ANNUAL REPORT TO PARLIAMENT 2002-2003
The Administration of the Access to Information Act (AIA) and Privacy Act (PA) in the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces
Table of Contents
- Part 1 - The Basics
- Part 2 - The Year in Review
- Part 3 - The Year Ahead
- Abbreviations and Acronyms
Annual report to Parliament
Section 72 of both the Access to Information Act (AIA) and the Privacy Act (PA) 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 twentieth Annual Report to Parliament on performance in respect to administration of the Acts by the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian forces (CF).
The purpose of this annual report is to describe how the DND and the CF administered Access to Information and Privacy activities and fulfilled responsibilities in relation to the Acts during the period from April 1, 2002 to March 31, 2003.
A single coordinator administers both the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act within the DND and the 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 Access to Information and Privacy (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 simple way to further the principles of open government on which 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 the 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
The 2002-03 Defence Plans and Priority Report notes that the 2003 Federal Budget gave the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces the single largest budget increase in a decade. The Budget puts $800 million into defence for 2003-04, and increases the defence baseline budget by $800 million per year thereafter. Combined with $150 million for inflation and other adjustments, defence spending will rise by $1 billion next year. This new money, along with $200 million of planned internal reallocations, eliminates the Canadian Forces' $936-million sustainability gap and will help to stabilize the Forces in the short term. Among several priorities, it will help the Canadian Forces:
- continue to support ongoing recruiting and training programs;
- re-stock spare parts and ease pressure on the defence budget for operational support;
- support and enhance the Reserve Forces;
- buy new equipment and modernize capabilities in selected areas;
- address pressing infrastructure maintenance and replacement needs; and
- ease pressure on Canada's Army, Navy and Air Force operations both at home and abroad.
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 of March 31, 2003|
Primary Reserve force:
Total Military and Civilian Personnel:
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 force personnel live, train, and work in every province and territory of Canada, as well as on 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/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 (ADM Fin CS). DAIP seeks specialist advice on legal, public affairs, and policy matters from other NDHQ organizations and specialists as required.
The departmental designation order, dated June 5, 2002, 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 of 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.
Information Commissioner’s Report & Ministerial Support
Since 1999, the Information Commissioner’s office has completed a “report card” on nine departments to assess progress in reducing delays in responding to Access to Information Requests. In his Status Report on Access Requests in Deemed Refusal Situations for the Department of National Defence dated January 2003, the Information Commissioner stated: “The Department of National Defence (ND) has achieved a grade of B for the period of April 1 to November 30, 2002. The grade constitutes substantial compliance with the time requirements of the Access to Information Act. The department has made major improvements to the access process over the past few years. These measures have lead to a notable improvement in the departmental deemed-refusal situation.”
The Minister, senior DND/CF management and staff remain committed to ensuring that the progress made over the past several years in Access to Information and Privacy continues.
The ATIP organization at National Defence (DAIP) employs 53 civilians and
2 military personnel, an overall increase of 8 indeterminate positions. This increase helped to offset the elimination of contract personnel within DAIP.
In FY 2002-03, DAIP received 1,316 requests for information under the Access to Information Act, and 4,337 requests for personal information under the Privacy Act.
|Fiscal Year||AIA Requests Received||AIA Requests Responded To||Pages Released|
In 1998, the Department amended its policy to permit employees and members to gain informal 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:
|Fiscal Year Privacy Requests Released||Formal Privacy Received||Formal Privacy Requests Completed||Formal Pages|
As indicated in the previous statistics, the Department of National Defence policy on individuals requesting and being provided with informal access to personal information continues to reduce the amount of formal requests submitted to DAIP.
DND has continued in its efforts to reduce its backlog of unanswered Privacy Requests. Monthly reports have been provided to the Privacy Commissioner to keep him informed of the Department’s progress.
Team Structure and Recruitment
The organizational refinements made to DAIP’s Team structure that were reported last year have now been completed. Contracted analysts responsible for processing ATIP files have been replaced by indeterminate public servants. Opportunity for junior support staff to learn new skills and progress in their careers as ATIP case officers continues to produce dividends in increased cost-effectiveness, productivity and morale. The training and work experience of the most recently promoted and recruited staff is progressing very well and the teams have stabilized at or near the maximum expected size. With the influx of new personnel and operating systems within DAIP, a slight increase in the number of deemed refusals has occurred, but it is anticipated that this increase will diminish as each new analyst is provided with the proper training and becomes efficient in the handling of ATIP requests within the Department.
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 for FY 2002-03 was 84.6%, while the number of PA requests responded to within allowable time frames was 82.2%.
On April 1, 1998, the Department began development and delivery of formal ATIP education. In the five years that have passed, generic and custom designed ATIP courses, briefings, and information sessions have been delivered to more than 5,700 members and employees. This continues to relieve the pressing need that had accumulated in some parts of the institution, and enabled an increasingly proactive, ‘outreaching’, and systematic delivery of training. DAIP has continued with last year’s approach in which Departmental Assistant Deputy Ministers, their Canadian Forces counterparts, and other members of the institution’s senior management team have been asked to identify the ATIP training needs of their respective organizations for programming and delivery by FY 2003-04. The call for identification of training requirements is now conducted in the spring and fall of each fiscal year, thus shifting the emphasis to proactive training and sensitization, which has resulted in greater awareness and compliance with federal Access to Information and Privacy laws. Through internal consultations with organizations within the department over the past several years DAIP had determined that, due to the limited financial resources available to units outside the National Capital Region, training on ATIP matters, although considered important, was not financially feasible. This resulted in some organizations having many members and employees unaware of their responsibilities under the ATIP legislation. For this reason, DAIP has reassessed its position and, as of April 2003, all temporary duty costs related to the ATIP instructors are now covered by DAIP. It is hoped that this will further assist the organizations within the CF and department to promote training and general awareness to their employees and to assist the department on its continually improving deemed refusal rate.
DAIP has continued providing in-house training for its own staff through the Policy and Training Section. This training program has concentrated on DAIP analysts and has emphasized standardized interpretation and updated knowledge of case law related to those sections of the Acts under which severances are applied. In FY 2002-03, DAIP has included clerical staff in this training on a volunteer basis to provide them with knowledge that may be useful if they wish to apply for analyst positions in the future. The training has also been expanded to include topics that are of a more general in nature and those more specific to DND, such as departmental organization and responsibilities, and reviews of the various departmental orders and directives. These sessions also provide a forum for discussion and questions, which helps ensure that all DAIP staff have the most accurate and current information available. They in turn can pass this information on in the event of queries from the public or other section of the department. The sessions continue to be well received by DAIP staff and contribute to overall confidence.
The Policy and Training Section has also undertaken the responsibility of conducting the initial training of all new staff. This alleviates the training burden from the processing teams and provides them with a new employee who is familiar with the department, the legislation and guidelines, and all operating standards within DAIP. It also ensures standardization of training throughout all DAIP teams.
Contact with the OPI Community
Closer contact with the Office of Primary Interest (OPI) community has been accomplished as a result of training initiatives and continued support of the ATIP Advisory Committee. An information session was held between the Advisory Committee and Treasury Board personnel responsible for Info Source to assist committee members properly update their contributions to this source of government information. During training sessions, OPIs have been directed to resources such as the DAIP and TB web sites, where they can find information on the request process (including forms), a summary of completed requests, publications and reports, the Access and Privacy Acts and direct links to the web sites of the Information and Privacy Commissioners. The Policy and Training section has been particularly affected by the amount of time spent responding to departmental queries, communicating policy and providing guidance. These functions have become a substantial part of that section’s day-to-day activities. This guidance from DAIP staff has allowed OPIs to conduct more informal releases, thus allowing for quicker public access to information.
The Directorate of Access to Information and Privacy (DAIP) provided the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in the United Kingdom (UK) with advice and recommendations on the administration of their Freedom of Information Act that will be implemented in 2005. Several members of the British Armed Forces have traveled to Canada to review DAIP’s operating procedures, while DAIP’s Director has visited the MoD to share DND’s experiences as they relate to Access and Privacy legislation here in Canada.
It should also be noted that government officials from the Republic of Mexico have expressed an interest in visiting the Department of National Defence in the near future to review DAIP procedural practices. As with the British, DND has welcomed the opportunity to share its experience with the implementation of the Access to Information and Privacy Acts, and to assist those governments wherever possible.
DND/CF Reading Room
DND began providing an informal access service in FY 1995-96 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. 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:
|FY||Formal requests received||Informal requests received||Informal requests as a % of total requests|
National Defence has led 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 on the preceding page, it has provided tangible evidence of the department’s commitment to the principles of openness and transparency.
The Year’s End
DND’s success in the reduction of deemed refusal situation for FY 2002-03 can be attributed to dedication of DAIP staff, Offices of Primary Interest and a firm belief by the Minister and senior staff that openness and accountability is and will be the responsibility of the Department of National Defence now and in the future. Through his office, ADM (Fin CS) has ensured that resources were given to DAIP in order to comply with the requirements of the two Acts. The Information Commissioner stated in his 2001-02 Annual Report, “ND has committed resources to ATI and has provided strong management support to reduce what was a significant and burdensome number of access requests in a deemed-refusal situation. Senior management of ND and the staff of the ATIP Directorate are recognized for their hard work and sustained effort. The commissioner's office encourages ND to set an objective ratio of new requests to deemed-refusals of 10% or better.” The success of this department in responding to requests and dealing with delays over the past several years has contributed to National Defence being awarded the 2002-03 Access to Information and Privacy Community Award for Excellence in Service and Innovation by Treasury Board.
There is no question that this department and the ATIP Directorate are achieving significant progress in providing services to the CF/DND and general public. The majority of our objectives from last year have been met, and DND will continue to meet the requirements as stipulated by the Acts.
DND continues to strive to meet the requirements as outlined under the Access to Information and Privacy Acts and those recommendations made by both the Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner. The employment of outside contracted analysts within our organization has been an ongoing issue for many years, which has now been resolved with the employment of indeterminate public servants in positions formerly held by contracted personnel.
Since our last report, the installation of ATIPimage software and associated hardware has been completed and is now operational. The implementation of this new system initially slowed the processing of requests due to the necessity for training and familiarization as well as a consequential re-engineering of work processes, but is expected in the near future to result in an overall increase in efficiency.
The release of information in the event of emergencies has been an ongoing process within the Department of National Defence. DAIP is working to ensure that members have the ability to make their wishes known in such circumstances. DAIP has undertaken a review in association with DND Human Resources to update the Personal Emergency Notification (PEN) Form currently in use. This form is completed by each member and provides the CF with the contact information of individuals who the member would like to have notified in case of emergency. The update includes a section in which the member can give permission for named individuals to have access to his/her personal information in the event of death or incapacitation. During this update, DAIP is also working to clarify and make known who may have access to the next-of-kin information and under what circumstances.
Management of Information Holdings
DND continues migrating from a paper-based environment to one that is primarily electronic and the requirement for improved records keeping and information management remains paramount. Unless signatures are required, documents may never have to exist in hard copy or be stored in traditional manner if all users are able to handle them electronically. The implementation of ATIPimage allows for departmental OPIs to transfer electronic documents directly to DAIP for processing and DAIP continues to improve its capability to provide documents to applicants in various electronic formats. 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 PA. These directives become ever more important as improved technology provides a potential for easier access and transfer of records. DND is aware that while easier availability of information is generally beneficial from an Access perspective, obvious concerns exist from a Privacy perspective. DAIP must continue to assist the department to remain vigilant so that access to personal information remains restricted to authorized users. With the implementation of the Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) Policy and Guidelines, DAIP has assisted organizations within the Department prepare PIA procedures whenever a new project having privacy implications is proposed.
Training and Education
Departmental ATIP staff will continue to provide specialized and institutionally unique ATIP training to address the requirements of individual organizational elements. 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. DAIP will also continue with the professional development training of our own staff.
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|
|Level 1||Senior managers who have direct accountability to DM/CDS|
|MND||Minister of National Defence|
|NDHQ||National Defence Headquarters|
|OCIPEP||Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness|
|OPI||Office of Primary Interest|