The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) is a federal agency that promotes and supports research and research training in the social sciences and humanities.
SSHRC is pleased to provide its annual report on the administration of the Access to Information Act, as required by section 72 of the act. Annual reports are tabled in Parliament in accordance with this same section of the act.
The act provides Canadians with a right of access to information in records under the control of a government institution in accordance with the principle that government information should be available to the public, that necessary exceptions to the right of access should be limited and specific, and that decisions on the disclosure of government information should be reviewed independently of government.
Administration of the Access to Information Act
At SSHRC, processing requests under the Access to Information Act and providing support and advice on its administration is the responsibility of the manager, Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) and Corporate Operations. The ATIP office is located within SSHRC’s Corporate Strategy and Performance Division and the manager, ATIP and corporate operations reports to its executive director. During the period covered by this report, the manager, ATIP and Corporate Operations, spent approximately three days per week processing requests and administering the various requirements of the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) in connection with the Act.
All formal requests and complex informal requests are handled by the ATIP office. Programs and other SSHRC divisions may respond to other informal requests for information as appropriate. The ATIP office holds full records of all access to information requests received within the last two years.
SSHRC’s president and senior management are kept informed of key decisions and developments in the administration and implementation of the Act, as appropriate. The ATIP office provides a monthly report to the executive director of Corporate Strategy and Performance, and to the executive vice-president, Corporate Affairs. This monthly report enumerates current formal, informal access to information requests, as well as complaints to the Office of the Information Commissioner.
When advice on the administration of the Act is required, it is sought from one or several of the following: the TBS, Department of Justice legal counsel, the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada (OIC), SSHRC’s ATIP consultant and/or other federal government ATIP offices.
Access to Information Act Delegation Order
A copy of SSHRC’s delegation order for the Access to Information Act is attached. The order states that the persons holding the positions of executive vice-president, executive director, Corporate Strategy and Performance, and manager, ATIP and Corporate Operations, are designated to exercise or perform most of the powers, duties and functions of the head of a government institution under the Act insofar as they may be exercised or performed in relation to SSHRC.
Statistical Report for Fiscal Year 2016-2017
The statistical report for the period of April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017 is appended.
Sixty-nine formal requests under the Access to Information Act were received by SSHRC in the 2016-17 fiscal year. This is a three-fold increase from 2015-16, in which eighteen formal requests were received, and is significantly higher than SSHRC’s average of 12 requests per year over the previous four fiscal years.
Fifty of these requests were received from the academic sector, seven from the public sector and twelve from the private sector. Two requests from the previous year were carried over to 2016-17 and were closed in that fiscal year. Five requests received in 2016-17 were carried over to the subsequent fiscal year.
Of the requests closed during the reporting period, 10 requests were processed in less than 15 days and 27 requests were processed in 15 to 30 days. Seventeen requests were completed in 31 to 60 days, and 12 requests were processed in 61 to 120 days.
The significant growth in the number and complexity of requests resulted in a much higher workload and greater number of third party consultations. As a result, SSHRC required a higher than usual number of extensions in 2016-17.
Twenty-six requests were disclosed in electronic format; thirty-two records were disclosed in paper format.
The statistics demonstrate that a wide range of exempting provisions were applied in the 2016-17 fiscal year. Exempting provisions used multiple times within one request are reported only once per request. In descending order, SSHRC most frequently used sections 19(1), 20(1)(b), 21(1)(b), 21(1)(a), 20(1)(c) and 20(1)(d).
In four cases, no records responsive to the request were located. One request was abandoned.
SSHRC received and completed thirteen consultations from other Government of Canada institutions and no consultations from other organizations in the 2016-17 fiscal year.
Education and Training
Throughout the year, staff and management are reminded and encouraged to consult the ATIP office on any issues that might affect the implementation of the Act when and where appropriate.
During 2016-2017, the Manager, ATIP and Corporate Operations delivered the standing annual training session open to all SSHRC staff. In addition, an extra open session was attended by approximately 10 staff. There was also a training session delivered to SSHRC’s management team with approximately 20 attendees. These sessions covered the principles of the access to information legislation, key concepts and definitions, SSHRC’s procedures for processing both formal and informal access to information requests, and employee’s responsibilities with respect to the Act. SSHRC has added the in-house training session to the Management Accreditation Roadmap for 2017-2018.
SSHRC’S New or Revised Policies, Guidelines and Procedures Related to Access to Information
No new or revised access to information policies or guidelines were formally implemented during this past fiscal year. SSHRC’s ATIP staff have worked with staff in Research Programs to develop text relating to access to information in numerous memorandums of understanding, especially in relation to joint-funding initiatives.
Complaints to the Office of the Information Commissioner
SSHRC received notice that 24 complaints pertaining to requests submitted to SSHRC were filed with the OIC during 2016-17. These complaints were related to applied exemptions, response times, and failures to provide all records responsive to requests. The majority of complaints were made by a the same complainant.
In 2016-17, SSHRC provided the OIC with representations for five complaint investigations and received findings for six complaint investigations. Of these six, one was discontinued by the OIC, one was determined not to be well founded, and four were resolved. The remaining investigations are ongoing.
SSHRC experienced no court challenges related to access to information during the reporting period.
SSHRC experienced no audits relating the administration of ATIP legislation during the reporting period.
Monitoring processing times
The wxecutive sirector, Corporate Strategy and performance was regularly kept apprised (normally on a weekly basis) by the manager, ATIP and Corporate Operations, of all matters and developments pertaining to the requests, including processing time, consultations undertaken and any necessary extensions.