Administration of the Access to Information Act Annual Report 2015–16

Table of Contents

Introduction

This report to Parliament, prepared and tabled in accordance with Section 72 of the Access to Information Act (hereafter the "Act"), describes the activities of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) in administering the Act during fiscal year 2015–16.

The purpose of the Act is to provide individuals with the right to access information in records held by government institutions in accordance with the following principles:

  • Government information should be available to the public;
  • Necessary exceptions to the right of access should be limited and specific; and
  • Decisions on the disclosure of government information should be reviewed independently of government.

About FINTRAC

As Canada's financial intelligence agency, FINTRAC helps protect the safety of Canadians and the integrity of Canada's financial system through the detection, prevention, and deterrence of money laundering and terrorism financing. The Centre fulfills its mandate through the following activities:

  • Receiving financial transaction reports and voluntary information on money laundering and terrorism financing in accordance with the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorism Financing Act and regulations, and safeguarding personal information under its control.
  • Ensuring compliance of reporting entities with the legislation and regulations.
  • Producing financial intelligence relevant to the investigations of money laundering, terrorist activity financing and threats to the security of Canada.
  • Researching and analyzing data from a variety of information sources that shed light on trends and patterns in money laundering and terrorism financing.
  • Maintaining a registry of money services businesses in Canada.
  • Enhancing public awareness and understanding of money laundering and terrorist activity financing.

FINTRAC's financial intelligence assists money laundering investigations in the context of a variety of criminal investigations, where the origins of the suspected criminal proceeds are linked to drug offences, fraud, tax evasion, corruption, human smuggling, and other offences.

FINTRAC's financial intelligence is also used by policy leaders and decision-makers to assess current and emerging trends and patterns in money laundering and terrorism financing, and the impact they may have on national security and broader government policy.

Delegation of Authority

Order in Council P.C. 2000-1066 designates the Director of FINTRAC as head of FINTRAC for the purposes of administering the Act and FINTRAC's privacy program. However, pursuant to Section 73 of the Act, the authority to exercise the powers and perform the functions and duties of the Director under the Act has been delegated to the Manager of Communications within the Corporate Management Services Sector. Certain functions have also been delegated to the Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Coordinator.

A copy of the Director's Delegation Order can be found at Annex A.

The Access to Information and Privacy Office

FINTRAC's ATIP Office is part of FINTRAC's Communications Group within the Corporate Management Services Sector. The ATIP Office consists of the ATIP Coordinator, a Senior ATIP Advisor, and an ATIP Advisor.

The ATIP Office is responsible for the coordination, development and implementation of policies, procedures, and guidelines to ensure FINTRAC's compliance with the Act and the Privacy Act as well as related government policies and directives. The Office is primarily responsible for processing and responding to requests made under the Act (including consultations from other institutions) and providing training, advice, and guidance to FINTRAC employees, contractors, and students on ATIP-related matters.

The ATIP Coordinator's mandate is to promote and enforce compliance with the Act and its regulations, including parliamentary reporting requirements and related government policy requirements. The Coordinator is responsible for overseeing the creation of procedures, processing standards, and an awareness program to broaden the general knowledge and understanding of the principles of access to information and the management of information requests within FINTRAC. The Coordinator is also responsible for communicating and consulting with the Treasury Board Secretariat, the Office of the Information Commissioner, government departments and agencies, and the Canadian public at large.

The ATIP advisors are responsible for processing requests for access to information submitted under the Act including consultation requirements, and for providing subject matter expertise and guidance. The Senior ATIP Advisor is also responsible for developing procedures and guidelines, for leading the ATIP representatives' networking forums and for developing and delivering a training and awareness program.

FINTRAC maintains a network of 25 ATIP representatives who have been designated to coordinate requests within their area of responsibility, participate in networking forums, and liaise with the ATIP Office.

The ATIP Office is also supported by Legal Services, which provides advice as required.

Activities and Accomplishments

Performance

In fiscal year 2015–16, there was a significant increase in the volume of requests processed by FINTRAC under the Act. A total of 100 new access requests were received during this fiscal year, compared to 62 in 2014–15.

Of the requests received, 91 were closed in 2015–16 (compared to 54 in 2014–15), representing a 60% increase in requests processed under the Act for FINTRAC. The increased workload was offset by the addition of a new full-time resource (the ATIP Advisor) who was hired in 2015–16 to support FINTRAC's increasing ATIP activities.

Despite the increase in demand and effort, FINTRAC's response rate for access requests was 98%. This compares favourably with the federal government's overall average of 87% for 2014–15.

Significant Changes to the Organization, Programs, Operations or Policy

In order to better align its program activities to deliver more efficiently on its legislative and operational mandate, FINTRAC undertook a number of organizational changes in 2015–16. The Centre's operational programs (Compliance and Intelligence) were combined under the new Operations Sector. As well, the creation of the Corporate Management Services Sector saw the consolidation of Communications (including the ATIP Office), Information Management, Information Technology, Security, Finance and Administration, and Corporate Business Planning and Management.

Following these changes, the ATIP processing structure was modified to ensure proper coverage of responsibilities and efficiencies throughout FINTRAC.

New Access to Information Related Policies, Guidelines or Procedures Implemented

Nothing to report.

Education and Training

The FINTRAC Code of Conduct, Values and Ethics specifically describes employees' legal obligations to protect information under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act and makes reference to the Privacy Act, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Access to Information Act, as well as to FINTRAC's Privacy, Security and Information Management Policies. Adherence to this Code is a condition of employment for every FINTRAC employee. The education and training activities organized for FINTRAC employees in fiscal year 2015–16 served to reinforce the obligations and values outlined in the Code and legislation.

With respect to obligations under the Act and related policy instruments, FINTRAC promotes transparency and raises ATIP awareness among employees using specific and targeted methods, including face-to-face meetings, learning products, all-staff messages, and innovative media. It also raises awareness through mandatory group sessions, which are held for employees on a cyclical basis.

The following education and training activities took place in fiscal year 2015–16:

  • The ATIP Office provided mandatory ATIP training and awareness sessions to a total of 339 employees, representing a coverage rate of 95%. The training focused on:
    • Employees' legal responsibilities and obligations under the Act;
    • The principles for assisting applicants;
    • Applicable definitions, delegations, exemption decisions and the exercise of discretion under the Act;
    • The requirement to provide complete, accurate and timely responses;
    • The complaint process and reviews by the courts;
    • Consequences of obstructing the right of access; and
    • Specific FINTRAC policies and processes relating to the administration of the Act, including policies on information management.
  • Four employees took part in a three-day comprehensive ATIP training and awareness session held by the Canada School of Public Service.
  • One employee completed the Information Access and Protection of Privacy Foundations online course through the University of Alberta.
  • Information notices regarding ATIP and privacy protection were published on a monthly basis on FINTRAC's intranet site. The notices included information in relation to offences for the obstruction of access, Info Source publishing responsibilities, and privacy risk assessment requirements.
  • Key messages on ATIP, including employee obligations and the consequences of obstructing the right of access, are included in the mandatory Corporate Overview training and in FINTRAC's Information Management awareness sessions for all new employees (including contractors and students). In the reporting year, 12 Corporate Overview sessions were provided to 53 new employees, and 8 sessions of FINTRAC's Information Management awareness were provided to 93 employees. The sessions raised employee awareness about their responsibilities under the Act, and covered the obligations and best practices for managing personal information in accordance with the Privacy Act, the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, and FINTRAC's Privacy, Security and Information Management policies.
  • FINTRAC's Intelligence and Compliance programs have integrated fundamental ATIP concepts, privacy practices and the protection of information into their core training programs, threading them throughout their individual module components. In fiscal year 2015–16, 25 new employees participated in the mandatory Financial Intelligence Operations Training program. For the Compliance program's approximate 100 employees, privacy is reinforced at various regional and headquarters training forums and through a variety of integrated business processes (institutionalized policies and procedures).

Quarterly forums with members of FINTRAC's ATIP representatives' network took place in 2015–16 to discuss horizontal and functional questions, issues, and legal tests for invoking exemptions to withhold information. These forums serve to further enhance the knowledge and awareness of the employees who are directly responsible for coordinating responses to ATIP requests within their sectors. They also provide opportunities for the members to discuss potential improvements or enhancements to the processing of ATIP requests. In addition to these meetings, the ATIP Office raises awareness by providing day-to-day interaction and function-specific contextual training, coaching and guidance to ATIP representatives and their colleagues. These activities have been essential to the success of FINTRAC's ATIP program as they foster collaboration and enable the exchange of ideas and solutions with respect to FINTRAC's ability to deliver on its requirements under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act and the Act.

Program Performance and Monitoring

FINTRAC's ATIP Office uses case management software (AccessPro Suite) to coordinate and facilitate the processing of requests, including monitoring performance, documenting important actions and decisions, and ensuring that requests are completed within legislated timelines.

FINTRAC's ATIP Coordinator provides regular briefings to the Corporate Management Services Sector Management Committee, FINTRAC's Corporate Services Committee and its Executive Committee on access and privacy statistics, issues, performance and compliance. Policy issues, issues of non-compliance, and processing delays are also discussed and addressed.

Statistical Overview

Access Request Case Activity

During the reporting period of April 1, 2015, to March 31, 2016, the ATIP Office:

  • Finalized 11 outstanding cases from the previous reporting period;
  • Received 100 new requests for access to information;
  • Completed 91 requests during the reporting year; and
  • Carried over 20 requests to the next reporting period.

Method of Access

When responding to requests under the Act, FINTRAC provided most applicants with electronic copies of responsive documents. Some paper copies of records were provided for smaller release packages.

Source of Requests

Of the 100 requests received, the largest number originated from the media (44), followed by private sector businesses (42). FINTRAC received 8 requests from the public and 3 requests from academia and other organizations.

Disposition of Completed Requests

Ninety-one access requests were completed by FINTRAC in 2015–16:

  • In 9 cases, the applicants received full disclosure of the information requested (a combined total of 31 pages).
  • In 30 cases, the applicants received a partial disclosure of the information requested (a combined total of 2,894 pages).
  • In 6 cases, the information requested was exempted in its entirety.
  • In 27 cases, FINTRAC responded that it was unable to acknowledge the existence of the information requested.
  • In 12 cases, it was determined that no responsive records existed.
  • In 3 cases, the requests were transferred to another federal institution as they were submitted to FINTRAC in error.
  • In 4 cases, the applicants abandoned their request.

Completion Times and Extensions

Of the 91 completed cases, 88 were finalized within the established deadline (the 30-day statutory or extended deadline pursuant to Section 9 of the Act). In 68 cases, responses were provided within the original 30-day statutory deadline, 14 of which were responded to in less than 15 days. The following is a breakdown of the cases where the original 30-day statutory deadline was not met:

  • FINTRAC required extensions in 32 instances.
    • Paragraph 9(1)(a) was invoked 18 times to overcome workload challenges and operational constraints:
      • In 13 cases for 30 days or fewer.
      • In 5 cases for 60 days or less.
    • Paragraph 9(1)(b) was invoked 14 times in order to complete consultations:
      • In 12 cases for 30 days or fewer.
      • In 2 cases for 60 days or fewer.
  • Due to delays on internal and external consultations, 3 requests were completed after their extended deadline. It should be noted, however, that an interim release package was provided to the applicant before the extended deadline in all three cases, and that they were all finalized within 91 days of the extended deadlines.

Exclusions and Exemptions Invoked

The ATIP Office invoked exemptions under the Act as follows:

  • Section 13 (information obtained in confidence) 8 instances
  • Section 15 (international affairs and defense) 15 instances
  • Section 16 (law enforcement and investigations) 69 instances
  • Section 17 (safety of individuals) 26 instances
  • Section 19 (personal information) 22 instances
  • Section 20 (third party information) 27 instances
  • Section 21 (operations of Government) 30 instances
  • Section 22 (testing procedures, tests and audits) 4 instances
  • Section 23 (solicitor-client privilege) 4 instances
  • Section 24 (statutory prohibitions) 7 instances
  • Section 26 (soon to be published information) 1 instance

In three instances FINTRAC invoked Section 69 to exclude Cabinet confidences from the responsive records.

Fees

For fiscal year 2015–16, FINTRAC collected the $5.00 application fee for all 100 requests. No other fees were collected under the Act.

Other Requests

Of the 42 consultation requests FINTRAC received from other federal institutions in 2015–16, 39 requests were completed by the requested deadline, 2 requests were completed a day after the imposed deadline, and the last request was completed four days after the deadline stipulated by the consulting department or agency.

Complaints and Investigations

Subsection 30(1) of the Act describes how the Office of the Information Commissioner receives and investigates complaints from individuals regarding the information held by a government institution. Examples of complaints the Office of the Information Commissioner may choose to investigate include refusal to disclose records, missing information, or failure to provide information in the official language requested by the individual. During fiscal year 2015–16, FINTRAC received a total of 27 complaints that relate to the Centre's decision to withhold information under the Act. The processing and review activities concerning these complaints are ongoing.

Federal Court Cases

There were no court cases involving FINTRAC.

Informal Requests

During the current reporting year, the Centre received 56 informal requests for copies of records released in previously processed requests, representing an increase of over 180% compared to the previous reporting period.

ANNEX A – Copy of the Director's Delegation Order

Delegation Order – Access to Information Act and Regulations

The Director of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada pursuant to Section 73 of the Access to Information Act, hereby makes the following designations to exercise the powers and perform the duties and functions of the Director of the Centre as the head under the provisions of the Access to Information Act. The designation also applies to those persons occupying the listed positions on an acting basis.

Section/Article Manager, Communications ATIP Coordinator, Communications

4(2.1)

Responsibility of government institution

Yes Yes

7

Notice where access requested

Yes Yes

8(1)

Transfer of request to another government institution

Yes Yes

9

Extension of time limits

Yes Yes

10(1)

Where access is refused

Yes Yes

10(2)

Existence of a record not required to be disclosed

Yes  

11

Additional fees

Yes Yes

12(2)

Language of access

Yes Yes

13

Exemption – Information obtained in confidence

Yes  

14

Exemption – Federal-provincial affairs

Yes  

15

Exemption – International affairs and defence

Yes  

16

Exemption – Law enforcement and investigations

Yes  

16.5

Exemption – Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act

Yes  

17

Exemption – Safety of individuals

Yes  

18

Exemption – Economic interests of Canada

Yes  

19

Exemption – Personal information

Yes  

20

Exemption – Third party information

Yes  

21

Exemption – Advice, etc.

Yes  

22

Exemption – Testing procedures, tests and audits

Yes  

22.1

Exemption – Internal audits

Yes  

23

Exemption – Solicitor-client privilege

Yes  

24

Exemption – Statutory prohibitions against disclosure

Yes  

25

Severability

Yes Yes

26

Exemption – Refusal of access where information to be published

Yes  

27

Notice to third parties

Yes Yes

28

Representations of third party and decision

Yes Yes

29(1)

Where the Information Commissioner recommends disclosure

Yes Yes

33

Investigations – Notice to third parties

Yes Yes

35(2)

Investigations – Right to make representations

Yes  

37(4)

Investigations – Access to be given

Yes Yes

43(1)

Review by the Federal Court – Notice to third parties

Yes Yes

44(2)

Review by the Federal Court – Notice to person who requested record

Yes Yes

52

Review by the Federal Court – Applications relating to international affairs or defence

Yes  

71(1)

Manuals may be inspected by public

Yes  

72

Report to Parliament

Yes  

Regulations Manager, Communications ATIP Coordinator, Communications

6(1)

Transfer of request

Yes Yes

7

Fees

Yes Yes

8

Access

Yes Yes

8.1

Limitations in respect of format

Yes Yes

This designation takes effect as of the 15th of October, 2012

Dated at Ottawa this 29th day of October, 2012

Gérald Cossette
Director, Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada

Date Modified: