Administration of the Access to Information Act Annual Report
April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021


The Access to Information Act gives Canadian citizens the legislated right to access information in federal government records, subject to certain limitations and specific exemptions. The Act complements other methods for obtaining government information, and does not limit in any way the access to federal government information that is normally available to the public upon request.

This report is prepared by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in accordance with section 94 of the Access to Information Act and section 20 of the Service Fees Act and is tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Health in accordance with the aforementioned section. It describes how the Canadian Institutes of Health Research fulfilled its responsibilities under the Act during the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2020 and ending March 31, 2021.

CIHR was created in 2000 under the authority of the CIHR Act as the Government of Canada’s health research investment agency. The mandate of CIHR as stated in the Act is:

To excel, according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence, in the creation of new knowledge and its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products and a strengthened Canadian health care system.

CIHR is the largest funder of health research in Canada. Composed of 13 “virtual” Institutes and three business portfolios, CIHR provides leadership and support to over 13,000 world-class researchers and trainees from all pillars of health research and from all regions of Canada.

Organizational Structure

CIHR is led by a President and a Governing Council comprised of up to 18 members appointed by Order-in-Council. The Governing Council sets the overall strategic direction and goals. It establishes Health Research Institutes and determines the mandate of each. As outlined in the legislation, the Governing Council is responsible for developing its strategic direction and goals; evaluating its performance, approving its budget; establishing a peer review process for research proposals submitted to CIHR; approving funding for research; approving other expenditures to carry out its objective; establishing policies; and dealing with any other matter that the Governing Council considers related to the affairs of CIHR.

The Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Office, part of the CIHR’s Strategic Policy Division, administers the provisions of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act for the CIHR and is accountable to the President of CIHR. The ATIP Compliance Office, which is comprised of 1 Senior ATIP Coordinator, 1 Senior ATIP Analyst and 1 Junior ATIP Officer, is responsible for the following activities:

In accordance with the Access to Information Act, an area on the premises of this institution has been designated as a public reading room. This can be found at 160 Elgin Street, 9th floor, Ottawa, Ontario.

CIHR was not party to any service agreements under section 96 of the Access to Information Act during the 2020-2021 reporting period.

Delegation of Authority

The President of CIHR, as designated Head of CIHR under the Access to Information Act, exercises powers entrusted to the position by the Act, such as exemptions and exclusions.

In accordance with his authority under Section 73, the President has designated the Executive Vice-President; the Associate Vice-President, Government and External Relations; the Director General, Strategic Policy; the Senior Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Coordinator, the Senior ATIP Analyst and the Junior ATIP Officer to exercise his powers, duties or functions under the Act (See Appendix A - Delegation Order).

Highlights of the Statistical Report 2020-2021

During the April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021 reporting period, CIHR received 38 requests and had six requests carried over from the previous fiscal year, for a total of 44 formal requests. Out of these 44 requests, 37 were treated in the 2020-2021 fiscal year and seven were carried over to the next fiscal year. The CIHR was consulted on 18 requests from other federal institutions and one consultation request from an external organization.

Formal requests tend to be concerned with the administration of daily activities of the CIHR.

  1. Formal Requests

    A total of 44 requests were received during this reporting period, 37 of which were processed. (See Appendix B - Statistical Report). Of the 37 requests completed, 24 were completed within the first 30 days of reception, 12 requests were completed within 31 – 120 days, and one request required more than 121 days to complete. Seven of the 37 requests treated in 2020-2021 were disclosed in full representing 18.92% of total requests, while 20 were disclosed in part representing 54.05% of total requests. One request was exempted in full and nine had no existing records. A total of 3641 pages were processed and 1502 pages were disclosed in 2020- 2021. During this period, 64.86% of requests were processed within the legislated time limit, compared to 46.13% in 2019-2020. Thirteen extensions were required due to workload (8 requests) or external consultations (5 requests). This represents extensions for 35.14% of all requests processed during the reporting year, compared to 53.85% for 2019-2020.

    Despite the increased workload and the challenges associated with moving to a telework environment, the CIHR was able to adapt to these changes and continue to provide services to Canadians in a timely manner.

    As illustrated below, the number of requests received and processed in 2020-2021 represents a significant increase. The subject matter of requests remained similar to previous year but an upward trend on requests related to proactive disclosure material is noted. In response to the Government of Canada’s commitment to open government access and transparency, CIHR continues to make documents available to the public on an Open Government portal. The increase in number of requests carried over demonstrates the fact that the requests received were highly complex in nature, requiring a high level of effort to process. Furthermore, the requests that needed to be carried over for processing are a result of increased strain on resources in response to COVID19.

    Long description
    Year Requests Processed Requests Carried Over
    2020-2021 38 6
    2019-2020 13 0
    2018-2019 16 2
    2017-2018 8 0
    2016-2017 31 2
  2. Informal Requests

    In 2020-2021, CIHR treated 6 informal ATI requests. Five requests were completed within 30 days and one was completed within 60 days.

  3. Sources of Requests

    In 2020-2021, 34% of requests were received from the media, 29% were from the public, 21% were from private organizations, 8% were from academia and 8% were from the businesses. In 2020-2021, the source of requests has remained consistent with the average source of request by category since 2015-2016. 2020-2021 saw an increase in percentage of requests from the public and a decrease in the percentage of requests from academia.

    Since 2015-2016, the general public has been the source of 49 requests and academia has been the source of 20 requests. ATI requests have also been submitted by 28 organizations and six businesses. The largest source of requests since 2015-2016 has been from the media with 52 requests, representing 33.55% of the total requests.

  4. Consultation Requests

    During the 2020-2021, reporting period, the CIHR Access to Information and Privacy Office received 18 consultation requests from federal departments, which is a slight decrease from the 21 consultations received in the previous fiscal year. One additional request was received from an organization. All 19 consultations were recommended for full disclosure.

    The volume and nature of these consultations tend to be similar to those of requests for information CIHR receives on an annual basis, focusing primarily on CIHR programs and initiatives. Due to the fact that there is generally more information being proactively disclosed it is therefore expected to see more variation in the volume of consultations.

    Additionally, the ATIP office provided internal advice, guidance and recommendations on a variety of Access to Information issues related to CIHR programs and initiatives.

    Increased response times when consulting with other government institutions were encountered. It was observed that these delays were generally attributed to the unique circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

  5. Processing Requests

    The CIHR makes every possible effort to process requests within the 30-day time limit as required by the legislation. However, some delays may be incurred when requests received by CIHR contain third-party information, which triggers the requirement for consultations, or when a significant volume of records must be treated for a request.

    In 2020-2021, 13 requests required an extension: eight of which were due to interference with operations/workloads, and the remaining five extensions required external consultations.

  6. Fees and Costs

    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 under the Access to Information Act, the information below is reported in accordance with the requirements of section 20 of the Service Fees Act.”

    • Enabling authority: Access to Information Act
    • Fee amount: $5, the only fee charged for an ATI request
    • Total revenue: $190 for the 2020 to 2021 fiscal year
    • No fees were waived for the 2020 to 2021 fiscal year
    • Cost of operating the program: $84,000

Training Activities

During the 2020-2021 fiscal year, Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) related training was provided to staff at all levels through five individual sessions. While most of these information sessions focused on privacy, there were nevertheless key concepts related to access to information and information management that were covered as well. These sessions were presented with a goal to enhance the knowledge, skills and perspectives of all employees, concerning Access to Information and Privacy. Remote work requirements in response to the Covid19 pandemic impacted the way training could be offered and its frequency. Information Management and Technology tools have been developed to increase the resources available to offer more training in the 2021-2022 fiscal year. The ATIP Office continues to develop educational tools and deliver training sessions to CIHR staff.

The ATIP Coordinator attended the ATIP Coordinator and Practitioner Community meetings hosted by the Treasury Board Secretariat throughout the fiscal year, and also participated in online professional communities on GC Connex. These communities provide valuable information on trends and best practices within the ATIP community, updates on recent complaints and court cases, and tools to help improve service standards within the field.

Policies, Guidelines and Procedures

While there were no significant revisions to current access to information policies, guidelines or procedures, the CIHR implemented some new access to information processes for Privacy Impact Assessments, including a privacy compliance evaluation and a preliminary assessment process during the 2020-2021 reporting period.

Complaints and Investigations

The CIHR received five complaints during the reporting period and four complaints were carried over from previous years. During the course of 2020-2021 period, four complaints were concluded: two complaints were resolved and two complaints were deemed to be not well founded. The five remaining complaints remain active and are carried over to 2021-2022.

Monitoring Process

The ATIP Office monitors the time to process requests and administer the Access to Information Act through weekly verbal status reports and a weekly written status report is provided to the Health Minister’s Office for their information. Any issues of significant interest are discussed with the President and Communications department on an as needed basis.

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