2012-13 Annual Report on the Administration of the Access to Information ActApril 1, 2012 – March 31, 2013
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is pleased to submit to Parliament its annual report on the administration of the Access to Information Act for the fiscal year commencing April 1, 2012 and ending March 31, 2013. This report is submitted in accordance with section 72 of the Act.
The purpose of the Access to Information Act is to provide a right of access to information in records under the control of a government agency such as CIHR.
CIHR is the major federal agency responsible for funding health research in Canada. The CIHR concept is unique - a multi disciplinary approach organized through a framework of 13 "virtual" institutes each dedicated to a specific research area, linking and supporting researchers pursuing common goals. Institutes bring together researchers who approach health challenges from different disciplinary perspectives, drawing on the combined strengths of these approaches.
According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Act, the mandate of CIHR is to excel, according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence, in the creation of new knowledge and its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products and a strengthened Canadian health care system.
CIHR reports to Parliament through the Minister of Health.
CIHR is led by a President and a Governing Council comprised of up to 18 members appointed by Order-in-Council. The Governing Council sets the overall strategic direction, goals and policies. It establishes, maintains, and terminates Health Research Institutes and determines the mandate of each. As outlined in the legislation, the Governing Council is responsible for the management of CIHR, including: developing its strategic direction, goals and policies; evaluating its performance, approving its budget; establishing a peer review process for research proposals submitted to CIHR; approving funding for research; approving other expenditures to carry out its objective; establishing policies that encourage consultation and collaboration with persons and organizations that have an interest in health research; and dealing with any other matter that the Governing Council considers related to the affairs of CIHR.
More information on CIHR is available on CIHR's website.
CIHR’s administration of its Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) activities is in accordance with the government’s stated principles that government information should be available to the public with only specific and limited exceptions. Furthermore, CIHR treats personal information in compliance with the code of fair information practice expressed in the Privacy Act.
Organization and Delegation of Authority
The President of CIHR is the designated head of the institution for the purposes of the Access to Information Act. In accordance with his authority under Section 73, the President has designated the Vice-President, Public, Government and Institute Affairs to exercise any of his powers, duties or functions under the Act. He has also designated the Director, Strategic Policy and External Relations and the Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Coordinator to exercise these duties and functions.
A copy of the Delegation Order is attached as Appendix A.
The ATIP Coordinator is the only CIHR employee with full-time responsibilities related to the administration of the Access to Information Act. She is responsible for managing CIHR’s responses to formal Access to Information Act requests, for providing advice and training to CIHR managers and staff, for drafting reports, and for developing and updating CIHR’s chapters in the public repositories of institutional information holdings (Info Source) maintained by the Treasury Board Secretariat. She is also responsible for developing and implementing policies, guidelines, and procedures to ensure that CIHR meets its responsibilities under the Act. She is tasked with the same duties and responsibilities with respect to the administration of the Privacy Act.
Disposition of Requests
CIHR received 19 requests under the Access to Information Act in 2012-2013 compared to 22 requests in 2011-2012. Seven requests were brought forward from the previous fiscal year and 7 were carried forward to the next fiscal year. A total of 19 requests were completed. A statistical summary showing the disposition of these requests is attached as Appendix B.
Three of the requests were submitted from academia, six by the public, six by an organization and four from media.
Eight requests resulted in the full disclosure of the requested information. Eight requests resulted in partial disclosure as some information was withheld based on exemption provisions. Two requests, no records existed and in one case, the request was abandoned.
Eleven of the requests were completed in thirty or fewer days and six requests in one hundred and twenty days or under. Two requests required more than one hundred and eighty one days to complete.
For the eight requests that resulted in partial disclosures, the Access to Information Act exemptions cited by CIHR were Sections 19, 20 and 21.
The ATIP Office deals with both formal requests made pursuant to the Act and informal requests and provides functional advice and guidance to managers and employees concerning the release of information and protection of privacy.
The ATIP office responded to seventy one informal requests.
Owing to the difficulty of tracking all of the operational costs related to the administration of the Act, the costs and person year usage statistics are conservative estimates. Almost all costs are attributable to salary, and include fractions of the salaries of the directors, managers and employees who participated in work related to the Act.
Training and Education
CIHR delivered eight awareness sessions on the Access to Information Act to staff in 2012-2013, to ninety two employees.
The ATIP Coordinator attended the annual Canadian Access and Privacy Association workshop as well as various workshops organized by the Treasury Board Secretariat throughout the fiscal year. These workshops provide valuable information on trends and best practices within the ATIP community, updates on recent complaints and court cases, and tools to help improve service standards within the field.
Policies, Guidelines and Procedures
There were no significant revisions to access to information policies, guidelines or procedures implemented by CIHR during the reporting period.
One outstanding complaint from the reporting period 2009-2010 was resolved. The requester alleged that not all of the documents responsive to the request were provided.
The complainant alleged CIHR denied records which were exempted under S.19(1) and 20(1)((b) and (c) of the Act.
Several representations by the complainant and CIHR were provided to the Office of the Information Commissioner.
The complainant alleged that since the methodology in the grant application had been published it should be released.
CIHR noted that even if the application builds on published literature, the contents of the grants application itself, including methods and the assessment of the application, remain protected.
CIHR is consistent in protecting the methodology, content of the proposal and assessment of grants applications received.
The complaint was deemed to be not well-founded.
Two complaints were carried over from the reporting period 2011-2012 and one new complaint was received for this period.
One complainant alleged CIHR failed to respond to the access request within the time frame.
On August 30, 2012, CIHR provided copies of records requested under the Act, with portions of the records severed pursuant to section 19(1) and 20(1)(b)(c)(d) of the Act. On September 24th, 2012 the complainant made another complaint alleging the CIHR had not provided all the records in its possession.
CIHR proceeded with a second tasking to ensure a thorough and exhaustive search had been conducted in accordance with the Act. During that search additional records were found. The first released package sent on August 30, 2012, contained information dating from January 2010, to early May 2011. During the course of the second tasking, more information was located, some of which was after the date of the original request. Technically these records should not be part of the second release package, but under the spirit of the Act and in particular section 4(2.1), Duty to Assist, CHIR agreed to also provide these records to the complainant.
One complainant alleged CIHR improperly applied exemptions.
The OIC’s investigation remained under way at the end of the current reporting period.
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