IRCC launches efforts to streamline and modernize access to information and privacy system
OTTAWA, ON, May 26, 2021 /CNW/ - Openness, transparency and accountability are guiding principles of the Government of Canada. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is incorporating these principles as we improve and modernize our systems, processes and digital infrastructure to better serve our clients. IRCC takes its responsibilities and obligations under the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act very seriously.
The annual number of access to information and privacy (ATIP) requests made to IRCC has increased dramatically in recent years, going from 63,333 in 2016–2017 to 132,891 in 2019–2020. IRCC now receives more requests than all other federal institutions combined, the majority of which are linked to individual case files.
In the interest of openness and transparency, IRCC is adapting to these recent increases and providing an overall improved ATIP client experience by enhancing readily accessible information, offering faster response times and streamlined systems. To that end, we are announcing IRCC's ATIP Management Action Plan.
The ATIP Management Action Plan is an initiative that will increase proactive communications with clients to address their concerns. The plan is the result of on-going collaboration with the Office of the Information Commissioner, and directly responds to the issues and recommendations raised in their recent report.
This initiative will expand the capabilities of the MyAccount portal—the platform clients use to access information about their files—to include more information on the status of cases, and provide clear and concise communications to explain the reasons why an application was not approved. In addition, IRCC has a responsive and flexible workforce that strives to meet the growing demand in ATIP requests, and is implementing automated processes to increase processing efficiencies.
These efforts are underway, and are showing promising results. Despite the pressures of the pandemic, IRCC reduced the number of outstanding access to information requests by 85%, over a six month period, from 8,881 in January 2020 to 1,330 in July 2020. We have also improved on meeting our processing timelines during this period, going from 64% to 75% on-time responses.
Since 2015, the Government of Canada has invested $35 million to improve Canadians' access to information. More recently, Budget 2021 announced an additional $12.8 million over 5 years to support further improvements across the federal system, such as an online Access to Information and Personal Information Request Service, the acceleration of the proactive release of information to Canadians and support to complete the review of the Acts. These investments will help address delays in response times and provide Canadians and our clients with the information they need more quickly.
"This government strongly believes in the values of openness, transparency and accountability and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada takes its responsibilities and obligations under the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act seriously. We want to increase the availability of information to our clients, and we will continue to make improvements and evolve in how we do business through policy and digital service delivery."
—The Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, P.C., M.P., Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
IRCC is unique, as most of the requests it receives are for the personal information of its clients—98.9% of requests to IRCC are for immigration case files, compared to the 1.1% of requests for corporate records. The majority of these requests concern IRCC clients who are foreign nationals relying on representatives and immigration lawyers to submit access requests on their behalf.
The government's update to the access to information program began with interim measures introduced in 2016 that eliminated fees other than the $5 processing fee, incorporating the principle of "open by default." These improvements mark the first time the government has modernized Canada's access to information system in more than 30 years.