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Administration of the Access to Information Act Annual Report 2020–21

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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 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.

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 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:

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.

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
2016–17 95 20 96 19
2017–18 56 19 64 11
2018–19 79 11 75 15
2019–20 66 14 68 12
2020–21 48 12 56 4

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".

Source of Requests

View the text equivalent Source of Requests
Source of Requests
 Year Media Private Sector Public Academia Other
2016–17 50 30 7 4 4
2017–18 23 21 8 2 2
2018–19 32 29 15 3 0
2019–20 33 15 14 3 1
2020–21 15 19 9 4 1

Disposition of Completed Access Requests

FINTRAC completed 56 access requests in 2020–21:

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:

Exclusions and Exemptions Invoked

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

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.

Informal Requests

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

Requests Received and Closed

View the text equivalent Requests Received and Closed
Requests Received and Closed
2016–17 54
2017–18 46
2018–19 59
2019–20 47
2020–21 14

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.

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)
$150
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:

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.

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 – 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

Date Modified: