Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My name is Robert Mundie, and I'm the acting vice-president of the corporate affairs branch. I have with me today Dan Proulx, who is director of the access to information and privacy division at the Canada Border Services Agency.
This division is responsible for overseeing the access and privacy functions at the agency. These include administering and fulfilling all legislative requirements of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act related to processing requests; interacting with the public, agency employees, other government institutions, and the offices of the Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner regarding investigations and audits; and implementing measures to enhance our capacity to process requests.
I will briefly outline the CBSA's access and privacy functions and the way the agency performs against established service standards and will highlight some of the successes and challenges we experience in our administration of the acts.
As the second-largest law enforcement agency in the federal government, the agency is responsible for border functions related to customs, immigration enforcement, and food, plant, and animal inspection.
The agency administers and enforces two principal pieces of legislation: the Customs Act, which outlines our responsibilities to collect duty and taxes on imported goods, interdict illegal goods, and administer trade legislation and agreements; and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which governs both the admissibility of people into Canada, and the identification, detention and removal of those deemed to be inadmissible under the act.
The agency also enforces 90 other statutes, many on behalf of numerous federal departments and agencies.
Mr. Chair, given the numerous daily interactions the agency has with businesses and with individuals on a variety of matters, we are no strangers to requests for access or personal information. We have approximately 62 employees working in the ATIP division, 44 of whom are solely dedicated to the processing of privacy and access to information requests. The agency also has an internal network of 16 liaison officers who provide support to the ATIP division within the agency's branches at headquarters and in regions across the country.
The CBSA's operating expenditures to run its privacy and access to information program totalled approximately $5.1 million in 2016-17, with $4.3 million dedicated to salary and $800,000 to non-salary expenditures. With respect to volumes of requests received under the Access to Information Act, we received just over 6,250 requests in 2016-17, which is the second-highest total for a department within the Government of Canada. Under the Privacy Act our numbers are equally significant, with approximately 11,600 requests.
Furthermore, in the first half of this fiscal year, there has been a 15% increase in the number of requests received under both acts. These high volumes are largely attributable to individuals seeking copies of their history of arrival dates into Canada.
In fiscal year 2016-17, 78% of privacy requests and 45% of access requests came from individuals seeking their traveller history, a report we generate that is used to support residency requirements for programs administered by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and by Employment and Social Development Canada. Analysts from the ATIP division have direct access to the database that houses these reports. Also, the review of these reports and the application of the law are standard, which allows our analysts to complete these requests without needing to obtain recommendations on disclosure from departmental officials. This greatly reduces the time it takes analysts to process these types of requests.
Of all the requests completed last fiscal year, the CBSA was successful in responding within the legislated time frame in more than eight out of 10 cases under both acts.
As indicated in the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's annual report last year to Parliament, 70 complaints were filed against the CBSA to the Privacy Commissioner. Given the large volume of requests that we process, this number is a very small proportion of the total requests closed, representing less than 1%.
A similar result was seen under the Access to Information Act. A total of 125 complaints were filed with the Information Commissioner, representing less than 2% of the requests completed by the CBSA. However, we aspire to better serve Canadians and look to find ways of improving our service.
Our success reflects the agency's commitment to ensuring that every reasonable effort is made to meet obligations under both the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. The agency strives to provide Canadians with the information to which they have a right in a timely and helpful manner, by balancing the right of access with the need to protect the integrity of border services that support national security and public safety.
Innovative approaches and careful planning will help the agency to continue the success into the future.
In closing, we welcome the review of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and will fully support and adopt any new measures that are introduced by the Treasury Board Secretariat following passage of legislative reforms.
I want to thank you, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity for us to provide our input into your study and for welcoming us here today. I look forward to the members' questions.