Evidence of meeting #74 for Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was expenses.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Hugues La Rue
Robert Mundie  Acting Vice-President, Corporate Affairs Branch, Canada Border Services Agency
Michael Olsen  Director General, Corporate Affairs, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Dan Proulx  Director, Access to Information and Privacy Division, Canada Border Services Agency
Audrey White  Director, Access to Information and Privacy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Pierre Bienvenu  Lawyer, Senior Partner, Norton Rose Fulbright Canada, Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association
Robert Ramsay  Senior Research Officer, Research, Canadian Union of Public Employees

4:20 p.m.

Director, Access to Information and Privacy Division, Canada Border Services Agency

Dan Proulx

The traveller history report is not a document that people can keep when they come into the country. The document indicates all the ports of entry, meaning where and when they entered Canada. It also indicates how many times they have done so.

I could ask my colleagues to talk to you about their need to keep that report, if you wish.

The document actually helps to determine how long people have been in the country. Given that we are at the ports of entry, we have that information. It is kept in our records and then the report is generated.

To assist people with access to the information they need, we have worked closely with IRCC, which has access to our system that produces the reports. Since 2012, the date when the department gained access to the system, it has published about 500,000 reports, relieving us of a possible load of 500,000 requests. There are still 12,000 requests per year left over and I would like to find a solution to them. To make that task easier, we have removed from the report all sensitive information that would require them to undergo a secondary examination, because it is the dates that are needed.

So that allows us to respond to requests without delay and without having to gather anything else. My people have direct access to the system and send out the responses. However, we receive hundreds of requests per day and we need a dozen employees per financial year to work on them. At the moment, we are actively working on a system that people can use themselves. It would be much like a license renewal where you can go to a kiosk in a public location, enter your personal data and get your license renewed.

We would like to have a portal that people could use to find their own reports, like My Account at the CRA. We are actively working on it. If we manage to get the portal up and running, it would help to reduce the requests, especially in terms of the provision in the bill that requires the information to be available in another way. It would not be necessary to process it under the Access to Information Act. If we could make the information available in a public domain, it would be good because people could look for it there and obtain it more quickly.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

You would at least have to give people the guarantee that access to the information would be private. If they can do that kind of research on themselves, perhaps they could also do it on other people. That is a little touchy. However, I feel that it still could improve the system.

In Bill C-58, have you seen any provisions that could adversely affect the way in which your two departments operate?

4:20 p.m.

Director, Access to Information and Privacy Division, Canada Border Services Agency

Dan Proulx

Does anyone else want to answer?

4:20 p.m.

Audrey White Director, Access to Information and Privacy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Can you repeat the question, please?

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Yes. In the new version of Bill C-58, the one we are studying, are there any provisions that could adversely affect the way in which your departments operate, in your opinion?

4:25 p.m.

Director, Access to Information and Privacy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Audrey White

We do not see where the bill could have negative effects in its current form. We fully support the bill.

4:25 p.m.

Director, Access to Information and Privacy Division, Canada Border Services Agency

Dan Proulx

I feel that it is a major step forward. The legislation needs to be modernized. It also asks for a regular review to be done. So it may not be perfect the first time around, but, rather than doing nothing, it is better to do something and to make corrections eventually, if need be.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

If you had a recommendation to make about this bill, what would it be?

4:25 p.m.

Director, Access to Information and Privacy Division, Canada Border Services Agency

Dan Proulx

There is something I am not getting,

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Would you have any proposal to improve this bill?

4:25 p.m.

Director, Access to Information and Privacy Division, Canada Border Services Agency

Dan Proulx

I would recommend putting it into effect as soon as possible.

4:25 p.m.

Voices

Ah, ah!

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

That's everything from me.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Bob Zimmer

Mr. Dubourg is next. You have five minutes.

October 30th, 2017 / 4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuel Dubourg Liberal Bourassa, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Proulx’s answer made us laugh. It is very good to hear him recommend that we put the bill into effect as quickly as possible.

Mr. Proulx, you also said that you want to continue working on proactive disclosure, to see how you could make this public and to reduce the number of requests. I assume that the same also goes for immigration.

Mr. Olsen, is it the same on your side? Are you also working along those lines? You say that you get about half of all the requests submitted to the government. Could you tell us what kind of customs requests you receive? What are people asking IRCC for? There are 63,000 requests. Could you give us a general idea about what those requests include?

4:25 p.m.

Director General, Corporate Affairs, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Michael Olsen

I'll ask Audrey to go into more detail, but again, the vast majority of those requests are for case information. People have made applications for permanent residence or temporary residence, and they want to know the status of their applications. They want to know why their applications were successful or not successful.

Audrey, do you want to add anything?

4:25 p.m.

Director, Access to Information and Privacy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Audrey White

The way in which Mr. Proulx described the process earlier is quite similar to what we are doing. It is really very detailed. We have to go through various channels in order to be able to assess and process all the requests we receive as quickly as possible. It is a significant volume. As Mr. Olsen mentioned in his presentation, 96% of the requests we receive come from applicants who want to find out about and understand the status of their applications for immigration, for citizenship, or for passports. It is really personal information.

The last time Ms. Beck appeared before the committee, I believe she mentioned that access to information was going to evolve and change significantly with the technological methods that will help us come to grips with the increase in the number of requests. In that respect, the legislation will be very useful to us, but improved technology will be useful as well.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuel Dubourg Liberal Bourassa, QC

Yes, that is what we would like. However, we have 338 members of Parliament here at the service of Canadians. So if some of them want to know the status of their immigration files, they can come directly to our offices. At least, that is the case in my constituency.

Do you think that they do not make sufficient use of that method, by which I mean that they automatically make access to information requests rather than coming to their elected federal representative?

4:25 p.m.

Director General, Corporate Affairs, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Michael Olsen

To my mind, the optimal solution is actually for IRCC, as my colleague from CBSA mentioned, to get the information into the hands of the people whose information it is. They own that information. There may be some things that cannot be revealed for national security reasons, but it is their information. My desire is to get as much information into people's hands as possible. It's like knowing the status of your bank account. You can go in, check the status of your bank account, and know what's in there. You shouldn't have to pay for it.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuel Dubourg Liberal Bourassa, QC

Are these requests submitted by the people themselves or by those representing them, lawyers or notaries, for example?

4:30 p.m.

Director General, Corporate Affairs, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Michael Olsen

There's a mix of requesters; we get all kinds. Of course, we get requests from foreign nationals as well, and those are done through a representative.

Audrey, I'm happy for you to jump in.

4:30 p.m.

Director, Access to Information and Privacy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Audrey White

The general tendency is for 50% to 55% of the requests we receive to come from immigration representatives.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuel Dubourg Liberal Bourassa, QC

Okay.

I asked that question because there is currently some discussion in the media about falsified passports and things like that. Is it possible that people have used access to information requests to traffic or counterfeit Canadian passports?

4:30 p.m.

Director General, Corporate Affairs, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Michael Olsen

I'm not aware of any link.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Emmanuel Dubourg Liberal Bourassa, QC

Okay. Thank you,

Thank you, Mr. Chair.