Access to Information and Privacy
ANNUAL REPORT TO PARLIAMENT 2003-2004
Meeting the Challenge
The Administration of the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act in the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces
Table of Contents
- Part 1 - Introduction
- Part 2 - Departmental Organization and Structure
- Part 3 - Directorate Access to Information and Privacy (DAIP)
- Part 4 - The Year In Review
- Part 5 - The Year Ahead
The Access to Information Act (AIA) and the Privacy Act (PA) took effect on July 1, 1983.
The AIA gives Canadian citizens, permanent residents and any person and corporation present in Canada a right of access to information contained in government records, subject to certain specific and limited exceptions. The PA extends to individuals the right of access to information about themselves held by the government, subject to specific and limited exceptions. The latter Act also protects individuals' privacy by preventing others from having access to their personal information and gives individuals substantial control over its collection, use and disclosure.
Section 72 of the AIA and section 72 of the PA require that the head of every government institution prepare for submission to Parliament an annual report on the administration of the Acts within the institution during each financial year.
Mission of the Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces
The mission of the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Forces (CF) is to defend Canada and Canadian interests and values while contributing to international peace and security.
Canada needs and benefits from combat-capable maritime, land and air forces able to fulfil a broad range of missions and tasks. While Canada faces no direct conventional military threat, the world is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. There remain direct and indirect threats to our national security for which a military response may be required, including drugs, organized crime, illegal immigration, terrorism and the uncertainty caused by the growing proliferation of missiles carrying weapons of mass destruction. As with our allies, Canadian defence planning is now based upon the capabilities Canada needs to protect and promote its interests and values in a responsive manner, rather than upon direct threats to our well being.
Within this mandate, Defence is responsible to:
- provide strategic defence and security advice to the Government of Canada;
§ conduct surveillance and control of Canada's territory, airspace and maritime areas of jurisdiction;
- respond to requests from provincial authorities for Aid of the Civil Power;
- participate in bilateral and multilateral operations with Canada's allies;
- assist Other Government Departments and other levels of government in achieving national goals;
- provide support to broad federal government programs; and
- provide emergency humanitarian relief.
The Minister of National Defence is responsible for all matters relating to national defence, including the management and control of the DND and the CF. The Minister has two senior advisors. The Chief of the Defence Staff is responsible for command, control and administration of the Canadian Forces and military strategy, plans and requirements, and the Deputy Minister of National Defence is responsible for policy, resources and international defence relations.
The Department of National Defence has a unique personnel structure 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, 2004|
Primary Reserve force:
Civilian employees (Indeterminate):
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 Department and the CF located across the country.
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 AIA and PA within the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Canadian Forces Grievance Board and the Military Police Complaints Commission are institutions separate and apart from the DND and are recognized as such in the corresponding schedules to both the AIA and the PA. Consequently, neither of these institutions is accounted for in this Annual Report.
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 AIA and the PA. 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.
At DND, the Director of Access to Information and Privacy administers and co-ordinates both the AIA and the PA. 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.
Delegation of Authority
As required by the legislation, a delegation of authority is in place. For the purpose of the AIA and PA, the "head of the institution" as defined in section 3 of the AIA and section 73 of the PA for the DND is the 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.
The ATIP organization at National Defence operates with a staff of 50 civilians and 2 military personnel. DAIP continues with its three team working structure, which has now been fully implemented and is considered a success both administratively and financially.
This year, the Policy and Training section within DAIP has administered ATIP training to over 2000 military and civilian personnel from across Canada. These training sessions offer employees the opportunity to participate in real-time discussions pertaining to policies and procedures and provide them with the forum to comment on concerns that they may have with regards to the two Acts. DAIP has continued this year to fund training sessions outside of the National Capital Region. This has been deemed a great success by those units with limited financial resources and provides exceptional results in the form of greater awareness and compliance with the federal Access to Information and Privacy laws.
Internal training continues this year for DAIP staff, with presentations offered by the Information Commissioner's Office and Privacy Commissioner's Office as well as DND related topics provided by DAIP staff and representatives from the office of the Canadian Forces Legal Adviser.
The ATIP advisory committee continues to meet at National Defence Headquarters. This committee provides Level One organizations with direct representation by senior management from DAIP. It also provides the Director with the ability to determine through suggestions or complaints issues that may require change or revision that will assist in the implementation of the ATIP process within DND.
Several new projects have been undertaken by DAIP this year as well. Assistance was provided with the implementation of the new Personal Emergency Notification form. The revised form provides individuals with the ability to authorize the department to release to their next of kin their personal information in the case of their death or incapacitation. DAIP was also involved in the review and public release of the Tarnak Farm Board of Inquiry into the deaths of Canadian soldiers by friendly fire while deployed in Afghanistan.
This directorate has also been tasked with the implementation and control of the proactiverelease of Travel and Hospitality expenses for the Department. This involves coordinating Level One organizations with their returns and ensuring that an accurate account of expenses for senior staff is identified. This information is then posted quarterly on our web-site for public consumption.
Judith Mooney, the Director of DAIP has recently had the opportunity to travel to the United Kingdom as a guest speaker to comment on their implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, which will take place in 2005. DND has welcomed this opportunity to assist the British and to share our experiences and expertise with our implementation of the AIA. A Russian delegation has also had the opportunity to review our organization this year as a possible means of establishing a system that may be used by their government in the future.
The DND continues to remain committed to building on the progress made over the past several years in the field of Access to Information and Privacy. Senior management within the DND has stressed the importance of ensuring their staff is aware of the requirements of the AIA and PA legislation. Accordingly, resources have been more adequately allocated to those sections responsible for ensuring compliance with the legislation.
Formal Access to Information requests continued to increase this year. With the recent deployment of Canadian Forces personnel to Afghanistan, heightened security threats from terrorist organizations and recent military equipment purchases, this trend is predicted to continue.
Formal requests submitted to the department under the PA have declined again this year. Since 1998, the department has seen a drop in the number of formal PA requests of nearly 50%. This decrease can be attributed mainly to an effective informal access procedure where personnel obtain records containing their personal information directly from the records holder and are not obligated to make formal requests through DAIP for the most routine cases. Those cases that are processed formally tend to be the more complex and often contentious issues that require the attention of DAIP.
|Request submitted under the Privacy Act||Number of Requests||Percentage Increase or Decrease|
|FY 2003-2004:||4,117||- 5.1%|
|Request submitted under the Access to Information Act||Number of Requests||Percentage Increase or Decrease|
|FY 2003-2004:||1,488||+ 8.8%|
DND continues in its efforts to provide individuals and organizations with the right to request and obtain records under the AIA and PA in a timely manner. Responses to requests made under the AIA and PA for this fiscal year were completed on time in over 80% of all cases, continuing a trend of timely performance by DAIP in recent years. This on-time percentage is reflected in a B grading from the Office of the Information Commissioner.
|Request submitted under the Access to Information Act||FY 2003/04|
|# of Requests||Percentage|
|Completed on time:||1,292||88.2%|
|Number of days completed after due date:|
|Over 120 days:||42||2.9%|
|Request submitted under the Privacy Act||FY 2003/04|
|# of Requests||Percentage|
|Completed on time:||3,509||83.2%|
|Number of days completed after due date:|
|Over 120 days:||91-120||3.0%|
DND continues to strive to meet the requirements as outlined under the AIA and PA and those recommendations made by both the Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner. Increased knowledge and awareness of the Acts among the members of the department and the CF continues to grow each year, contributing to a more transparent and open environment.
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 reports whenever a new project having privacy implications is proposed.
This year, the Director Judith Mooney, was presented with the Treasury Board award for Dedication, Leadership and Community Spirit, adding to the award presented to the Directorate in 2003 for Excellence in Service and Innovation.
Once again we look forward to the upcoming fiscal year with the anticipation of further reducing the deemed refusal rate. With the implementation by DAIP of the new ATIPimaging system, the processing of requests initially slowed due to the necessity for training and familiarization. This trial/training period has recently been completed and the system is fully functional.
It has become apparent that the Department's efforts to make its employees aware of the AIA and PA have been very effective. Queries to DAIP from within the department requesting guidance on implementing procedures that are more compliant with Access and Privacy laws and regulations are up substantially. Employees are clearly taking a greater interest in their responsibilities and entitlements under the Acts. This has been very noticeable in the Informal Access procedures for personal information. Employees are now aware that they have the right to obtain their records informally, and have been doing so in greater numbers each year. The willingness to process requests informally has also noticeably increased. This has resulted in a substantial reduction in the number of formal Privacy requests submitted to DAIP, allowing our organization to shift resources to areas requiring our direct attention.
Level One organizations are also taking a greater interest in the area of Proactive Disclosure. The public release of records without a request under the AIA was very uncommon just a few years ago. More and more organizations are now requesting assistance from DAIP to review records for the purpose of proactive disclosure. Information such as audits and Boards of Inquiry have been posted on the websites of the Level One organizations as well as on the main departmental site. This is one illustration of a greater effort by the Department and Canadian Forces to be more open with the public and is consistent with Government efforts as a whole.
The success of DAIP over the past several years with the reduction of deemed refusal status and late responses would not have been possible without the assistance of the Offices of Primary Interest and their dedicated employees.
DAIP continues in its efforts to provide the public with an efficient means of obtaining records. Efficient and timely access must continue to be effected with due consideration for national security and the protection of personal information from unauthorized disclosure. Staff and management within DAIP will continue in their efforts to provide the public with documents held within the DND and CF in a cost effective manner.