Open and Transparent Agency Policy

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1. Background

1.1 The CFIA's vision is to excel as a science-based regulator, trusted and respected by Canadians and the international community. To this end, preserving public confidence in the CFIA's (the Agency's) decisions and activities is key to protect its credibility and reputation.

To maintain public trust, the CFIA is committed to providing Canadians with information about its publicly-funded regulatory and scientific activities. Canadians are entitled to this information and it can help them to make informed decisions for themselves, their families, and businesses.

Transparency and openness are key values underpinning the CFIA's activities. As part of its ongoing evolution toward becoming a more responsive and accountable organization, the CFIA initially began to release more information about its decisions and activities in 2011 through its Transparency Agenda.

1.2 This policy represents a refresh to the CFIA's approach to openness and transparency, formalizes Agency practice and provides CFIA direction for implementing the next stage of its Transparency Agenda. This means the Agency will:

  • 1.2.1 build on and expand existing transparency practices realized since the Transparency Agenda was first implemented
  • 1.2.2 undertake new practices in order to keep pace with evolving public expectations influenced by transparency initiatives of other regulators both in Canada and around the world
  • 1.2.3 proactively identify opportunities to make information– such as reports, documents, decisions and data – publicly available throughout the lifecycle of the Agency's programs and activities
  • 1.2.4 embed openness and transparency into our programs, decisions and activities whenever possible by building them in from their inception as part of attaining the Agency's vision of becoming open by design

1.3 These practices and the CFIA's commitment to disclosing relevant information to its stakeholders go hand in hand with the direction taken by the Government of Canada's Open Government and Open Science initiatives.

1.4 This policy provides direction to CFIA employees in line with its obligations to comply with Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada (TBS) requirements to maximize release of data and information of business value to stakeholders. It should be read alongside the TBS Directive on Open Government, which provides mandatory Government of Canada requirements to become open by default, and in turn influences the CFIA's goal of becoming open by design.

2. Policy statement

The CFIA is open by design and releases relevant, accurate, and timely information to stakeholders about its regulatory and scientific activities, decisions, programs and services.

3. Objectives

The objectives of this policy are to:

3.1. preserve trust in Canada's regulatory system for food, plants and animals, by demonstrating visible and public accountability for delivery of the CFIA's regulatory programs and services

3.2. better inform Canadians about the CFIA's mandate to protect Canada's food, plants and animals, and provide information that will enhance their ability to make informed decisions for themselves, their families and their businesses

3.3. contribute to a fair, competitive business environment for regulated parties by providing tools to clarify industry's role in meeting regulatory requirements and information about compliance outcomes

3.4. provide consistent direction to all CFIA employees and clarify the important role they will play in supporting the Agency to deliver on its commitment to be open by design

4. Scope

This policy applies to the following:

4.1 All CFIA employees as well as temporary, and term staff

4.2 Contractors and students engaged by the Agency, subject to the terms and conditions of their contract

4.3 All CFIA information, except that which 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 information is as follows:

6. Guiding principles

The CFIA's Transparency Agenda is:

Open by Design

  • Openness and transparency are integrated throughout the entire lifecycle of CFIA programs, policies, services and enabling technologies. From inception, consideration is given to how information generated will be publically released

User-Centric

  • Relevant, accurate, and timely information is shared proactively with stakeholders, without waiting for an access to information request
  • Context is provided so that both potential possibilities and limitations of use are clearly communicated

Inclusive

  • Stakeholders and end-users are consulted and engaged as required to ensure openness and transparency initiatives are service-oriented and meet their intended objectives
  • The Agency maintains, and is seen as maintaining, its regulatory independence

Diligent

  • Consequences and impacts (both positive and negative) of providing information are fully considered and balanced prior to release
  • Private and confidential information belonging to individuals and third parties is appropriately protected

Agile

  • The CFIA's Transparency Agenda evolves and is responsive both to shifts in public and government expectations and changes in its operating environment as part of ensuring it is sustainably implemented

7. Requirements

7.1 CFIA information must be released in accordance with this policy and any applicable CFIA release procedures

7.2 Information must be released in a timely manner that allows users to derive maximum benefit from them for decision-making purposes

7.3 The CFIA shall prioritize release of information that:

  • 7.3.1 is of high public interest
  • 7.3.2 relates to Agency and Government of Canada priorities
  • 7.3.3 contributes to informed decision making by Canadians about products they consume and/or use
  • 7.3.4 promotes compliance by industry and the public with CFIA regulations
  • 7.3.5 is 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 All CFIA staff must continuously consider whether and how key information relating to the Agency's programs and services can be publicly released as part of their design, re-design, and approval

7.5 Open by design features that support transparency must be integrated into new information technology (IT) tools at their inception, built into older systems during upgrades, and be capable of releasing information to the public upon implementation

7.6 Agency information intended for the public must be created using plain language, contextualized, and made understandable by the broadest audience possible, maintaining scientific and technical rigour as appropriate

7.7 The CFIA organizes information that is released logically, visibly, in a downloadable format and accessible location that facilitates access by stakeholders

7.8 To facilitate release, information generated by CFIA programs and services must be created, stored and managed in compliance with approved information management (IM) and data management (DM) standards

7.9 Information posted to the CFIA website as a dataset must also be formatted in a machine-readable format and made available on the Government of Canada's Open Data Portal as an open dataset

7.10 Outcomes and outputs of initiatives that are part of the CFIA's Transparency Agenda, once completed and made publicly available:

  • 7.10.1 shall, in consultation with and at the discretion of the Communications and Public Affairs Branch, be accompanied by any appropriate communications to inform stakeholders of their availability, including details such as where and how they may be accessed
  • 7.10.2 if accompanied by formal communications, must be framed as part of the broader narrative about the Agency's openness and transparency objectives, through a business-line lens

7.11 Information that is confirmed to contain personal and/or confidential information must undergo further analysis to determine if it can be re-formatted or redacted to enable release

7.12 Decisions made not to release information that supports the objectives of this policy must be documented and include a rationale that references key considerations based on policies, standards and legislation as appropriate

7.13 Documentation noted in section 7.12 must be formatted and stored in a way that it can be made available upon request as part of facilitating reviews of the Agency's approach to openness and transparency, including those that may be initiated under section 11.1 of this policy

8. Exceptions

The CFIA may not disclose information that contains personal and/or confidential information. This includes and is not limited to 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, and if disclosed could reasonably be expected to deprive the employee of priority of 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, indigenous, 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
  • Incorporates commitments related to openness, transparency, and open by design into performance agreements of the Agency's senior management cadre, or other methods and instruments as appropriate as part of fostering this culture

9.2 Vice Presidents and special officers:

  • Promote a culture of open by design within their branches and organizations by clearly communicating expectations to employees and expected outcomes
  • Verify that the requirements of this policy are met in Branch initiatives, programs and activities
  • Apply a One Agency lens, ensuring that requirements of this policy are integrated into initiatives considered by CFIA Governance
  • Ensure that the requirement to build in open by design to CFIA programs, services and initiatives is accounted for when developing budgets and allocating resources

9.3 The Innovation, Business and Service Delivery Branch:

  • Defines standards and guidelines for building openness and transparency into the CFIA's information management (IM) and information technology (IT) solutions to facilitate release of information to the public
  • Includes or incorporates requirements for openness and transparency in specifications for IT system solutions
  • Collaborates with CFIA groups to design and build system solutions that take into account these requirements for openness and transparency throughout the information lifecycle

9.4 Executives and Program Managers:

  • Apply and promote the principles and requirements in this policy to their work units and identify eligible information for release
  • Responsible for developing and documenting decisions within their group to comply with section 7.12 of this policy
  • Ensure that human and financial resources to support openness and transparency elements of work undertaken by their units are considered and integrated into workplans and budgets

9.5 All CFIA employees:

  • Apply the guiding principles and requirements of this policy to their day-to-day work
  • Continuously seek to identify information and/or changes to business processes that will help the Agency attain its vision of being open by design

9.6 Legal Services and Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP – Integrity and Redress Secretariat):

  • Assess the implications of proactively posting information under existing laws and advise that Agency practices comply with legal requirements
  • Provide advice and options as to how information that cannot be released due to valid exceptions including confidentiality, privacy and security implications, can be redacted, edited or reshaped into a compliant format

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 (in development)
  • CFIA Open Government Portal Dataset Publishing Procedure

11. Monitoring and Reporting

11.1 The Program Policy Integration Division (PPID) in Policy and Programs Branch is responsible for maintaining this policy, and reviewing it 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 Information Governance Committee (IGC), chaired by the CIO/IMSO delegate, the CFIA's Chief Data and Risk Officer in the Innovation, Business, and Service Development Branch (IBSDB), and to Program and Policy Management Committee (PPMC) as required for information

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 May 1, 2019.

Annex 1: Definitions

Confidential Business Information (CBI):

As defined in section 20 of the Access to Information Act.

Data:

Digital structured information residing in fixed fields, such as relational databases or spreadsheets, raw facts, and statistics with no specific context.

Information:

Is comprised of both structured (data) and unstructured (records) resources. Records are electronic and physical unstructured information such as documents, web pages, media and print. Data are electronic, structured information in fixed fields such as relational databases.

Open by default:

An organizational culture that favours disclosure over non-disclosure - A broad principle that favours releasing government information of value to Canadians, with information 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.

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.

Openness:

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.

Record:

Digital and physical unstructured information, such as e-mail messages, Word documents, web pages, media and print – data that has been interpreted and organized, adding context and meaning.

Release:

Make publicly available online in a downloadable format.

Relevant:

Addresses and is responsive to a demonstrable need, and/or communicates information about a program, policy or other entity that is a government priority or a federal responsibility.

Stakeholder:

An entity either internal or external to the CFIA that has an interest in the Agency's programs and services, or their related activities, resources or deliverables, such as regulated parties, individual companies and representative industry associations, academia, Canadians, consumers, and other levels of government.

Timely:

Information is made available within a timeframe that will maximize its usefulness to users.

Transparency:

Proactively providing relevant, accurate and timely information to the public to demonstrate accountability for delivery of programs and services, as part of supporting the right of Canadians to government information.

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