Administration of the Access to Information Act Annual Report
April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022


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 CIHR fulfilled its responsibilities under the Act during the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2021 and ending March 31, 2022.

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 2021-2022 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).

Performance 2021-2022

During the April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022 reporting period, CIHR received 30 requests and had six requests carried over from the previous fiscal year, for a total of 36 formal requests. Out of these 36 requests, 30 were treated in the 2021-2022 fiscal year and six were carried over to the next fiscal year. Two requests were carried over from 2019-2020 and one request was carried over from 2018-2019. All three requests carried over for more than one fiscal year are not within legislated timelines. The CIHR was consulted on 26 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.

a. Formal Requests

A total of 36 requests were active during this reporting period, 30 of which were completed. (See Appendix B — Statistical Report). Of the 30 requests completed, 9 were completed within the first 30 days of reception, 11 requests were completed within 31 – 120 days, 4 requests required 121-365 days and 3 requests were completed in more than 365 days. Two of the 30 requests treated in 2021-2022 were disclosed in full representing 6% of total requests, while 20 were disclosed in part representing 67% of total requests. Four requests produced no existing records, 2 requests were transferred to other government institutions and two requests were abandoned.

A total of 10625 pages were processed and 1858 pages were disclosed in 2021-2022. Two requests represent 8583 pages (81%) of the total volume of pages processed. During this period, 60% of requests (18) were processed within the legislated time limit, compared to 64.86% in 2020-2021. Of the 12 requests that were not closed within legislated timelines, 4 were due to workload and 8 were due to external consultation requirements.

As illustrated below, the number of pages of records received and processed in 2021-2022 represents a significant increase. The subject matter of requests remained similar to previous years but the volume or records to be reviewed has increased. 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.

2017-2018 2018-2019 2019-2020 2020-2021 2021-2022
Requests Processed 8 16 13 37 30
Pages Released 1723 7358 1899 1502 1858
Pages Processed 3278 8553 2068 3641 10625
Requests Carried Over 0 2 5 6 6

b. Informal Requests

In 2021-2022, CIHR did not treat any informal ATI requests.

c. Sources of Requests

In 2021-2022, 43% of requests were received from the media, 30% were from the public, 17% were from academia and 10% were from private sector businesses. No requests were received from organizations. In 2021-2022, the source of requests has remained largely consistent with the average source of request by category, however an increase in requests from academia and an absence of requests from private organizations is noted. Comparatively, 2020-2021 saw 8% of requests from academia and 21% of requests from private organizations.

Since 2016-2017, the general public has been the source of 55 requests and academia has been the source of 19 requests. ATI requests have also been submitted by 28 organizations and 9 private sector businesses. The largest source of requests since 2017-2018 has been from the media with 61 requests, representing 36% of the total requests.

d. Consultation Requests

During the 2021-2022 reporting period, the CIHR Access to Information and Privacy Office received 25 consultation requests from federal departments, one consultation from an outside organization, and carried over one consultation from the 2020-2021 reporting period, which is a notable increase from the 18 consultations received in the previous fiscal year, and one additional request was received from an organization. One consultation request was recommended for consultation with another institution, three were recommended for partial disclosure and 22 were recommended for full disclosure. Of the 27 consultations processed, 11 were completed in 1-15 days, three in 16-30 days, 11 in 31-60 days and two in 61-120 days.

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. The most notable increase was the volume of pages reviewed. In 2020-2021, CIHR was consulted on 192 pages of records and in 2021-2022 a total of 639 pages were received for consultation. The significant increase on number of pages consulted is also consistent with the increase in number of pages processed for requests received by CIHR during the reporting period.

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

e. 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 2021-2022, 14 requests required an extension and in several instances, extensions for interference with operations/workload and external consultations were both required on a request. In total, seven extensions were cited due to interference with operations/workloads, and 13 extensions required external consultations. This represents extensions for 67% of all requests processed during the reporting year, compared to 35.14% in 2020-2021 and 53.85% for 2019¬2020. Increased response times when consulting with other government institutions were encountered. It was observed that these delays were generally attributed to the volume and complexity of records as well as the unique circumstances surrounding the evolving requirements of telework in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Training and Awareness

During the 2021-2022 fiscal year, ATIP related training was provided on request to staff at all levels through eight customized 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 impacted the way training could be offered and its frequency. The ATIP Office continues to develop educational tools and deliver training sessions to CIHR staff.

Policies, Guidelines, Procedures and Initiatives

While there were no significant revisions to current access to information policies, guidelines or procedures, the CIHR directed time to reviewing efficiencies in the Access to Information process. In response to the identified need, CIHR initiated the development of a new Office of Primary Interest (OPI) framework to improve the efficiency of its Access to Information processes.

Summary of Key Issues and Actions Taken on Complaints

During the 2021-2022 reporting year, no complaints were received and one complaint from 2020-2021 was closed, being deemed not substantiated. CIHR continues to engage with the Office of the Information Commissioner on 3 outstanding complaints, two from 2019-2020 and one from 2016-2017.

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.

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

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