Administration of the Access to Information Act Annual Report 2020–21
On this page
- About FINTRAC
- The Access to Information and Privacy Office
- Delegation of Authority
- Statistical Overview and Accomplishments
- Performance of Access Request Case Activity
- Method of Access
- Source of Access Requests
- Disposition of Completed Access Requests
- Completion Times and Extensions of Access Requests
- Exclusions and Exemptions Invoked
- Consultations under the Act
- Impact of COVID-19
- Complaints and Investigations of Access Requests
- Federal Court Cases
- Informal Requests
- Reporting on Access to Information fees for the purposes of the Service Fees Act
- ATIP Awareness and Education
- Operational and Organizational Changes to the Access to Information Program
- New Access to Information-related Policies, Guidelines, or Procedures
- Access to Information Program Performance and Monitoring
- Annex A – Director and Chief Executive Officer's Delegation Order
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 2020–21. This report should be considered along with FINTRAC's 2020–21 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.
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 with which it is entrusted.
First, the Centre is responsible for ensuring compliance with Part 1 and 1.1 of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act and its associated Regulations. This legal framework establishes obligations for reporting entities to develop a compliance regime in order to identify clients, monitor business relationships, keep records and report certain types of financial transactions. 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. The Centre also maintains a registry of money services businesses in Canada and foreign money services businesses that direct and provide services to persons and entities in Canada.
Second, FINTRAC is mandated by the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act to generate actionable financial intelligence that assists Canada's police, law enforcement and national security agencies and other international partners in combatting money laundering, terrorism financing and threats to the security of Canada. In addition, the Centre produces strategic financial intelligence for federal policy and decision-makers, the security and intelligence community, reporting entities across the country, international partners and other stakeholders. FINTRAC's strategic intelligence provides a wide analytic perspective 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 and two Senior ATIP Advisors. 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 Secretariat of Canada, the Office of the Information Commissioner, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner 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 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 73 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 of the Enterprise Policy, Research and Programs Sector, the Manager of Communications and the ATIP Coordinator within the Enterprise Policy, Research and Programs 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 2020–21 is available at Annex A.
Statistical Overview and Accomplishments
Performance of Access Request Case Activity
During the reporting period of April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, there was a 27% decrease in the number of access requests received by FINTRAC (48) as compared to the previous year (66). FINTRAC also managed 12 requests that were outstanding from the previous fiscal year, bringing the total caseload to 60. Of these, FINTRAC closed 56 requests in 2020–21, and 4 were carried over to the next reporting period.
View the text equivalent Number of Access to Information Requests
|Year||Requests received||Requests outstanding||Requests completed||Requests carried over|
FINTRAC's responses to many requests required the intensive review of complex records, including extensive internal and external consultations. In 2020–21, FINTRAC's on-time response rate decreased to 84% from 96% in the previous reporting year. FINTRAC's on-time response rate is once again above the federal government's overall average response rate of 80% in 2019–20.
Method of Access
When responding to requests under the Act, FINTRAC provided most applicants with electronic copies of responsive records (29 requests). In 1 case, paper copies of the records were provided for a smaller release package.
Source of Access Requests
Of the 48 access requests received, the largest number originated from private sector businesses (19), followed by the media (15). FINTRAC also received 9 requests from the general public and 4 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 has declined to identify their applicable category, are reflected as "Other".
View the text equivalent Source of Requests
Disposition of Completed Access Requests
FINTRAC completed 56 access requests in 2020–21:
- In 3 cases, representing 5% of the overall cases, the applicants received full disclosure of the information requested (a combined 9 pages).
- In 27 cases, representing 48% of the overall cases, the applicants received a partial disclosure of the information requested (a combined 2,284 pages).
- In 3 cases, representing 5% of the overall cases, the applicants received a response that all information requested was withheld from disclosure.
- In 9 cases, representing 16% of the overall cases, FINTRAC responded that it was unable to acknowledge the existence of the information requested.
- In 11 cases, representing 20% of the overall cases, it was determined that no responsive records existed.
- In 1 case, representing 2.5% of the overall cases, the request was transferred to another federal institution as it was submitted to FINTRAC in error.
- In 2 cases, representing 3.5% of the overall 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 56 completed requests during the reporting period, 47 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, as well as operational and capacity challenges, 9 requests were completed after their established deadline.
In 2020–21, FINTRAC required an extension to the original 30-day statutory deadline in 21 instances. The following is a breakdown of these cases:
- Paragraph 9(1)(a) was invoked 15 times to overcome workload challenges and operational constraints:
- In 6 cases, for 30 days or fewer.
- In 3 cases, for 60 days or fewer.
- In 3 cases, for 120 days or fewer.
- In 3 cases, for 180 days or fewer.
- Paragraph 9(1)(b) was invoked 17 times in order to complete consultations with other government institutions:
- In 4 cases, for 30 days or fewer.
- In 8 cases, for 60 days or fewer.
- In 5 cases, for 120 days or fewer.
- Paragraph 9(1)(c) was invoked 3 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) – 11 instances
- Section 14 (federal-provincial affairs) – 2 instances
- Section 15 (international affairs and defence) – 14 instances
- Section 16 (law enforcement and investigations) – 22 instances
- Section 17 (safety of individuals) – 17 instances
- Section 18 (economic interests of Canada) – 1 instance
- Section 19 (personal information) – 14 instances
- Section 20 (third-party information) – 22 instances
- Section 21 (operations of Government) – 24 instances
- Section 23 (solicitor-client privilege) – 7 instances
- Section 24 (statutory prohibitions) – 6 instances
- Section 68 (published information) – 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 completed 27 consultation requests from other Government of Canada institutions (including 1 outstanding request from 2019–20). FINTRAC also processed 3 consultation requests from provincial government institutions, providing recommendations to assist these organizations in responding to information requests they were processing under their access legislation.
Impact of COVID-19
As a result of the early public health measures and restrictions associated with the COVID-19 global pandemic, FINTRAC directed its focus at fulfilling its core financial intelligence and compliance mandates. The Centre had limited capacity to fully discharge its Access to Information Act responsibilities between April 1 and August 31 of the reporting year. During this period, FINTRAC's ATIP Office engaged in remote work and made best efforts to process existing and new requests 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's systems.
Between September 2020 and April 2021, on-site access remained limited for some of FINTRAC's employees involved in processing requests under the Act. However, the ATIP Office was able to gain access to FINTRAC's physical workplace and respond to requests that remained in abeyance during the early pandemic months.
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 received three new complaints during the reporting period, one of which was discontinued by the applicant during the year. The other two complaints concern the same request and allege that FINTRAC improperly applied exemptions and failed to conduct a reasonable search under the Act. These complaints are ongoing.
FINTRAC worked closely with the Office of the Information Commissioner to resolve a 2019–20 complaint concerning FINTRAC's delay in providing a response to a request before the established legislative deadline. FINTRAC's delay was largely due to extended external consultations; nevertheless, the complaint was closed as "well founded".
FINTRAC also continues to manage a complaint that it received in 2016–17 and another complaint received in 2017–18, both contending that the Centre had improperly applied exemptions to withhold information under the Act.
Federal Court Cases
There were no court cases involving FINTRAC in 2020–21.
In 2020–21, FINTRAC received 14 informal requests for copies of records released in previously processed requests. The Centre processed 11 of the 14 requests within 15 days; however, due to the global pandemic and resulting system access restrictions, 3 requests could not be completed within 30 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
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 under section 20 of the Service Fees Act.
(based on the $5 application fee charged by FINTRAC for requests under the Act)
|Total Operating Cost||$190,129|
In accordance with the Interim Directive on the Administration of the Act, issued on May 5, 2016, and the changes to the Access to Information Act that came into force on June 21, 2019, 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 18 occasions, totaling $90.
ATIP Awareness and Education
Information protection is integral to 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 mandatory Information Management awareness sessions for all new employees. In 2020–21,10 Information Management awareness sessions were delivered to 27 employees. The sessions raised employee awareness about their information management responsibilities, including in relation to ATIP, 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.
- Five FINTRAC employees completed online learning courses at the Canada School of Public Service:
- Four employees completed the Access to Information and Privacy Fundamentals course; and
- One employee completed the Access to Information in the Government of Canada course.
- FINTRAC's ATIP Office also raises awareness by providing day-to-day coaching as well as targeted information sessions to ATIP representatives. In 2020–21, 2 one-on-one training sessions were delivered. This focused training fosters a spirit of collaboration and has been essential to the success of FINTRAC's broader ATIP program.
- Work is currently underway in relation to FINTRAC's existing ATIP awareness and corporate overview training, which contains privacy, protection of information, and information management components. Typically delivered in an in-person environment, the training is being modified to a self-directed online learning format.
Operational and Organizational Changes to the Access to Information Program
None to report.
New Access to Information-related Policies, Guidelines, or Procedures
None to report.
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.
The ATIP Office provides updates to senior management within FINTRAC's corporate governance, as well as status updates on ATIP files to FINTRAC's Executive Office on a bi-weekly basis.
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 – 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.
Director and Chief Executive Officer
Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada
234 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 1H7 Canada
Cat. No. FD2-6/1E-PDF
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