Administration of the Access to Information Act Annual Report 2016–17

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 2016–17.

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.
  • Decisions on the disclosure of government information should be reviewed independently of government.

About FINTRAC

FINTRAC was established by, and operates within the ambit of, the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act and its regulations. FINTRAC is one of several domestic partners in Canada’s anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regime, which is led by the Department of Finance.

As Canada’s financial intelligence unit, 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 the financing of terrorist activities.

FINTRAC 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 reporting entities comply with the legislation and regulations
  • Producing financial intelligence relevant to 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

In addition, FINTRAC is part of the Egmont Group, an international network of financial intelligence units that collaborate and exchange information to combat money laundering and terrorist activity financing. FINTRAC also contributes to other multilateral fora such as the Financial Action Task Force, the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering and the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, participating in international policy making and the provision of technical assistance to other financial intelligence units.

In 2016–17, FINTRAC provided 2,015 disclosures of financial intelligence to Canada’s police and national security agencies to assist their money laundering and terrorist activity financing investigations. Of these disclosures, 462 were relevant to terrorism financing and threats to the security of Canada, an increase of 40% over the previous year.

FINTRAC’s financial intelligence also 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. Over the past year, the Centre completed a number of strategic intelligence projects, particularly in relation to foreign terrorist fighters and Daesh.

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 may 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 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, and with 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 role is to promote and ensure 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 implementing 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 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 2016–17, there was a slight decrease in the number of requests received by FINTRAC under the Act (95) as compared to the previous year (100). However, in addition to the 95 requests received, FINTRAC’s workload also included 20 access requests that were outstanding from the previous reporting period, bringing the total caseload to 115. Of these 115 cases, FINTRAC completed 96 cases in 2016–17 which represents the highest number of requests it has processed in any given fiscal year.

Along with the high volume of requests, FINTRAC dealt with an increase of complex requests in 2016–17, particularly in relation to FINTRAC’s Compliance program. Many requests that were processed required lengthy consultations and careful reviews of the records; all of these contributed to the drop in FINTRAC’s on-time rate to 85.4% in 2016–17, as compared to 96% in 2015–16 and 94% in 2014–15.

The table below identifies the number of requests received and completed over the past five years, including this fiscal year.

Number of requests received and completed over the past five years
Number of requests received and completed over the past five years
View the text equivalent Number of requests received and completed over the past five years

This chart identifies the number of requests received and completed over the past five years.

24 requests were received in 2011–12

45 requests were received in 2012–13

43 requests were received in 2013–14

62 requests were received in 2014–15

100 requests were received in 2015–16

95 requests were received in 2016–17

19 requests were completed in 2011–12

49 requests were completed in 2012–13

41 requests were completed in 2013–14

54 requests were completed in 2014–15

91 requests were completed in 2015–16

96 requests were completed in 2016–17


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 an organizational change in 2016–17. FINTRAC’s Collaboration, Development, and Research Sector created two separate units: Strategic Intelligence and Data Exploitation Lab, and Strategic Policy and Reviews. The Strategic Policy and Reviews unit saw the consolidation of International Relationships, Review and Appeals, and Policy and Coordination functions.

Following these changes, the ATIP processing structure was further modified to ensure proper coverage of responsibilities and efficiencies between the newly consolidated units.

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, and FINTRAC’s Privacy, Security and Information Management policies. Adherence to the Code of Conduct, Values and Ethics is a condition of employment for every FINTRAC employee. The education and training activities organized for FINTRAC employees in fiscal year 2016–17 served to reinforce the obligations and values outlined in the Code of Conduct, Values and Ethics, legislation and policies.

With respect to its obligations under the Act and related policy instruments, FINTRAC promotes transparency and raises ATIP awareness among employees using various 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 new or returning employees on a cyclical basis.

In 2015–16, 95% of FINTRAC employees received mandatory ATIP training. Over the past fiscal year, the following education and training activities took place:

  • The ATIP Office provided two mandatory ATIP awareness sessions to a total of 25 new or returning employees, or those who were unable to attend a session in the previous reporting year. 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.
  • One employee completed an Access to Information and Privacy Fundamentals Course held by the Canada School of Public Service.
  • Information notices regarding ATIP and privacy protection were published on a monthly basis on FINTRAC’s intranet site. The notices included Info Source publishing responsibilities, information in relation to offences for the obstruction of access, 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 24 new employees, and 42 Information Management awareness sessions were delivered to 69 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. In fiscal year 2016–17, 11 new employees participated in the mandatory Financial Intelligence Operations Training program. For the 115 employees in the Compliance program, privacy is reinforced at various regional and headquarters training forums and through a variety of integrated business processes (institutionalized policies and procedures).

FINTRAC’s network of ATIP representatives––comprised of the employees who have primary responsibility for ATIP activities within their sectors––continued to meet on a quarterly basis in 2016–17. The network meetings are a forum for the ATIP Office to communicate updates and clarifications to all sectors, helping to ensure that a consistent approach is taken Centre-wide. The meetings also provide a venue to discuss common challenges and to look for efficiencies related to the administration of the ATIP Acts. In addition to these meetings, the ATIP Office raises awareness by providing day-to-day responses and 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 Management Advisory 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, 2016, to March 31, 2017, the ATIP Office:

  • finalized 16 outstanding cases from the previous reporting periods;
  • received 95 new requests for access to information;
  • completed 96 requests during the reporting year; and
  • carried-over 19 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 (46 requests). Some paper copies of records were provided for smaller release packages or where the applicant specifically requested paper copies (9 requests).

Source of Requests

Of the 95 requests received, the largest number originated from the media (50), followed by private sector businesses (30). FINTRAC received 7 requests from the public and 8 requests from academia and other organizations.

Disposition of Completed Requests

Ninety-six access requests were completed by FINTRAC in 2016–17:

  • in 6 cases, the applicants received full disclosure of the information requested (a combined total of 52 pages)
  • in 49 cases, the applicants received a partial disclosure of the information requested (a combined total of 19,345 pages)
  • in 4 cases, the information requested was exempted in its entirety
  • in 7 cases, FINTRAC responded that it was unable to acknowledge the existence of the information requested
  • in 22 cases, it was determined that no responsive records existed.
  • in 2 cases, the requests were transferred to another federal institution as they were submitted to FINTRAC in error
  • in 6 cases, the applicants abandoned their request

Completion Times and Extensions

Of the 96 completed cases, 82 were finalized within the established deadline (the 30-day statutory or extended deadline pursuant to Section 9 of the Act). In 59 cases (over 61%), responses were provided within the original 30-day statutory deadline, 22 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 67 instances
    • Paragraph 9(1)(a) was invoked 32 times to overcome workload challenges and operational constraints:
      • in 24 cases, for 30 days or fewer
      • in 5 cases, for 60 days or fewer
      • in 3 cases, for 61 to 365 days
    • Paragraph 9(1)(b) was invoked 30 times in order to complete consultations:
      • in 20 cases, for 30 days or fewer
      • in 9 cases, for 60 days or fewer
      • in 1 case, for 61 to 120 days
    • Paragraph 9(1)(c) was invoked 5 times in order to complete third party consultations within 30 days or fewer.
Access to information requests completion time
Access to information requests completion time
View the text equivalent Access to information requests completion time

This chart identifies the breakdown of the cases where the original 30-day statutory deadline was not met.

23% of requests were completed in 15 days or fewer

39% of requests were completed in 15 to 30 days

10% of requests were completed in 31 to 60 days

15% of requests were completed in 61 to 120 days

13% of requests were completed in 121 days or more


Due to delays on internal and external consultations, 14 requests were completed after their extended deadline. It should be noted, however, that when a delay is anticipated in a request involving multiple records, FINTRAC’s approach is to provide the applicant with a partial release package­––only those records for which all review and consultations have been completed­­––by the deadline. In an effort to provide timely access and respect its duty to assist obligation, FINTRAC provided partial release packages for the majority of the 14 late cases.

Exclusions and Exemptions Invoked

The ATIP Office invoked exemptions under the Act as follows:

  • Section 13 (information obtained in confidence) 9 instances
  • Section 15 (international affairs and defence) 17 instances
  • Section 16 (law enforcement and investigations) 77 instances
  • Section 17 (safety of individuals) 22 instances
  • Section 18 (economic interests of Canada) 1 instance
  • Section 19 (personal information) 30 instances
  • Section 20 (third-party information) 51 instances
  • Section 21 (operations of Government) 37 instances
  • Section 22 (testing procedures, tests and audits) 3 instances
  • Section 23 (solicitor-client privilege) 5 instances
  • Section 24 (statutory prohibitions) 12 instances
  • Section 26 (soon to be published information) 1 instance

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

Fees

For fiscal year 2016–17, FINTRAC collected the $5.00 application fee for 94 requests. No other fees were collected under the Act.

Other Requests

In addition to the outstanding 2 requests from 2015–16, FINTRAC received 30 new consultation requests in 2016–17 from other government institutions or organizations. All the requests were completed by the requested deadline with the exception of one, which was completed three days after the imposed deadline stipulated by the consulting department.

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 processing of requests under the Act. Examples of complaints the Office of the Information Commissioner investigates include a government institutions application of exemptions, missing information, or concerns about the processing of requests.

The following is a breakdown of the four complaints that FINTRAC received during fiscal year 2016–17:

  • one complaint related to FINTRAC’s decision to withhold information under the Act; this complaint is ongoing
  • three complaints were administrative in nature and related to processing delays incurred by FINTRAC in its response to complex requests that required lengthy deliberation and external consultation:
    • one complaint involved FINTRAC’s response to a request beyond the established statutory deadline
    • a second complaint concerned an extension FINTRAC took to complete the processing of a request
    • the third complaint concerned the manner in which FINTRAC approached the duty to assist provision of the Act

For those three complaints that have concluded, the Office of the Information Commissioner determined that the applicants’ complaints were well-founded.

FINTRAC also completed the processing of a complaint that was initiated in the previous reporting year (2015–16), relating to FINTRAC’s decision to withhold information under the Act. The Office of the Information Commissioner’s investigation of the issue revealed that FINTRAC had appropriately applied exemptions and the complaint was not substantiated.

Federal Court Cases

There were no court cases involving FINTRAC.

Informal Requests

During the current reporting year, FINTRAC received 53 informal requests for copies of records released in previously processed requests, representing just a 6% decrease compared to the previous reporting period.

ANNEX A – Copy of the Director’s Delegation Order

Delegation Order – Access to Information Act and Regulations

Pursuant to Section 73 of the Access to Information Act, the Director of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada 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 Deputy Director,
Corporate Management Sector
Manager,
Communications
ATIP Coordinator,
Communications

4(2.1)

Responsibility of government institution

Yes Yes Yes

7

Notice where access requested

Yes Yes Yes

8(1)

Transfer of request to another government institution

Yes Yes Yes

9

Extension of time limits

Yes Yes Yes

10(1)

Where access is refused

Yes Yes Yes

10(2)

Existence of a record not required to be disclosed

Yes Yes  

11

Additional fees

Yes Yes Yes

12(2)

Language of access

Yes Yes Yes

13

Exemption – Information obtained in confidence

Yes Yes  

14

Exemption – Federal-provincial affairs

Yes Yes  

15

Exemption – International affairs and defence

Yes Yes  

16

Exemption – Law enforcement and investigations

Yes Yes  

16.5

Exemption – Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act

Yes Yes  

17

Exemption – Safety of individuals

Yes Yes  

18

Exemption – Economic interests of Canada

Yes Yes  

19

Exemption – Personal information

Yes Yes  

20

Exemption – Third party information

Yes Yes  

21

Exemption – Advice, etc.

Yes Yes  

22

Exemption – Testing procedures, tests and audits

Yes Yes  

22.1

Exemption – Internal audits

Yes Yes  

23

Exemption – Solicitor-client privilege

Yes Yes  

24

Exemption – Statutory prohibitions against disclosure

Yes Yes  

25

Severability

Yes Yes Yes

26

Exemption – Refusal of access where information to be published

Yes Yes  

27

Notice to third parties

Yes Yes Yes

28

Representations of third party and decision

Yes Yes Yes

29(1)

Where the Information Commissioner recommends disclosure

Yes Yes Yes

33

Investigations – Notice to third parties

Yes Yes Yes

35(2)

Investigations – Right to make representations

Yes Yes  

37(4)

Investigations – Access to be given

Yes Yes Yes

43(1)

Review by the Federal Court – Notice to third parties

Yes Yes Yes

44(2)

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

Yes Yes Yes

52

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

Yes Yes  

71(1)

Manuals may be inspected by public

Yes Yes  

72

Report to Parliament

Yes Yes  


 

Regulations Deputy Director,
Corporate Management Sector
Manager,
Communications
ATIP Coordinator,
Communications

6(1)

Transfer of request

Yes Yes Yes

7

Fees

Yes Yes Yes

8

Access

Yes Yes Yes

8.1

Limitations in respect of format

Yes Yes Yes

This designation takes effect as of September 15, 2015.

Dated at Ottawa this 14th day of August, 2015.

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

Date Modified: