Annual Report - Access to Information Act
April 1, 2013 – March 31, 2014
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is pleased to submit to Parliament its annual report on the administration of the Access to Information Act for the fiscal year commencing April 1, 2013 and ending March 31, 2014. This report is submitted in accordance with section 72 of the Act.
The purpose of the Access to Information Act is to provide a right of access to information in records under the control of a government agency such as CIHR.
CIHR is the major federal agency responsible for funding health research in Canada. The CIHR concept is unique -‑ a multi‑disciplinary approach organized through a framework of 13 "virtual" institutes each dedicated to a specific research area, linking and supporting researchers pursuing common goals. Institutes bring together researchers who approach health challenges from different disciplinary perspectives, drawing on the combined strengths of these approaches.
According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Act, the mandate of CIHR is to excel, according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence, in the creation of new knowledge and its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products and a strengthened Canadian health care system.
CIHR reports to Parliament through the Minister of Health.
CIHR is led by a President and a Governing Council comprised of up to 18 members appointed by Order-in-Council. The Governing Council sets the overall strategic direction, goals and policies. It establishes, maintains, and terminates Health Research Institutes and determines the mandate of each. As outlined in the legislation, the Governing Council is responsible for the management of CIHR, including: developing its strategic direction, goals and policies; evaluating its performance, approving its budget; establishing a peer review process for research proposals submitted to CIHR; approving funding for research; approving other expenditures to carry out its objective; establishing policies that encourage consultation and collaboration with persons and organizations that have an interest in health research; and dealing with any other matter that the Governing Council considers related to the affairs of CIHR.
More information on CIHR
CIHR's administration of its Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) activities is in accordance with the government's stated principles that government information should be available to the public with only specific and limited exceptions. Furthermore, CIHR treats personal information in compliance with the code of fair information practice expressed in the Privacy Act.
Organization and Delegation of Authority
The President of CIHR is the designated head of the institution for the purposes of the Access to Information Act. In accordance with his authority under Section 73, the President has designated the Vice-President, External Affairs and Business Development Portfolio to exercise any of his powers, duties or functions under the Act. He has also designated the Director, Corporate and Government Affairs and the Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Coordinator to exercise these duties and functions.
A copy of the Delegation Order is attached as Appendix A.
The ATIP Coordinator is the only CIHR employee with full-time responsibilities related to the administration of the Access to Information Act. She is responsible for managing CIHR's responses to formal Access to Information Act requests, for providing advice and training to CIHR managers and staff, for drafting reports, and for developing and updating CIHR's chapters in the public repositories of institutional information holdings (Info Source) maintained by the Treasury Board Secretariat. She is also responsible for developing and implementing policies, guidelines, and procedures to ensure that CIHR meets its responsibilities under the Act. She is tasked with the same duties and responsibilities with respect to the administration of the Privacy Act.
Disposition of Requests
CIHR received 10 requests under the Access to Information Act in 2013-2014 compared to 19 requests in 2012-2013. Seven requests were brought forward from the previous fiscal year and three were carried forward to the next fiscal year. A total of fourteen requests were completed. A statistical summary showing the disposition of these requests is attached as Appendix B.
Six of the requests were submitted from academia, two by an organization, one by the public, and one from business.
Five requests resulted in the full disclosure of the requested information. Eight requests resulted in partial disclosure as some information was withheld based on exemption provisions and one request, no records existed.
Six of the requests were completed in thirty or fewer days and six requests in thirty one to sixty days. One request in sixty one to hundred and twenty days and one request in one hundred and twenty one to one hundred and eighty days.
For the eight requests that resulted in partial disclosures, the Access to Information Act exemptions cited by CIHR were Sections 19 and 21.
Twenty two consultations from other government institutions and organizations were received and completed during the reporting period.
The ATIP Office deals with both formal requests made pursuant to the Act and informal requests and provides functional advice and guidance to managers and employees concerning the release of information and protection of privacy.
The ATIP office responded to seventy three informal requests.
Owing to the difficulty of tracking all of the operational costs related to the administration of the Act, the costs and person year usage statistics are conservative estimates. Almost all costs are attributable to salary, and include fractions of the salaries of the directors, managers and employees who participated in work related to the Act.
Training and Education
CIHR delivered four awareness sessions on the Access to Information Act to staff in 2013-2014, to twenty one employees.
The ATIP Coordinator attended the annual Canadian Access and Privacy Association workshop as well as various workshops organized by the Treasury Board Secretariat throughout the fiscal year. These workshops provide valuable information on trends and best practices within the ATIP community, updates on recent complaints and court cases, and tools to help improve service standards within the field.
Policies, Guidelines and Procedures
A description of the roles and responsibilities of the ATIP office at CIHR has been added to CIHR`s New Employee Orientation program. This program is intended for all new employees, including experienced employees who have never received a formal orientation to CIHR.
Also, a one-pager detailing the different types of records, rules of thumb and who to contact for further guidance was sent by email to all employees. The employees were asked to print and place the document on their bulletin board as a daily reminder.
Two complaints were carried over from the reporting period 2013-2014 and one new complaint was received for this period.
One complainant alleged CIHR failed to respond to the access request within the time frame. A copy of the access to information processing file and records released, were provided to the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC). The response had been completed within the timeframe. The complainant indicated that he did not receive the release package. Another copy of the release package was sent to the complainant. The complaint has been resolved.
One complainant alleged CIHR improperly applied exemptions. CIHR provided a copy of their processing file to the OIC. The OIC does not agree with the exemptions. The OIC requested another review by CIHR.CIHR consulted with the third party involved and agreed to release the document in its entirety. The OIC sent a copy of its Report of Findings to CIHR. The complaint has been resolved.
One complaint was received during the reporting year. This complaint alleges CIHR improperly applied exemptions so as to unjustifiably deny access to records, or portions thereof. CIHR provided a copy of the access to information processing file and records released to the OIC. This complaint was on-going at the end of the reporting year.
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