Administrative issues

Access to information

  • At the direction of health officials, staff in all federal departments and agencies are presently either supporting critical government operations or working remotely.
  • This has posed unique challenges, but all reasonable efforts are being made to process Access to Information and Privacy requests, consistent with Treasury Board Secretariat guidance.
  • The Access to Information Team is currently addressing the backlog of requests.
  • We are also exploring technological solutions to ensure we are able to meet our obligations under the Access to Information and Privacy Acts.

Key Facts

  • On May 27, 2020, the Treasury Board Secretary issued a letter to all departments reiterating the importance of transparency and accountability, including in times of crisis.
  • National Defence has increased the number of staff processing requests so we can respond faster.
  • We are working to implement the Information Commissioner’s recommendations to improve National Defence’s process through training and greater oversight.
  • 61% of requests were closed within the required timeframes in 2018-19 – the highest rate in 4 years.

Details

  • Since 2011-2012, National Defence has ranged among the top five departments for highest volume of access to information requests received.
  • National Defence has a dedicated team responsible for coordinating requests made under the Access to Information (ATI) Act and the Privacy Act. National Defence has increased the number of staff in this team, including establishing a dedicated team to address the backlog and accelerate the fulfillment of requests.
  • In 2018-19, National Defence received a total of 143 complaints from the Office of the Information Commissioner, compared to 173 received the last reporting period. National Defence established a dedicated team to address complaints.

The Office of the Information Commissioner Investigation into National Defence

  • On December 21, 2018, the Information Commissioner of Canada initiated an investigation into National Defence based on allegations that the department inappropriately withheld information during the processing of access to information requests. The investigation was concluded on February 28, 2020.
  • It is anticipated that the Special Report to Parliament issued by the Information Commissioner will be tabled between June and September 2020. The report will contain the letter to the Minister of National Defence issuing the Information Commissioner’s findings and recommendations, as well as the response from the Minister.
  • National Defence is in the process of implementing the recommendations flowing from this systemic investigation, including reviewing, streamlining, and updating processes across the Department.

Access to information during the COVID-19 crisis

  • The Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) has guided departments and agencies to make best efforts to process requests under the ATI and Privacy Act in accordance with operational realities and mindful of the measures undertaken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. National Defence continues to follow TBS guidance with respect to ATIs, while ensuring the health and safety of its employees – which remains of paramount importance.

Version 1 – 2020-06-10 – Source: Supps A and B Note on Access to Information

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DAOD on safeguarding information

  • Our Government is committed to openness and transparency, while also making every effort to safeguard information that if disclosed would cause harm.
  • National Defence has policies and procedures in place to provide guidance to the Defence Team on the release and safeguarding of information.
  • These internal policies and procedures are guided by the Treasury Board of Canada direction and are updated on a regular basis.
  • National Defence is currently reviewing its policies on the release of unclassified information in order to provide clear guidance to the Defence Team.
  • This review will ensure National Defence is timely and transparent with the release of information, while ensuring sensitive information is safeguarded.
  • We will continue to take steps to ensure the Defence Team is provided with clear guidance on the release and safeguarding of information.

Version 1 – 2020-06-12 – Source: QP Note: Security of Information 10 June 2020.

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