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CBSA Annual Report

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Table of Contents

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Access to Information Act Report

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This report provides an overview of the activities of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) relating to the management of the Access to Information Act between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010.

During this period, the CBSA continued to build upon the successful practices that it implemented in 2008-2009, which were recently singled out by the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) in her Annual Report to Parliament, wherein the CBSA was awarded 4.5 out of 5 stars, or third best amongst all of the institutions assessed for that period.

In 2009-2010, the CBSA introduced procedures and practices that will ensure the continued provision of timely service to Canadians who seek to exercise their right to access records under the Access to Information Act, and which demonstrate leadership in the management of increasingly numerous and complex privacy requests.

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The Canada Border Services Agency

As part of the Public Safety portfolio, the Canada Border Services Agency is responsible for providing integrated border services that support national security priorities and facilitate the free flow of people and goods, including food, plants and animals, across the border.

On April 1, 2004, the CBSA established the Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Section. This Section was initially staffed with six employees based on an estimated annual workload of between 250 and 350 requests. During the 2007–2008 fiscal year, due to growing demand on the Agency, the ATIP Section was expanded and replaced by the CBSA's ATIP and Disclosure Policy Division, which now staffs 38 full time employees. For the last reporting period of 2009 – 2010, the CBSA received 1,292 requests under the Access to Information Act. These requests were more numerous than in previous years, and the Agency has been able to maintain a compliance rate of 95% in relation to the legislated time frames while managing this challenging workload.

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The Access to Information Act

The Access to Information Act came into effect on July 1st, 1983. The Act allows Canadian citizens, permanent residents or any person or corporation present in Canada a right of access to information that is under the control of a government institution. It is the obligation of the institution to ensure that a balance is achieved to allow the protection of sensitive information and to permit the effective operation of a government organization while maintaining transparency and accountability within the government framework.

As stated in Section 72(1) of the Act "The head of every government institution shall prepare for submission to Parliament an annual report on the administration of this Act within the institution during each financial year".

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Office of the Information Commissioner

In April 2010, the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada (OIC) published its Report Card for the 2008-2009 periods. In it, the OIC noted that the CBSA had made significant improvements to its management of Access to Information files.

In the 2007-2008 Report Card, the CBSA received a rating of 2.5 out of 5 stars ("F" grade). In the 2008-2009 Report Card, the CBSA received a rating of 4.5 stars ("B" grade), third best among all institutions assessed. In addition, the OIC recommended that certain practices of the CBSA be emulated by other federal institutions.

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CBSA Structure

The ATIP Coordinator for the CBSA is the Director of the Access to Information and Privacy Division. The ATIP Division is part of the Corporate Secretariat, which reports directly to the President of the CBSA. Consistent with the best practices as identified by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS), the CBSA's ATIP Coordinator is positioned within two levels of the President, and enjoys full delegated authority reporting directly to the Corporate Secretary, who, in turn, reports to the President.

The ATIP Division is comprised of three units: two Case Management units and a Policy and Training unit. The Case Management units task all branches and regions with records retrieval requests and provide daily operational guidance and support to Agency employees. The Policy and Training unit develops policies, tools and procedures to facilitate the retrieval of records, provides ATIP and privacy training to all CBSA employees, registers Personal Information Banks in Info Source, and maintains the CBSA Privacy Management Framework, an 'evergreen' needs analysis of access and privacy requirements within the CBSA. At the end of the 2009-2010 reporting period 38 full time equivalents (FTE) were employed in the ATIP Division:

CBSA Access to Information and Privacy Division FTEs
Director's Office 2
Policy & Training (inc. Administration) 11
Case Management A 12
Case Management B 13

The CBSA ATIP Division works closely with other members of the Public Safety Canada portfolio, such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Correctional Service Canada, in order to share best practices and develop streamlined processes for the retrieval of jointly held records in order to comply with the 30 days legislated timeframe.

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Education and Training

In 2009-2010, available resources were focused towards educational initiatives that supported the implementation of streamlined processing procedures throughout the Agency. To this end, 572 employees in high-demand areas took part in ATIP Awareness Sessions, which are designed to ensure that the participants fully understand CBSA procedures and their responsibilities under the Act. With the success of this program, the Division is taking steps to deliver more sessions in 2010 – 2011.

Within the ATIP Division, employees received on-site case management and redaction software training and were encouraged to attend courses provided by the TBS and the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS) relating to the interpretation of the Act. Employees were also provided with ongoing mentoring by senior analysts, team leaders and managers.

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Changes to the CBSA's Organization, Programs and Operations

On April 1st, 2010, as part of its ongoing Change Agenda, the CBSA has implemented a new organizational structure designed to establish clearer lines of accountability within the Agency. This new model will also create clear distinctions between program management, to be carried out at headquarters, and program delivery, to be carried out in the regions.

As a result of the Change Agenda, a new Information Sharing Unit has been created within the Programs Branch, to develop frameworks, policies, strategies and plans related to information sharing, while the ATIP Division will focus on the administration and interpretation of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.

The new organizational structure provides clear lines of program accountability, which will facilitate the retrieval of records.

Information Sharing Unit FTEs
Manager 1
Analysts 7
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New or Revised Access to Information Policies and Guidelines

In 2009-2010, the ATIP Division negotiated direct access to certain CBSA database systems in order to accelerate the release of frequently requested records. This allows for a faster turn around time in the retrieving of these records which, in turn, facilitates the ability to deliver the requested material within the legislated time period.

The Division has also worked towards streamlining the payments process for Access to Information requests. In addition to a $5.00 processing fee that is charged to applications processed under the Act, other fees may be applied for search, preparation and reproduction as specified in the Access to Information Regulations.

The payment policy has changed, and now allows requesters to pay 50% of the projected cost of compiling records when it has been determined that fees will be applied to the request. Prior to the implementation of this policy, requesters paid 100% of the cost up front, but this was inefficient since as many requests that involved fees were subsequently reduced in scale. In the event of a positive balance, the ATIP Division was required to refund moneys owed to the requesters, a lengthy and complicated process. The current policy of billing requesters for the balance owed following the completion of the request is efficient and timely.

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Changes Implemented Resulting from Concerns Raised by Other Parties

In 2009-2010, the CBSA submitted an extensively revised Info Source chapter in order to address the concerns raised by TBS, as noted in the 2008-2009 Management Accountability Framework. Key concerns were the lack of consistency and clarity in the CBSA's class of records, and the incompleteness of the Agency's Personal Information Bank inventory (which is addressed in greater detail in the Privacy Act CBSA Annual Report 2009-2010).

To address these issues, the CBSA implemented a multi-year Info Source chapter revision. In 2009, the ATIP Division deleted all 2008 Class of Records and worked with CBSA branches to identify their current programs and activities and worked with CBSA Managers to draft consistent and accurate Classes of Records. Ninety-three CBSA programs and activities were identified in 2009. In 2010, it is anticipated that the TBS will identify Class of Records standards which will include the internal services of the CBSA. Furthermore, the CBSA is committed to creating an online Reading Room that will facilitate the public's access to CBSA manuals and other frequently requested documents.

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Delegation Order

See Annex A (PDF, 217 KB) for a signed copy of the Delegation Order.

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Statistical report

See Annex B (PDF, 68 KB) for the CBSA's statistical report on the Access to Information Act.

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Chapter 2: Interpretation of Statistical Report

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In 2009-2010, the CBSA updated its procedures to ensure it continues to provide a high level of service to requesters while addressing increased workload related issues. These practices have had success, as indicated by the following table:

Fiscal Year Received Completed % On time
2007-2008 1,030 1,197 66%
2008-2009 1,155 1,148 95%
2009-2010 1,292 1,256 95%

Overall, the CBSA received 1,292 Access to Information requests in 2009-2010, a 12% increase from the previous year.

Additional, 163 requests were carried forward from 2008-2009. Similarly, 198 requests were carried over to the current 2010-2011 period.

The CBSA completed 1,256 Access to Information Act requests during 2009-2010, just slightly less than 97% of the total number of request that it received. Of these, 95% were completed within the statutory time frames.

Requests Completed 2009-2010
30 days or under 794
31 days to 60 days 233
61 days to 120 days 150
121 days or over 80

Finally, due to the nature of the records handled by the ATIP division, approximately 25% of Access to Information Act requests received in 2009-2010 by the CBSA required consultation with other government departments.

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The Access to Information Act allows departments to extend the legislated deadline of a request if the request cannot be completed within the legislated 30 day time limit. Section 9 of the Act permits extensions if there is a need for consultations with other government departments, consultations with third parties, or if the search for the requested documents would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the institution. In total, 442 extensions were applied to requests during 2009-2010 as indicated in the table below. Of these, 241 requests required an extension of 30 days, which, when added to the original 30 day legislated time period, allows for a total of 60 calendar days to process the file. Additionally, there were 201 extensions beyond 30 days.When the CBSA takes extensions beyond 30 days it must notify both the OIC and the requester.

Reason For Extension Extension of 30 days or less Extension of 31 days or more
Searching 53 55
Consultation 184 130
Third Party 4 16
Total 241 201

Sources of Requests

A majority of the requests received in 2009-2010 originated from the general public (998), followed by business (138), the media (116), organizations (26) and academia (14).

Source Number of Requests Percentage
Public 998 77%
Business 138 11%
Media 116 9%
Organizations 26 2%
Academia 14 1%

Complaints and Investigations

In 2009–2010, 49 Access to Information complaints were filed against the CBSA. This number represents a slight decrease in the number of complaints received in 2008-2009.

The complaints received during the fiscal year were related to the following: time delay (1), refusal to disclose (11), and application of exemptions (6) miscellaneous reasons (8) and time extensions (23).

There were 54 active complaints in the OIC inventory that were carried over from previous years.

During the 2009–2010 fiscal year, the OIC resolved 73 Access to Information complaints against the CBSA. Of the complaints resolved, 24 were well founded, 31 were abandoned or discontinued and 18 were not substantiated. A total of 30 complaints are being carried forward into the 2010–2011 fiscal year. Where complaints are substantiated, the matter is reviewed by the delegated managers and processes are adjusted if required. For example, extensions may be reviewed to determine whether the length of time taken was appropriate, given the complexity of the request.

Complaints Processed in 2009-2010
Carried forward from 2008-2009 54
New Complaints in 2009-2010 49
Total inventory 103

Complaints closed in 2009-2010
Resolved – well founded 24
Abandoned/discontinued 31
Not substantiated 18
Total 73
Carried forward to 2010-2011 30

Reasons for complaints in 2009-2010 Complaints received
Refusal to disclose 11
Time Delay 1
Time extension 23
Fees 0
Application of exemption 6
Miscellaneous reasons 8
Total 49


There were no Access to Information appeals to the courts during the 2009–2010 fiscal year.

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Annex A - Delegation Orders

Delegation Orders (PDF, 217 KB)

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Annex B - Statistical Reports

Statistical Reports (PDF, 68 KB)

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Annex C - Supplemental Reporting Requirements

Supplemental Reporting Requirements
Access to Information Act

In addition to the reporting requirements addressed in form TBS/SCT 350-62 "Report on the Access to Information Act," institutions are required to report on the following using this form:

Part III - Exemptions invoked

Section 13
Subsection 13(e)

Section 14
Subsections 14(a)

Part IV - Exclusions cited:

Subsection 69.1 (1)

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