Annual Report - Access to Information Act
April 1, 2018 – March 31, 2019
The Access to Information Act gives Canadian citizens the legislated right to access information in federal government records, subject to certain limitations and specific exemptions. The Act complements other methods for obtaining government information, and does not limit in any way the access to federal government information that is normally available to the public upon request.
This report is prepared by the CIHR in accordance with section 72 of the Access to Information Act and is tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Health in accordance with the aforementioned section. It describes how the Canadian Institutes of Health Research fulfilled its responsibilities under the Act during the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2018 and ending March 31, 2019.
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) was created in 2000 under the authority of the CIHR Act as the Government of Canada’s health research investment agency. The mandate of CIHR as stated in the Act 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 is the largest funder of health research in Canada. Composed of 13 “virtual” Institutes and three business portfolios, CIHR provides leadership and support to over 13,000 world-class researchers from all pillars of health research and from all regions of Canada.
CIHR is led by its President. Overall strategic directions are set by its Governing Council, which has a mandate to oversee the direction and management of the property, business and affairs of CIHR.
The Science Council (SC) is a management committee that develops, implements and reports on CIHR's research and knowledge translation strategy, in accordance with the CIHR Act and the overarching strategic directions set out by Governing Council. This includes recommending for approval by the President funding for all research and knowledge translation initiatives.
Day-to-day management of CIHR is led by the Senior Leadership Committee.
The Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Office, part of Governance and Government Affairs, administers the provisions of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act for the CIHR and is accountable to the President of CIHR. The ATIP Office, which is comprised of 1 ATIP Coordinator, is responsible for the following activities:
- managing all response to both formal and information requests made under both Acts;
- developing policies, guidelines and procedures with respect to fulfilling the Agency’s legislative requirements of both acts;
- promoting awareness of both acts, delivering training, and providing advice and guidance to ensure that employees and management understand their roles and responsibilities;
- monitoring compliance with both acts;
- participating in and contributing to the broader ATIP community of practice;
- preparing annual reports for tabling; and,
- updating the CIHR Info Source chapter annually.
In accordance with the Access to Information Act, an area on the premises of this institution has been designated as a public reading room. This can be found at 160 Elgin Street, 9th floor, Ottawa, Ontario.
Delegation of Authority
The President of CIHR, as designated Head of CIHR under the Access to Information Act, exercises powers entrusted to the position by the Act, such as exemptions and exclusions.
In accordance with his authority under Section 73, the President has designated the Executive Vice-President, the Director General, Governance and Government Affairs, the Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Coordinator and a Junior ATIP Officer to exercise any of his powers, duties or functions under the Act (See Appendix A - Delegation Order).
Highlights of the Statistical Report 2018-2019
During the April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019 reporting period, CIHR received eighteen requests in total. Sixteen requests were treated in the fiscal year and two were carried over to the next fiscal year. The CIHR was consulted on twenty nine requests from other federal institutions and one request from another organization.
Formal requests tend to be concerned with the administration of daily activities of the CIHR.
A total of eighteen requests were received during this reporting period and sixteen requests were processed. (See Appendix B - Statistical Report). Four requests were completed within the first 30 days of reception, eleven requests were completed within 61 – 120 days, and one request was completed in 121 – 180 days. Eleven of the sixteen requests treated in 2018-2019 were disclosed in part, one was all exempted, two produced no records and two were abandoned by the requestor. A total of 8,553 pages were processed and 7,358 pages were disclosed. In 2018-2019, 68.75% of requests were processed within the statutory time limit, compared to 37.5% in 2017-2018 and 9.6% in 2016-2017. Extensions were taken on five due to workload or external consultations.
Not only did the number of requests received in 2018-2019 increase, the average number of pages released per request has increased. Although the subject matter of the requests remained similar to previous years, the volume of records released and the complexity of the requests has increased allowing greater access. As illustrated in the graph below, the average number of pages released in 2018-2019 was 460 pages compared to an average of 345 pages in 2017-2018 and 171 pages in 2016-2017.
In response to the Government of Canada’s commitment to open government access and transparency, CIHR continues to make documents available to the public on an Open Government portal.
In 2018-2019, CIHR responded to two informal requests. Both of the requests received during this reporting year came from the general public.
In 2018-2019 there continued to be an increase in peer-to-peer requests for informal information. This is indicative of a heightened awareness and responsiveness to Access to Information practices within the Institution.
Sources of Requests
In 2018-2019, 40% of requests were received from the media, 40% from the public and 20% from academia. As illustrated below, the source of requests received has been consistent over the past five years.
Since 2014-15, the general public has been the source of twenty one requests and academia has been the source of eighteen requests. Sixteen organizations have submitted requests and five businesses. The largest source of requests since 2014-15 has been from the media with forty requests representing 40% of the total requests.
During the 2018-19 reporting period, the CIHR Access to Information and Privacy Office received 29 consultation requests from federal departments, which is a significant increase from the eighteen consultations received in the previous fiscal year, and one from another organization. Twenty four consultations were recommended for full disclosure and six were recommended to be disclosed in part.
The volume and nature of the consultations received from other government sources tend to be similar to those of requests for information CIHR receives on an annual basis, focusing primarily on CIHR programs and initiatives.
Additionally, the ATIP office provided internal advice, guidance and recommendations on a variety of Access to Information issues related to CIHR programs and initiatives.
The CIHR makes every possible effort to process requests within the 30-day time limit as required by the legislation. However, some delays may be incurred when requests received by CIHR contain third-party information, which triggers the requirement for consultations, or when a significant volume of records must be treated for a request.
In 2018-19, five requests required an extension, three extensions due to the volume of records and two due to the requirement for consultations.
Fees and Costs
The Access to Information and Privacy Office collected $90 in application fees during 2018-19.
During 2018–19, the Access to Information and Privacy Office incurred $60,000 in salary costs to administer the Access to Information Act. 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.
No formal training activities were undertaken during this reporting period. The ATIP Office offers general and on demand training to all staff.
The ATIP Coordinator attended the ATIP Coordinator and Practitioner Community meetings hosted by the Treasury Board Secretariat throughout the fiscal year. As well, the Coordinator also participated in online professional communities on GC Connex. These communities 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.
The ATIP Office plans to develop educational tools and deliver training sessions to CIHR staff.
Policies, Guidelines and Procedures
The CIHR did not implement any new access to information policies, guidelines and/or procedures during the reporting period and there were no significant revisions to current access to information policies, guidelines or procedures.
Complaints and Investigations
CIHR did not receive any complaints during the reporting period. However, two complaints which were carried over from previous reporting periods were closed.
The ATIP Office monitors the time to process requests and administer the Access to Information Act through weekly verbal status reports. Any issues of significant interest are discussed with the President and Communications department on an as needed basis.
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