Access to Information requests in DND/CAF

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Providing Canadians with access to government records is a cornerstone of transparency and accountability, and a pillar of Canada’s democracy. Government information should be available to the public to the greatest extent possible under the law.

Recent media coverage concerning the access to information (ATI) process within National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, provides an opportunity to highlight the work taking place across the Defence Team to improve our processes, and reinforce the important role that all members play in helping to ensure the integrity of the system.

The review process is not a simple task given the size and complexity of the organization such as Defence, which has its own military justice branch, police force, medical and chaplain services, and cadet corps. Defence manages infrastructure and accommodation, a pay and benefits system, and one of the largest equipment inventories in government. In addition to deploying troops on operations at home and abroad in the service of Canada and Canadians, the Defence Team works in partnership with Canada’s allies throughout the world, sharing and protecting operational information.

As a result of this complexity, access requests require thorough reviews from the Directorate of Access to Information and Privacy (DAIP) to respect personal information, operational security, legal considerations, government advice, as well as information provided by Canada’s allies and third parties. All this needs to be done within the 30 days mandated by the Access to Information Act.

‎DAIP is at the heart of the access process, and has gone to extraordinary efforts to address issues that had built up over many years. While challenges remain, Defence is trending in the right direction. The following graphic illustrates how in this fiscal year alone, the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces is on track to close well over 2,500 access to information requests this year alone. A 40 per cent increase over last year, this corresponds to about 160,000 pages – taller than the height of a five-story building, or laid end-to-end it would stretch almost 44 km – longer than a marathon.

Every Defence Team member is an integral part of the process to provide information to Canadians, and ‎DAIP is in the process of planning its Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) training schedule for the 2019/2020 fiscal year. This will include training at various locations across the National Capital Region, as well as at select bases across Canada.

Senior leadership remains committed to continually improving how it conducts the business of Defence, and while there remain challenges, the system is working and we are improving how we handle Access to Information requests across the Defence Team.

Additional information on the Access to Information Process is available on the Government of Canada’s Open Government website.

Infographic: Access to Information requests in DND/CAF

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