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Annual Report on the Administration of the Access to Information Act
April 1, 2018, to March 31, 2019

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 Access to Information 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.

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, who is supported by a policy analyst and a half-time ATIP officer, reports to its executive director. During the period covered by this report, the manager, ATIP and Corporate Operations, spent approximately one day per week and the policy analyst spent approximately one and a half days per week processing requests and administering the various requirements of the Treasury Board Secretariat 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 ongoing reports to the executive director, Corporate Strategy and Performance, who provides updates to the executive vice-president, Corporate Affairs, who then briefs the president as needed.

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.

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.

The statistical report for the period of April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019 is appended.

Thirty-six formal requests under the Access to Information Act were received by SSHRC in the 2018-2019 fiscal year. This is an increase from 2017-2018, in which 19 formal requests were received. Generally, SSHRC has seen an overall increase in the number of requests over the last five years.

Fifteen of these requests were from the private sector, 12 were from the public sector, six were from academia, two were from the media, and one was from an organization. Zero requests from the previous year were carried over to 2018-2019 and closed in that fiscal year.

Of the 29 requests closed during the reporting period, seven requests were processed in fewer than 15 days and 18 requests were processed in 16 to 30 days. Two requests were completed in 31 to 60 days, and two requests were processed in 61 to 120 days. This year, 86% of requests were closed within the first 30 days.

All 21 requests that had responsive documents were disclosed in electronic format.

The statistics demonstrate that a wide range of exempting provisions were applied in the 2018-19 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)(c), 21(1)(a) and 21(1)(b), as well as 21(1)(d), 16(2)(c) and 22.

In eight cases, no records responsive to the request were located. There were no abandoned requests in 2018-2019.

Eleven informal requests for access to information were received and processed by the ATIP office over the course of the fiscal year.

SSHRC received and completed five consultations from other Government of Canada institutions and no consultations from other organizations in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

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 2018-19, the manager, ATIP and Corporate Operations, delivered the standing annual training session open to all SSHRC staff, which was well attended by approximately 25 staff members. This session covers 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. The in-house session is part of the SSHRC in-house training session to the Management Accreditation Roadmap.

Plans for 2019-20 include adding more tailored training for senior management.

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.

SSHRC received notice that one complaint pertaining to requests submitted to SSHRC was filed with the OIC during 2018-19. The complaint related to delays.

In 2018-19, SSHRC provided the OIC with representations for ten complaint investigations and received findings for seven complaint investigations. Of these seven, two were determined to be not well-founded, and five were well-founded—resolved. Seven investigations were ongoing as of the end of the year.

SSHRC experienced no court challenges related to access to information during the reporting period.

SSHRC experienced no audits relating to the administration of ATIP legislation during the reporting period.

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.

Access to Information Act
Section Number of requests
16.31 Investigation under the Elections Act 0
16.6 National Security and Intelligence Committee 0
23.1 Patent or trademark privilege 0
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