements. DAIP is also exploring the feasibility and necessity of instituting a formal, detailed and accredited ATIP training course. Well-informed and well-trained personnel at the local unit level will further enhance the Department's ability to respond to ATIP requests with maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
This is an alphabetical list of abbreviations and acronyms used in this report.
|Abbreviations and Acronyms|
|AIA:||Access to Information Act|
|ATIP:||Access to Information and Privacy|
|CAC:||Consulting and Audit Canada|
|CDS:||Chief of the Defence Staff|
|DAIP:||Director or Directorate of Access to Information and Privacy|
|DAOD:||Defence Administrative Order and Directive|
|DSCDS:||Defence Subject Classification & Disposition System|
|DND:||Department of National Defence|
|MND:||Minister of National Defence|
|NDHQ:||National Defence Headquarters|
|OCIPEP:||Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness|