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Annual Report on the Administration of the Access to Information Act
April 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018

Introduction

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 one-and-a-half days per week processing requests and administering the various requirements of Treasury Board in connection with the act.

All formal requests and complex informal requests are handled by the ATIP office. Program and other 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 Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (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 the 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 2017-18

The statistical report for the period of April 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018 is appended.

Nineteen formal requests under the Access to Information Act were received by SSHRC in the 2017-18 fiscal year. This is a significant decrease from 2016-17, in which sixty-nine formal requests were received. However, it remains higher than SSHRC’s average of 12 requests per year over the four fiscal years prior to 2016-17.

Nine of these requests were received from the academic sector, three from the public sector and six from the private sector. Five requests from the previous year were carried over to 2017-18 and were closed in that fiscal year.

Of the requests closed during the reporting period, eight requests were processed in fewer than 15 days and 10 requests were processed in 16 to 30 days. Two requests were completed in 31 to 60 days, and three requests were processed in 61 to 120 days. One request was completed in 121 to 180 days.

Fifteen requests were disclosed in electronic format and one was disclosed in paper format.

The statistics demonstrate that a wide range of exempting provisions were applied in the 2017-18 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)(a), 21(1)(b), and 16(2)(c).

In eight cases, no records responsive to the request were located. There were no abandoned requests in 2017-18.

SSHRC received and completed 22 consultations from other Government of Canada institutions and no consultations from other organizations in the 2017-18 fiscal year. SSHRC also completed one consultation received in 2016-17.

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 2017-18, the manager, ATIP and Corporate Operations initiated a new traning protocol for SSHRC staff. Instead of implementing the standing annual training session open to all SSHRC staff, the Manager presented an updated training session to six of SSHRC’s seven divisions. During these sessions, approximately 85 SSHRC staff received training, which 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 added the in-house training session to the Management Accreditation Roadmap for 2017-18.

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 two complaints pertaining to requests submitted to SSHRC were filed with the OIC during 2017-18. These complaints were related to applied exemptions and failures to provide all records responsive to requests.

In 2017-18, SSHRC provided the OIC with representations for sixteen complaint investigations and received findings for 13 complaint investigations, all but one of which were submitted by one requestor. Of these 13, 12 were from the previous fiscal year, six were determined to be not well-founded, and seven were well-founded, 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 executive director, 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.