Proposed Open and Transparent Agency Policy

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This document is in draft and is part of the current consultation on Enhancing Openness and Transparency at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which will be open until August 2, 2018. Visit the main consultation page to find out how you can share your thoughts.

On this page

  1. Background
  2. Policy Statement
  3. Objectives
  4. Scope
  5. Authorities
  6. Guiding Principles
  7. Requirements
  8. Exceptions
  9. Roles and Responsibilities
  10. References
  11. Monitoring and Reporting
  12. Inquiries
  13. Effective Date
  14. Annex 1: Definitions

1. Background

  • 1.1 Preserving confidence in the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA's) decisions and activities is crucial to protect its credibility and reputation. To maintain trust, the CFIA has to enable Canadians to exercise their right to information about publicly-funded activities of government by providing them with useful, timely and accessible information about its programs and services.
  • 1.2 To enable information sharing and meet the Government of Canada's Open Government and Open Science commitments, the CFIA will nurture an organizational culture that is open by design and withholds records only for recognized, valid reasons.
  • 1.3 This policy provides direction to CFIA employees on the Agency's approach to sharing of data and information ("records") with stakeholders. It should be read alongside:

2. Policy Statement

The CFIA is open by design and will proactively release records about its regulatory and scientific activities, decisions, programs and services in useful, timely, and accessible formats.

3. Objectives

The objectives of this policy are to:

  • 3.1 Enable Canadians to make informed decisions by publishing records about Agency activities and decisions, and by clearly demonstrating how the CFIA safeguards Canada's food, animals, and plants and secures access to foreign markets for Canadian industry.
  • 3.2 Appropriately support regulated parties to navigate the regulatory system to comply with regulations and protect Canadians from preventable risks related to food safety, animal health, and plant protection.
  • 3.3 Provide Canadians with information about how, as a science-based regulator, the CFIA protects them through sound regulatory science, risk management, collaboration, and innovation.

4. Scope

This policy applies to the following:

  • 4.1 All CFIA employees as well as students, temporary, and term staff.
  • 4.2 Contractors employed by the Agency, subject to the terms and conditions of their contract relating to ownership of intellectual property.
  • 4.3 All CFIA records, except for those that will not be disclosed in line with section 8 of this policy and other requirements of the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act.

5. Authorities

This policy supports CFIA compliance with mandatory Government of Canada requirements issued by TBS under section 7 of the Financial Administration Act.

Relevant legislation relating to release of Government records are as follows:

6. Guiding Principles

Openness and transparency are foundational to how the CFIA delivers its mandate. The following guiding principles act as the basis for further integrating these elements into the way the Agency does business.

  • Accountability to stakeholders that are impacted by the CFIA's decisions and activities, recognizing their right to access government-held information as the primary reason for becoming more open and transparent.
  • Action-oriented by releasing records proactively – without waiting for them to be requested, and by considering openness and transparency at all stages of the lifecycle of the Agency's programs and services: from conception to implementation.
  • Diligence to ensure that openness and transparency initiatives are well-managed and that their impact is fully assessed prior to release to ensure they will contribute to policy objectives.
  • Flexibility to keep pace with continually evolving public and government expectations about openness and transparency, and for the CFIA to become more transparent and open in a step-wise way that is manageable for both staff and stakeholders.
  • Focused on releasing records of highest interest to stakeholders to help them make relevant and informed decisions about their affairs, in useful, timely and accessible formats.
  • Protection of private and confidential information belonging to individuals, third parties and CFIA employees.

7. Requirements

  • 7.1 CFIA records must be released in accordance with this policy and approved CFIA release procedures.
  • 7.2 Records must be released in a timely manner, in a readily available and accessible format.
  • 7.3 The CFIA shall prioritize release of records that:
    • 7.3.1 Are of high public interest.
    • 7.3.2 Relate to Agency and Government of Canada priorities.
    • 7.3.3 Contribute to informed decision making by Canadians about products they consume and/or use.
    • 7.3.4 Support industry compliance with CFIA regulations.
    • 7.3.5 Are frequently requested through channels including 'Access to Information requests, the Government of Canada's Open Government Portal, informal requests received by the CFIA, media requests, and regular communications between the Agency and its stakeholders during the course of program delivery and engagement activities.
  • 7.4 The CFIA organizes its records logically, visibly, and in a format and location that facilitates access by stakeholders.
  • 7.5 CFIA programs and initiatives must be open by design. New programming and initiatives, and revisions to existing ones, must evaluate how records they generate will be publicly released as part of the design and approval process.
  • 7.6 Agency records intended for the public must be created using plain language, and use techniques or formats that make them understandable by the broadest audience possible while maintaining necessary scientific and technical rigour.
  • 7.7 Written feedback summaries of public consultation and engagement sessions on regulatory, program or policy proposals and information on how comments received have changed or influenced the final product must be posted on the CFIA website within six months of the consultation or engagement session closing.
  • 7.8 Records containing personal and/or confidential information must undergo further analysis to determine a suitable format to release any non-protected information they contain.
  • 7.9 Decisions made not to release records that support the objectives of this policy must be documented and include a clear rationale.

8. Exceptions

The CFIA may not disclose records that contain personal and/or confidential information. These include records containing information that:

  • 8.1 Is personal in nature or could lead to the identification of an individual or other people.
  • 8.2 Belongs to third parties and is considered confidential business information.
  • 8.3 Would harm the CFIA's ability to enforce its legislation, such as information about specific investigative techniques and investigations in progress.
  • 8.4 Is scientific or technical information obtained through research and is awaiting publication.
  • 8.5 Contains advice or recommendations developed for Ministers and/or Cabinet, and that are protected by the convention of Cabinet confidence.
  • 8.6 May harm relations or negotiations with any international, aboriginal, provincial, territorial or municipal government.
  • 8.7 May threaten the safety of a person or present a risk to the security of any property or system.

9. Roles and Responsibilities

  • 9.1 The CFIA President provides leadership on development of a culture of open by design at all levels throughout the Agency.
  • 9.2 Vice Presidents promote a culture of open by design within their branches.
  • 9.3 Executives and Program Managers apply and promote the principles and mandatory requirements in this policy to their work units and identify eligible records for release including feedback from stakeholders on regulatory, program or policy proposals.
  • 9.4 The Information Management/Information Technology Branch provides any required information technology support and final approval for release of datasets.
  • 9.5 Legal Services and Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP – Integrity and Redress Secretariat) assess the implications of proactively posting records under existing laws and ensure Agency practices meet legal requirements.

10. References

10.1 Related policies and direction

Government of Canada

Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

10.2 Related Resources for CFIA employees

  • Open & Transparent Agency Policy – Guidance Document for staff (to be developed)
  • CFIA Data Release Guidelines (under development)
  • CFIA Information Release Guidelines (under development)

11. Monitoring and Reporting

  • 11.1 This policy will be reviewed every five years, or earlier if changes are made to any of the following:
  • 11.2 Results of reviews conducted under section 11.1 will be reported to the Agency's Programs Management Committee, chaired by the Vice President, Policy Branch.

12. Inquiries

Send questions or comments about this policy

13. Effective Date

This policy replaces the CFIA's 2013 policy on Transparency in Regulatory Decision Making and comes into effect <insert date here>


This policy has been approved by the [Position Title, Branch].





Annex 1: Definitions

Confidential Business Information:
As defined in section 20 of the Access to Information Act.
Reinterpretable representations of information in a formalized manner suitable for communication, interpretation, or processing. Footnote 1
Digital information that is often created in free-form text using common desktop applications such as e-mail, word processing, or presentation applications.
Open by default:
An organizational culture that favours disclosure over non-disclosure - A broad principle that favours releasing government records of value to Canadians, with records being withheld only for necessary privacy, confidentiality and security reasons.
Open by design:
Refers to strategies that are used to ensure that openness and transparency considerations are deliberately and thoughtfully hard-wired into the design phase of all CFIA programs and services, and integrated when improvements are made to existing ones.
Open government:
A governing culture that holds that the public has the right to access the documents and proceedings of government to allow for greater openness, accountability, and engagement. Footnote 2
Open science:
A commitment related to Open Government that seeks to maximize access to federally funded scientific research to encourage greater collaboration and engagement with the scientific community, the private sector, and the public. Footnote 3
Receptive to free exchange of information, communications, change and new ideas as part of seeking excellence and continual improvement in design and delivery of programs and services.
Personal information:
As defined in section 3 of the Privacy Act.
Plain language:
Writing that is clear, concise, well-organized and formatted in a way that maximizes the chance that the reader will quickly find the information they need, understand it the first time they read it, and then be able to take any appropriate action based on that understanding.
Any recorded information created, generated, collected, or received related to government business. A record can be in any format or physical (including electronic) medium such as paper, maps, diagrams, electronic documents, databases, datasets, communications and messages (including e-mail).
Make publicly available online in an accessible format. Footnote 4
Records are made available within a timeframe that will maximize its usefulness to users.
Proactively providing useful, timely and accessible information to the public to demonstrate accountability for delivery of programs and services, as part of supporting the right of Canadians to government records.
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