Best practices for posting summaries of completed access to information requests
The following best practices are to help government institutions meet their obligations under section 7.13 and Appendix E of the Directive on the Administration of the “Access to Information Act”, which state that institutions must post summaries of completed access to information requests on the Government of Canada’s Open Government Portal.
1. Timeline for posting summaries
Under section 7.13 and Appendix E of the Directive on the Administration of the “Access to Information Act,”institutions must post summaries of completed access to information requests to open.canada.ca within 30 calendar days after the end of each month to allow for translation and posting. To meet the requirements of the Official Languages Act, summaries must be posted in both official languages at the same time, and the translation must be accurate.
When no requests are completed in a given month, the month must still appear on open.canada.ca with the statement “Nothing to report for this month.” Monthly updates assure website visitors that the information is current.
2. Information to be included in summaries
- Request number;
- Disposition of the request (e.g., disclosed entirely, disclosed in part);
- Number of pages disclosed; and
- Summary of the completed request, including for requests where no records were found or where records were all exempted or excluded.
- Request Number: A-2014-00112
- Organization: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
- Disposition: Disclosed in part
- Year: 2014
- Month: July
- Number of Pages: 135
- Request Summary: A copy of all briefing notes for the period of , to
3. Information not included in summaries
As outlined in Appendix E of the directive, summaries of the following types of requests must not be posted:
- Requests made under the Privacy Act;
- Informal requests;
- Requests that were transferred to another government institution;
- Requests that were treated informally;
- Requests that were abandoned; and
- Requests made under the Access to Information Act that contain primarily personal information of the requester or that are uniquely of interest to the requester.
Institutions should not post summaries when the head of an institution applies subsection 10(2) of the Access to Information Act and does not confirm or deny the existence of records relevant to an access to information request.
The following request must not be posted on open.canada.ca because the request relates specifically to an individual and may reveal the identity of the requester:
A lawyer or a broker submits a request pursuant to the Access to Information Act to obtain personal information regarding a grievance file of a client.
4. Preparing summaries
A summary is a shorter version of the text submitted by the requester that outlines what information the requester is seeking. The summary should cover the substance or main points of the request and not necessarily all the details. Aim to limit the summary to 300 characters, including spaces.
Original text of Request A
The Annual Report of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, 2008, states that the increase in representation (5.9%, up from 5.7% the previous year) is more likely due to disabilities related to the aging of the workforce and increased self-identification rather than hires of persons with disabilities. Please provide me with the percentage of hires of persons with disabilities, and in which occupational group.
For an accurate summary of changes in hires of persons with disabilities, please provide data on hires 1976–1986, 1986–1996, 1996–2006, and 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Please provide data on training programs for persons with disabilities. Does the federal government accommodate testing for persons with disabilities, or is this the same test applied to all applicants? What are the failure rates? What percentage of hires are persons with a brain injury? This applies to bilingual (or multilingual) university graduates.
Records concerning training programs for persons with disabilities from 1976 to 2010, including percentages and occupational groups.
In addition, the summary must not contain personal information or information that may reveal the identity of the requester, or any other information that would be exempted or excluded under the Access to Information Act.
The fact that the relevant records may contain sensitive information does not mean that the request contains information that should not be included in the summary.
A public service employee makes a request using information she obtained through her work. The text of the request contains information that is not known to the public and would be subject to an exemption or exclusion under the Access to Information Act.
Original text of Request B
I request a copy of the minutes of Treasury Board meetings related to Submission No. 12345 and any other documents concerning discussions about amendments to the ABC program.
In this case, the number of the Treasury Board submission is a Cabinet confidence and should not be disclosed, and neither should any information be disclosed that is linked to the Treasury Board submission.
All records concerning minutes of meetings and discussions about amendments to ABC program.
Institutions should proofread the summaries of requests before posting them on the website.
As noted in Appendix E of the directive, the applicant was asked to clarify her request. The summary must reflect the final text of the request.
5. Presentation on institutions’ websites
Institutions should place the hyperlink “Completed access to information requests” above the hyperlink “Proactive disclosure” on the home page of their website where such a link exists.
For institutions subject to the Standard on Web Usability, the “Completed access to information requests” hyperlink should be included on the page linked from “Transparency” in the footer.
For institutions not subject to the Standard on Web Usability, a “Completed access to information requests” hyperlink could be added from the “About us” or “Transparency” page or another appropriate page.
Here is an example:
Summaries of completed access to information requests by (name of institution) are now posted on the Government of Canada Open Government Portal.
6. Retention period
In line with the Library and Archives of Canada Act and the Policy on Information Management, summaries of completed access to information requests posted on open.canada.ca will be posted for two years. The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat is responsible for removing summaries on open.canada.ca that are more than two years old.
7. Processing of subsequent requests
Users can search for summaries of completed access to information requests across the Government of Canada on the Open Government Portal. Once a user finds a summary of interest, he or she can file an informal request for a copy of the previously released records directly from open.canada.ca.
If an organization receives a request for a copy of previously released records, it is best to provide the information informally. This is in keeping with the following:
- Subsection 2(2) of the Access to Information Act, which explains that the Act is meant to complement and not replace existing procedures for obtaining government information and should not limit in any way the type of information that is normally available to the general public;
- Section 7.4.5 of the Directive on the Administration of the “Access to Information Act,” which requires that the head or delegate decide whether it is appropriate to process the request informally; and
- Requirement 6.3.7 of the Policy on Communications and Federal Identity instructs departments to respond to information requests or inquiries from the public without undue recourse to the Access to Information Act.
In some cases, because of the amount of time that has passed or changes in circumstances, an institution may have to review the documents again. In such cases, it may be appropriate to ask the requester to formally submit a request under the Access to Information Act. For further details, refer to section 9, “Preparing the release package for a subsequent request.”
8. Fees for informal requests
When a request is processed informally, neither an application fee nor search and preparation fees should be charged under the Access to Information Act.
9. Preparing the release package for a subsequent request
Information that was previously released may be released again without another review. However, some records disclosed under the Access to Information Act should not be released if requested again. It is important to consider the following issues in such circumstances:
- Given how much time has passed, should the information be reviewed again? Has the information previously withheld since been made public? Do the exemptions and exclusions still apply?
- Was personal information disclosed to the first requester, either because it was his or her personal information or because an individual gave written consent for the release? In the first case, personal information cannot be disclosed again unless the original requester gives his or her permission. The only exception is if subsection 19(2) of the Access to Information Act applies. In the second case, the consent is valid only for the first requester.
- Was third-party information disclosed because of the identity of the first requester? For example, information about Company ABC was disclosed to the first requester, who was the president of Company ABC. Under section 27 of the Access to Information Act, records that contain third-party information cannot be disclosed to a subsequent requester without sending a notice to Company ABC. In this case, the subsequent requester should be asked to make a formal request under the Access to Information Act.
The head of the institution, or his or her delegate, should decide whether the document to be released needs to be translated.
Institutions should post summaries of completed access to information requests even if a complaint was submitted.
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