Administration of the Access to Information Act Annual Report 2019–20

Table of Contents

Introduction

This report to Parliament, which is prepared and tabled in accordance with Section 94 of the Access to Information Act, and Section 20 of the Service Fees Act, describes the activities of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) in administering these acts during fiscal year 2019–20. This report should be considered along with FINTRAC's 2019–20 Annual Report on the Administration of the Privacy Act, which is tabled separately.

The purpose of the Access to Information Act (hereafter the “Act”) is to provide a right of access to information held by government institutions in accordance with three principles: 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

FINTRAC is Canada's financial intelligence unit and anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing regulator. It plays a critical role in combating money laundering, terrorism financing, and threats to the security of Canada. The Centre has two core responsibilities framed around a duty to protect the personal information entrusted to FINTRAC.

First, the Centre is responsible for ensuring the compliance of reporting entities subject to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act. These compliance obligations allow for certain economic activities to be more transparent, which helps prevent and deter nefarious individuals and organizations from using Canada's legitimate economy to launder the proceeds of their crimes or finance terrorist activities. FINTRAC is committed to working with businesses to help them understand and comply with their obligations.

Second, based on the financial transaction reports it receives from reporting entities, FINTRAC produces actionable financial intelligence that is disclosed, when thresholds are met, to police, law enforcement, and national security agencies. In addition, FINTRAC produces strategic financial intelligence, including specialized research reports and trends analysis, for regime partners and policy decision-makers, businesses, and international counterparts. Strategic intelligence shines a light on the nature, scope, and threat posed by money laundering and terrorism financing.

The Access to Information and Privacy Office

FINTRAC's Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Office is responsible for leading, coordinating and undertaking the Centre's access to information and privacy responsibilities. The ATIP Office is part of FINTRAC's Communications Group, which falls under the Deputy Director (and Chief Financial Officer) of the Enterprise Policy, Research and Programs Sector. The Deputy Director, who is also the Centre's Chief Privacy Officer, is responsible for the overall management of all access to information and privacy matters within FINTRAC.

FINTRAC's ATIP Office consists of an ATIP Coordinator, a Senior ATIP Advisor, and an ATIP Advisor. Key responsibilities of the ATIP Office include:

  • developing and implementing policies, procedures, and guidelines to ensure FINTRAC's compliance with the Act and the Privacy Act;
  • ensuring the timely processing of access and privacy requests, and meeting proactive disclosure obligations;
  • providing advice, guidance, and awareness activities to FINTRAC employees, contractors, and students on ATIP-related matters;
  • representing FINTRAC in its discussions and negotiations with external stakeholders, including other government departments, third parties, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and the general public;
  • maintaining personal information banks and conducting privacy impact assessments; and
  • preparing annual reports to Parliament and publishing FINTRAC's Info Source Chapter.

To support the ATIP Office in meeting its legislative obligations, FINTRAC established a collaborative network comprised of representatives from all sectors and relevant units within the Centre. These representatives are responsible for coordinating requests, providing guidance on the Act within their work units, participating in networking forums, and liaising with the ATIP Office on all ATIP-related matters.

Delegation of Authority

Order in Council P.C. 2000-1066 designates the Director and Chief Executive Officer of FINTRAC as head of FINTRAC for the purposes of administering the Act and FINTRAC's privacy program. Pursuant to Section 95 of the Act, FINTRAC's Director and Chief Executive Officer delegated the authority to exercise the powers, functions, and duties under the Act to the Deputy Director, the Manager of Communications and the ATIP Coordinator within the Enterprise Policy, Research and Programs Sector (formerly the Corporate Management Services Sector). These functions have full-delegated authority under the Act and the Privacy Act, in accordance with the delegation of authority instrument approved by the Director and Chief Executive Officer in October 2019.

A copy of the Director and Chief Executive Officer's Delegation Order in place during 2019–20 is available in Annex A.

Statistical Overview and Accomplishments

Performance of Access Request Case Activity

During the reporting period of April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020, there was a 17% decrease in the number of access requests received by FINTRAC (66) compared to the previous year (79). FINTRAC also managed 14 requests that were outstanding from the previous year, bringing the total caseload to 80. Of these, FINTRAC closed 68 requests in 2019–20, and 12 were carried over to the next reporting period.

Number of Access to Information Requests

View the text equivalent Number of Access to Information Requests
Number of Access to Information Requests
Year Requests received Requests outstanding Requests completed Requests carried over
2015-2016 100 11 91 20
2016-2017 95 20 96 19
2017-2018 56 19 64 11
2018-2019 79 11 75 15
2019-2020 66 14 68 12

FINTRAC's responses to many of the requests required the intensive review of complex records including extensive internal and external consultations. In 2019–20, FINTRAC was able to improve its on-time response rate to 96% from 92% in the previous reporting year. FINTRAC's on-time response rate is well above the federal government's overall average response rate of 73% in 2018–19.

Method of Access

When responding to requests under the Act, FINTRAC provided most applicants with electronic copies of responsive records (31 requests). In 5 cases, paper copies of the records were provided for smaller release packages.

Source of Access Requests

Of the 66 access requests received, the largest number originated from the media (33), followed by private sector businesses (15). FINTRAC also received 14 requests from the general public, and 3 requests from academia. The following table provides the source of access requests for the past five years. Requests from another organization, or where an applicant declined to identify their applicable category, are reflected as “Other”.

Source of Requests

View the text equivalent Source of Requests
Source of Requests
 Year Media Private Sector Public Academia Other
2015-2016 44 42 8 3 3
2016-2017 50 30 7 4 4
2017-2018 23 21 8 2 2
2018-2019 32 29 15 3 0
2019-2020 33 15 14 3 1

Disposition of Completed Access Requests

FINTRAC completed 68 access requests in 2019–20:

  • In 6 cases, the applicants received full disclosure of the information requested (a combined 30 pages).
  • In 30 cases, the applicants received a partial disclosure of the information requested (a combined 2,304 pages).
  • In 2 cases, the applicants received a response that all information requested was withheld from disclosure.
  • In 4 cases, FINTRAC responded that it was unable to acknowledge the existence of the information requested.
  • In 18 cases, it was determined that no responsive records existed.
  • In 3 cases, the request was transferred to another federal institution as it was submitted to FINTRAC in error.
  • In 5 cases, the applicants abandoned their requests.

Completion Times and Extensions of Access Requests

The Act allows extensions beyond the 30-day statutory period for specific reasons. Of the 68 completed requests during the reporting period, 65 were finalized within the established deadline (the 30-day statutory or an extended deadline pursuant to Section 9 of the Act). Due to delays resulting from internal and/or external consultations, 3 requests were completed after the established deadline. In 44 cases, FINTRAC responded within the original 30-day statutory deadline, 16 of which FINTRAC responded to in less than 15 days.

In 2019–20, FINTRAC required an extension to the original 30-day statutory deadline in 24 instances. The following is a breakdown of these cases:

  • Paragraph 9(1)(a) was invoked 23 times to overcome workload challenges and operational constraints:
    • In 16 cases, for 30 days or fewer.
    • In 6 cases, for 60 days or fewer.
    • In 1 cases, for 120 days or fewer.
  • Paragraph 9(1)(b) was invoked 23 times in order to complete consultations with other government institutions:
    • In 14 cases, for 30 days or fewer.
    • In 9 cases, for 60 days or fewer.
  • Paragraph 9(1)(c) was invoked 2 times in order to complete third-party consultations within 31 to 60 days.

Exclusions and Exemptions Invoked

The ATIP Office invoked exemptions and exclusions under the Act as follows:

  • Section 13 (information obtained in confidence) – 9 instances
  • Section 14 (federal-provincial affairs) – 5 instances
  • Section 15 (international affairs and defence) – 15 instances
  • Section 16 (law enforcement and investigations) – 35 instances
  • Section 17 (safety of individuals) – 19 instances
  • Section 18 (economic interests of Canada) – 1 instance
  • Section 19 (personal information) – 15 instances
  • Section 20 (third-party information) – 14 instances
  • Section 21 (operations of government) – 28 instances
  • Section 23 (solicitor-client privilege) – 1 instance
  • Section 24 (statutory prohibitions) – 5 instances
  • Section 26 (refusal where information published) – 3 instances
  • Section 68 (published information) – 1 instance
  • Section 69 (Cabinet confidences) – 2 instances

Consultations under the Act

Consultations undertaken between institutions are an essential part of processing requests under the Act. They afford institutions that have an interest in the records proposed for disclosure with an opportunity to make recommendations to the processing institution. For this reporting period, FINTRAC received 23 new consultation requests from other government institutions and had 2 outstanding requests from 2018–19. Of the 25 consultation requests processed during the reporting period, 24 were closed and 1 was carried over into the next reporting period. FINTRAC responded to 23 of the 24 cases in under 30 days, with 1 request taking under 60 days to respond.

Impact of COVID-19

Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, FINTRAC focused on its core mandate and had limited capacity to fulfill its Access to Information Act responsibilities between March 16 and March 31 of the reporting year. Employees of FINTRAC's ATIP Office teleworked and made best efforts to process existing and new requests it received without imposing undue burden on the Centre's employees who were facing challenging circumstances, including, in a number of cases, not having access to FINTRAC systems.

Complaints and Investigations of Access Requests

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. FINTRAC did not receive any new complaints during the reporting period.

However, 1 complaint that FINTRAC received in 2016–17 and 1 complaint that it received in 2017–18, both contending that the Centre had improperly applied exemptions to withhold information under the Act, are still ongoing.

Federal Court Cases

There were no court cases involving FINTRAC in 2019–20.

Informal Requests

In 2019–20, FINTRAC received 47 informal requests for copies of records released in previously processed requests. The Centre processed all of these requests within 30 days (and 35 of them within 15 days). The following chart shows the number of the informal requests that have been processed by FINTRAC over the past five years.

Requests Received and Closed

View the text equivalent Requests Received and Closed
Requests Received and Closed
2015-2016 64
2016-2017 54
2017-2018 46
2018-2019 59
2019-2020 47

Reporting on Access to Information fees for the purposes of the Service Fees Act

The Service Fees Act requires a responsible authority to report annually to Parliament on the fees collected by the institution.

With respect to fees collected by FINTRAC, the information below is reported in accordance with the requirements of section 20 of the Service Fees Act.

Cost and Revenues associated with the administration of the Act
Total Revenues
(based on the $5 application fee charged by FINTRAC for requests under the Act)
$170
Total Operating Cost $204,476

In accordance with the Interim Directive on the Administration of the Act, issued on May 5, 2016, FINTRAC waives all fees prescribed by the Act and Regulations, other than the $5 application fee set out in paragraph 7(1)(a) of the Regulations. During the reporting period, FINTRAC waived the application fee on 32 occasions.

ATIP Training and Education

Information protection is an integral part of FINTRAC's mandate. As such, FINTRAC requires its employees (including students and contractors) to have a heightened awareness of security, privacy, information management and access to information. 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 following training and awareness activities took place during the reporting period:

  • The ATIP Office published monthly information notices regarding access to information and privacy protection on FINTRAC's intranet site.
  • Access to information and privacy protection messaging is incorporated in the mandatory corporate overview training and Information Management's awareness sessions for all new employees. In 2019–20, 3 corporate overview sessions were provided to 15 new employees and multiple, mostly one-on-one, Information Management awareness sessions were delivered to 90 employees. The sessions raised employee awareness about their responsibilities under the Acts, 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.
  • The ATIP Office also raises awareness by providing day-to-day coaching as well as targeted information sessions to ATIP representatives. In 2019–20, 5 training sessions were delivered to 8 new representatives. Providing this focused training fosters a spirit of collaboration and has been essential to the success of FINTRAC's ATIP program.

Operational and Organizational Changes to the Access to Information Program

None to report.

New Access to Information-related Policies, Guidelines, or Procedures Implemented

In June 2019, Bill C-58 received Royal Assent and amended the Access to Information Act with the key changes including expanding the powers of the Information Commissioner and obliging government institutions to publish, proactively, certain records on a regular and ongoing basis.

In order to meet the new publication requirements, FINTRAC developed and implemented a directive and new procedures related to proactive disclosure and web publishing requirements.

Access to Information Program Performance and Monitoring

FINTRAC's automated case management system facilitates timely responses to requests, documents important actions and decisions, and monitors performance. The system also includes an audit log, has extensive search capabilities to enable analysis of previously processed information, and generates progress and statistical reports.

Monitoring of FINTRAC's performance and ATIP compliance are clear priorities within FINTRAC's corporate governance. The ATIP Office provides a monthly update at FINTRAC's Executive Committee, which consists of FINTRAC's Director and Chief Executive Officer (Deputy Minister level), 3 deputy directors (Assistant Deputy Minister level), 3 assistant directors (Associate Assistant Deputy Minister level), and FINTRAC's general counsel.

Closing

FINTRAC remains fully committed to applying the spirit and intent of the Act to ensure openness, transparency, and consistency when processing requests within its organization and when responding to the Canadian public.

Annex A – Copy of the Director and Chief Executive Officer's Delegation Order

Delegation Order – Access to Information Act and Regulations

Pursuant to Section 95 of the Access to Information Act, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada's Director and Chief Executive Officer delegates the full authority to exercise the powers, functions, and duties under the Access to Information Act to the Deputy Director, the Manager of Communications, and the Access to Information and Privacy Coordinator within the Enterprise Policy, Research & Programs Sector. This delegation order also applies to persons occupying any of these positions on an acting basis.

This designation takes effect as of October 21, 2019.

Nada Semaan
Director and Chief Executive Officer
Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada

234 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario  K1P 1H7 Canada
Telephone: 1-866-346-8722
Facsimile: 613-943-7931
www.fintrac-canafe.gc.ca

ISSN 2563-7355

Cat. No. FD2-6/1E-PDF

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