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Portal expands to meet immigration department’s rising access to information requests

Initiative aims to improve readily accessible information, response times

Portal expands to meet immigration department’s rising access to information requests
Canada’s immigration department receives the most federal access to information requests.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has announced a management action plan to streamline and modernize access to information and privacy systems, processes and digital infrastructure, in order to adapt to recent increases in requests and to advance openness and transparency.

The access to information and privacy (ATIP) management action plan aims to expand the capacity of the MyAccount portal to provide users with more information regarding the status of their individual case files and to give a clear and concise explanation of why a particular application has been rejected.

With such changes, the federal government intends to promote proactive communications to address client matters and to improve processing efficiency by implementing automated processes, said the news release.

The IRCC had already introduced the MyAccount portal and begun implementing automated processes to increase processing efficiencies. Between January 2020 and July 2020 the IRCC reduced the number of outstanding access-to-information requests from 8,881 to 1,330, or by 85 per cent, and improved compliance with processing timelines, with 75 per cent on-time responses, up from 64 per cent.

The department received 132,891 requests from 2019 to 2020, compared with 63,333 requests from 2016 to 2017, making it the federal institution receiving more requests than all others combined.

The majority of the requests to the IRCC arose when clients sought personal information about their individual files, with 98.9 per cent of requests pertaining to immigration case files, and only 1.1 per cent asking for corporate records. Most access requests were from immigration lawyers and representatives acting for foreign clients.

The IRCC, collaborating with the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC), developed the ATIP Management Action Plan in response to the five key issues and recommendations identified in an OIC report.

“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,” said Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, in the news release.

The initiative seeks to improve the government department’s delivery of readily available information and digital services, added Mendicino.

The federal government has dedicated $35 million to improve access to information since 2015. The federal budget for 2021 includes an additional investment of $12.8 million over five years to establish an online Access to Information and Personal Information Request Service, to address the issue of delayed response times, and to more efficiently provide Canadians and clients with the information they seek.

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