ARCHIVED - Annual Report to Parliament 2009-2010 - Access to Information Act
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Table of Contents
The purpose of the Access to Information Act is to provide a right of access to information contained in records under the control of a government institution. The information is subject to certain limited and specific exceptions. The Act is intended to complement and not replace existing procedures for access to government information.
In accordance with Section 72 of the Access to Information Act, this twenty-sixth Annual Report on the administration of the Access to Information Act at the National Research Council Canada (NRC) describes how NRC discharged its responsibilities in relation to the Act in the fiscal year 2009-2010.
The National Research Council Canada (NRC) is an agency of the Government of Canada established in 1916 under the NRC Act. Its mandate is to help build an innovative, knowledge-based economy for Canada through research and development, technology commercialization and industry support.
As stated in the NRC Act, the agency is responsible for: undertaking, assisting or promoting scientific and industrial research in different fields of importance to Canada; establishing, operating and maintaining a national science library; publishing and selling or otherwise distributing such scientific and technical information as the Council deems necessary; investigating standards and methods of measurement; working on the standardization and certification of scientific and technical apparatus and instruments and materials used or usable by Canadian industry; operating and administering any astronomical observatories established or maintained by the Government of Canada; administering NRC's research and development activities, including contributions used to support a number of international activities; and providing vital scientific and technological services to the research and industrial communities.
The newly appointed NRC President has delegated the responsibilities associated with the administration of the Access to Information Act to the Secretary General. The Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) office forms part of the Secretary General’s Office (SGO). Operational responsibility for the application of the Act has been delegated to the Access to Information and Privacy Coordinator.
A detailed signed Delegation Order can be found at Annex A.
The Secretary General has overall responsibility for ensuring that NRC’s policies, procedures and practices are compliant with the application and administration of the Access to Information Act. National Research Council Canada has procedures in place to process all formal access to information requests. These requests are processed by the Access to Information and Privacy Coordinator who has the authority to access all records held by NRC. The ATIP office works closely with the Records Manager and Senior Management across the organization.
The ATIP office, under the guidance of the Secretary General, is comprised of one fulltime Coordinator and Officer. The office is responsible for the coordination and implementation of policies, guidelines and procedures to ensure the organization’s compliance with the Access to Information Act. The office also provides the following services to the organization:
- Promotes awareness of the Access to Information Act within the organization
- Processes and manages access to information requests and complaints
- Manages the electronic management system
- Responds to access-related matters in the Management Accountability Framework
- Processes consultations received from other institutions
- Provides advice and guidance to employees and senior officials on access related matters
- Prepares an Annual Report to Parliament
- Coordinates updates to the Info Source publications
- Reviews departmental documents, such as audit and evaluation reports, prior to their proactive disclosure on the organization’s website
- Develops internal procedures
- Participates in forums for the ATIP community, such as the Treasury Board Secretariat ATIP Community meetings and working groups
- Maintains the ATIP reading room
In accordance with Section 71 of the Access to Information Act, the NRC-Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (NRC-CISTI) and the various Information Centres are the designated locations where the public may inspect manuals used by employees to administer or carry out programs or activities that affect the public. While the main NRC-CISTI library is located in Building M-55, NRC Montreal Road Campus, Ottawa, Ontario, other NRC-Information Centres are located in various centres across the country.
Annex B provides a summarized statistical report on the access requests received and processed by the National Research Council Canada from 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2010. This section provides an interpretation of the statistical report.
During the fiscal year, NRC received twenty-three (23) new access to information requests. The breakdown of the requests received during the fiscal period is as follows: three (3) from businesses includes legal firms, two (2) from organizations and eighteen (18) from the general public. Seven requests (7) were carried forward from the previous fiscal year. NRC completed the processing of a total of twenty-eight (28) access requests during this reporting period. Two requests (2) were carried over into the next fiscal year. The nature of the requests varied across the organization as follows:
- Personal Information - 3
- Research program - 3
- Grants and contributions including the NRC-Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) - 2
- Security Related Matters - 5
- Call-ups against Master Standing Offers - 4
- Competitive Hiring Process/Work Force Adjustment - 3
- Intellectual Property Program - 3
Section 9 of the Act provides for the extension of the statutory time limits if consultations are necessary or if the request is for a large volume of records and processing the request within the original time limit would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the organization. NRC invoked an extension in the case of one (1) request as consultations with a third party were necessary to comply with the request.
In summary, out of twenty-eight (28) completed requests, twenty-three (23) were completed within 30 days and under, and five (5) were completed between 31 and 60 days. All levels of NRC worked diligently to ensure a high performance in meeting statutory deadlines.
NRC is asked by other government organizations for its views on disclosure of information that had originated within the National Research Council Canada. This reporting year, thirty-one (31) consultations were received from other government departments. NRC works closely with the office of primary interest to respond effectively to these consultations.
The exemptions section of the Statistical Report is intended to identify the number of requests where specific types of exemptions were invoked. NRC involved exemptions pursuant to sections 16(1)(c), 19(1), 20(1)(b), 21(1)(b), 22 and 23 of the Act.
Section 16(1)(c) (law enforcement and investigation) was invoked in one case. Section 19 (Personal Information) was invoked in three cases and was applied to the information that is considered personal and where individual consent was not obtained. Section 20 (Third Party Information) was invoked in one case. The exemption applied pursuant to section 20 involves confidential business information belonging to a third party. The third party in question was consulted pursuant to section 27 of the Act and provided substantial rationales in support of the protection of their information.
In the past year, Section 21 (Advice, etc.) was invoked twice. The information severed under this section is considered part of NRC’s business operations which include internal advice, recommendations and deliberations to and between Senior NRC Officials. The release of this information would have compromised the integrity of NRC’s decision-making process and the candidness of discussions, internal assessments, business plans and strategies. Section 23 (Solicitor – Client Privilege) was invoked once. The release of this information would reveal confidential information provided by NRC’s legal advisors.
The figures, as reflected in the chart below, indicate the number of requests received and processed over the past three years. The figures do not reflect requests processed informally or other queries that have been received in the ATIP office. In the coming fiscal year, NRC expects an increase in requests. Further, it is expected that the complexity and the diversity of requests to continue.
The annual statistical report for the fiscal year 2009-2010 is included at the end of this chapter, Annex B.
The ATIP office is committed to ongoing development and training. This year, two NRC employees participated in the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) and the Canada School of Public Service pilot training program specifically designed for the Office of Primary Interest. The ATIP Officer took part in Article 67.1 training session organized by the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS). The ATIP Coordinator participated in a conflict resolution program at St. Paul University. Both the ATIP Coordinator and ATIP Officer contributed to regular TBS ATIP community meetings.
During the fiscal year, the ATIP office continued to provide information and advice to NRC directors, managers and staff, on an on-going basis. In particular, the ATIP office delivered an access and privacy awareness session to thirty-five (35) Senior Managers within the Industrial Research Assistance Program. ATIP awareness presentations were provided to a group of twenty-six (26) Human Resources Generalists and Hiring Advisors. Similar independent presentations were offered to a group of nine (9) members of the Finance Branch, and in addition to the management team (9) from the NRC Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation.
In collaboration with the Manager of Records Services, joint presentations on information management were provided to the following groups: Central Business Support (8 participants) and the Strategy and Development Branch (32 participants). All awareness sessions included information on the privacy legislation which has been accounted for in the Privacy Act annual report.
In addition to the education and awareness sessions, the ATIP office worked with Human Resources Branch to create an online learning resource, Management 101, to support the training and development of NRC’s employees. In December 2009, the NRC Human Resources Branch launched LEAD Management 101 which included an ATIP 101 component.
The ATIP office with the support of the Communications Branch included an Access to Information and Privacy component in its weekly media circulation. These tools have complemented the training sessions and have been effective in generating greater awareness in the organization.
The ATIP office continues to work with the staff of Treasury Board Secretariat to capture the information necessary to satisfy the requirements identified in the Management Accountability Framework. NRC continues to work within a phased approach to improve NRC’s Info Source Chapter.
NRC’s ATIP office has not implemented any new and/or revised access to information policies, guidelines or procedures during the reporting period.
There were two new complaints made against NRC in 2009-2010. Both complaints are related to the same access to information request (A2009-0010), and involve the search fees and the applied extension.
The two outstanding complaints from fiscal year 2008-2009 (A2008-0008/A2008-0002) relate to application of exemptions. These investigations remain ongoing with the Office of the Information Commissioner.
The two outstanding complaints from fiscal year 2007-2008 that relate to the application of exemptions (A2007-0003/A2007-0021) were completed in this fiscal year. The latter relating to a workforce adjustment exercise was discontinued. The other complaint pertained to a licensing agreement with the Institute for Biological Sciences. It was resolved and the requestor was provided with some additional information.
The outstanding complaint (A-2005-0019) from 2005-2006 regarding the existence of agreements of collaborative research was discontinued.
Report on the Access to Information Act (PDF, 263 KB)
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