Library and Archives Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Institutional links

About Us

Librarian and Archivist of Canada
Ian E. Wilson

Speeches

The IM Journey: Maintaining the IM Momentum

IM Day, September 11, 2003

Our final speaker is Ian Wilson
Thanks very much my fellow speakers, Michelle and John.

Good Morning ladies and gentlemen, delighted to see so many familiar faces here, and also to see so many others joining us. Its good to see the IM message is getting out more broadly and involving so many others across the Federal Government.

I also have to observe, in light of the previous comments, in terms of what we have been able to do in the last several years how much has depended upon the cooperation amongst the central agencies. I do want to compliment Michelle D'Auray and her staff in the CIO Branch at Treasury Board for being very open to cooperation to working out joint work plans and to approaching the challenges and the issues jointly. I also want to thank the many departments that are represented here, because frankly, the solutions to IM are found with you in your day-to-day experience. There are many dimensions to the IM challenge, as we've touched on here. Everything from privacy impact assessments, to records retention, to email and electronic records, to dealing with the paper legacy systems, to dealing with accountability to Parliament. All of you have experience in these areas and I think by sharing, by developing in common, by working together, all of those committees that John Reid mentioned have done, and made a phenomenal contribution to this process. It is really fascinating to see. The solutions don't lie with us in the Library and Archives. It doesn't lie with Treasury board. We can set some broad policies and give some tools, but the solutions lie with you. I think simply by sharing and learning from each other, developing best practices, is the best way to go.

Before I launch into my main comments this morning, I do want to correct the program that has been distributed to you. The program indicates that this section is being held in the conference center. That is no longer accurate. You are now in the Canada History Center, the new center for political history. Where it will be a place of memory. I do have to say; meeting at this hour on September 11th, in the Canada History Center is, I think, opportune and deeply meaningful.

his is a railway station built in 1912, and is already a place of memory. The trains arrived just out the side here. They came along the back going across Mackenzie Bridge to Hull and Quebec. Through those doors, just over here, how many families said goodbye to soldiers going off to World War I, World War II and Korea? How many welcomed home here? How many immigrants came through those doors looking to a future in a new land? Great optimism. How many of our politicians came and went over many generations? The ghosts are here in this room. The records, and we have the entire records service file of every Canadian who served World War I and World War II. We have many of the immigration records. We have railway records. It is a place of memory, and in here we will be showing documents. Documents will be at the center of the Canada History Center's programs. For once we will have a place to show the Constitutional Records of Canada, from the original Constitution of 1663 signed by Louis XIV through to the Repatriation Constitution of 1982. Those key documents will be on exhibit. The proclamation of the flag, the treaties of Canada, the documents of Canada will be here. Canada is based on documents. Go around Parliament Hill and go to parks in any of the provincial capitals and look at the statues of out statesmen. The statues of our statesmen are not put on horses, holding a sword. They are not built for the most part many times larger than life. Our politicians are commemorated by artists in a way that shows their the human scale, and many of them hold documents. Every statue of John A. Macdonald, of Joseph Howe, of Alexander Mackenzie, of Robert Borden, of Laurier, they all hold a document, because that is what Canada is based upon. The rule of law, peace, order and good government and that is what Canada is based upon.

Now, in my comments this morning, I've got a great deal I'd like to cover, but time is limited and I think the previous speakers have touched on many of the key items, so I'm going to abbreviate fairly quickly and move through the importance of information management. You've heard from Michelle D'Auray and John Reid on that, I don't have to repeat it. The IM challenge, we have heard in many places and many reports over the last several years, from the Information commissioner, from the Auditor General, from Andrée Delagrave in her report on access to information, and many other interesting daily reports in newspapers have stressed the importance and the challenge of dealing with IM. Lets move through perhaps, to the role or the response of the government to this. There are all these marvelous slides people prepared for me. If you want this whole slide deck, I think we can either make copies available here or it will be on our website in both languages. The response, I think, has already been dealt with as well by Michelle D'Auray. In responding I might add in this, that I am one of the two information Management champions, members of TIMS. Someone has referred to us as being the Timbits, who have a role in trying to raise awareness, encourage our senior colleagues in the public service to advocate and push to engage the senior executives of your departments about the value and importance, about dealing with the culture change issue. Now we've talked about culture change in the Public Service, and I think the key points, and these are in the Information Management Policy of Treasury Board, the new policy. The key element is a simple one. Information is a key asset of the government and it must be managed as effectively as we as managers manage other assets. It has to be managed as effectively as we manage finance, human resources and space, the traditional assets. Secondly, it is the responsibility of every manager. IM is not something you leave to the teckies, it's not something you leave to those poor records clerks who are probably in a basement in your department somewhere. IM is the responsibility of every manager. It should be built into the accountability agreements of every executive and it should be in the expectations of every manager and everyone who has a managerial role in the Public Service of Canada. That is the culture change. We value information. In the 21st century, information is the key asset in the private sector and the public sector. Until we recognize that, we are going to continue, as I've seen in my career, in several governments, where information is treated as the waste by-product of the Public Service, rather than being treated as a key asset. Frankly that's what most of records management has amounted to in the 80s and 90s. It was largely a way of management process for a waste by product rather than management of a key asset of government, one we hold and trust for the people of Canada. It is as fundamental as that, and that's the culture change and it is not easy and it is going to take awhile. Mr. Reid suggests building in legislation, to create records, to ensure they are properly maintained. Well, we already have legislation about maintenance of records; it's called the National Archives Act. No record can be destroyed or disposed of without authorization of the Archives. The problem is, in that, or in any other legislation about creation of records, is enforceability. In my view it becomes very quickly a question of ethics and values for the Public Service. Do we have a professional Public Service that ensures that we create records that document our actions, our decisions and the transactions to ensure that those records are properly maintained and ultimately available? Or do we go without memory? Memory is a tricky thing. I suspect everybody here can tell me precisely where they were two years ago, right now, when they heard about the towers, World Trade Center, New York. I suspect it's all imprinted. You've told the story to many people. You've shared your experience with friends and colleagues. It's imprinted, that's memory. But, if I asked you what were you doing the week before September 11th? What were you doing that week? What documents did you produce? Can you show me the final version of that great report or that letter you were writing? Can you even find it today? The week before - It's the nature of memory, and the phenomenal importance of documentation and our responsibility. Yes, we can make it a legal responsibility, I guess, if Parliament wishes. But, I think it's a fundamental value of a modern professional Public Service, that we document what we've done and we demonstrate and hold that document in a way that we are accountable, both as a department, but also frankly, individually as a Public Servant, for carrying out our profession as Public Servants. I think many things are happening to move this process forward and I'm confusing my folks because I'm moving through this presentation in a very haphazard way. But, that's the way it is in trying to meet a deadline.

The agenda in moving forward - engage senior managers and public servants. We've already begun this with the Case for Action which is on our website. There is a demo of it. Trying to develop the business case for effective information management. We held a major symposium earlier this year in February on achieving excellence where for the first time, in my experience, it was not archivists or librarians or information professionals talking about IM, it was the Senior Deputies and Assistant Deputy Ministers of the Government of Canada who were talking about the importance of IM to achieving their program objectives and the need to take common action and realizing that it does take common action. I know departments want their independence, but in the IM sphere, certainly in technology the tendency is very near, it must be towards common action.

We have other things coming up, next week there is the Canadian Meta-Data forum that the library in archives is hosting, engaging colleagues across the country and in the Federal Public Service. Looking at Meta-Data, one of the key issues for access to information and Gtek 2003 in another month or so. We are going to have a major presence there. In developing capacity in the government, I hope by now you are all familiar with the IM capacity check tool that has been developed in cooperation and tested in NR Canada and in Health and in other departments, Citizenship and Immigration and the jobs, workers training and careers cluster, to demonstrate, test-out the idea, modify, refine, the model. It is based on the capacity check models developed from modern controllership. For some reason, I've never yet understood modern controllership as ignored information management. But information management underlies risk assessment; capacity building that is required in modern governments and modern controllership. Someday they will catch up, but we as a community, the IM community, developed the IM capacity check tool - I might add its being picked up internationally as well. Its been distributed to some 60 countries now. In Boswana they are adapting it to the needs of developing countries and in several other countries around the world. They are picking up on this in several of the provinces, particularly Ontario and Alberta are picking it up as well as a fundamental tool to establish the baseline as to where we are on Information Management and then developing the training modules that will help where you identify a weakness, how you address that weakness and move forward from that point. That is coming together as well. In developing a web-based records and information life cycle guide - this will help once you've done the IM capacity check. It will provide the IM tools and best practices to help build capacity and that will continue to grow as various departments and various pilot projects report in. There will be an information session on this web-based guide on September 29th, and I invite you to attend and find out how this tool can benefit your institution's own practices.

In terms of expediting the transition to electronic records, the IM policy at Treasury Board indicates that eventually electronic records will be the preferred record of Government. We were addressing that issue in the library in archives, looking at both the preservation of publications, at the preservation of websites, as well as all of the issues in the different e-record formats and developing an e-records format policy that will provide guidance on the logical file formats the Government of Canada institutions should use for the creation of electronic records. On September 15th, next Monday, we are hosting a symposium on the preservation of electronic records. On Sunday you might want to drop by the library and archives to talk about what to do with those electronic records, you as a family have. What do you do with all those new electronic photos? Will the video tape of your wedding last as long as your wedding or as your marriage? What about all those diskettes? What about all those diskettes you created back in the 80s? Can you even find them? Can you use them again? We're running a popular public open house on Sunday afternoon to deal with electronic records formats that are common to people's homes and for their own personal documentation. You might want to drop by.

In terms of legacy business records, you know, I love talking about electronic things in IT. We estimate there is some fifteen million linear feet or 15 million cubic feet of paper records in the Government of Canada. That's a cost, roughly, simply to store of $254,000,00 million a year. To deal with the paper legacy records, there is no simple way. There is no silver bullet. It is going to take real manpower; it is going to take muscle and sweat, to deal with those records, and it is not going to go away. Unless we deliberately approach them systematically and we've been trying a number of pilot projects with Health, with NRCan, with Citizenship and Immigration and with Justice to develop a business case. But, if you want to know how to fund a major IM initiative, particularly in dealing with a legacy, look at the fact that it is costing us $254,000,000 a year just to house these records. If we can't work out with Treasury Board some way of using savings to fund the proper management and organization of those records, then I'm not sure we are being very creative. But, there is opportunity there, that's the way we'll fund it. It's a huge cost center and I know for a fact, certainly from the basis of the pilots that we've done, a very small percentage of those records needs to be retained. We just need to make sure we get the right 1%. We are working with departments to develop that strategy.

In terms of departmental priorities, you need first to understand the value, if we can assist in dealing with senior management, in bringing through and making clear the value. Develop your plan, work through the capacity check and TIMS has urged all departments to do that capacity check this year to understand where we are and develop it as the basis for a long term plan for the lead agencies, the central agencies, for Treasury Board Secretariat, ourselves. Certainly Treasury Board has been developing the framework for management of information. The Library and Archives will continue to work closely with Treasury Board at senior levels on tactical, on developing values, on classification, on complete records disposition coverage for all records. And we've just completed a major study on records disposition authorities and find there are huge gaps. Also, in many departments your records and disposition authorities are out dated and really should no longer be applied. We will be writing to all deputies shortly on that. We need to facilitate the management of legacy records, and in some areas we are talking about what if we separate the legacy issue from the current and future issue and we could, as a Government, focus in on the legacy records and see if we can deal with those on a one time project basis, then focus your energies on planning for the future.

The development of Meta-Data implementation guides for the published heritage of Canada, and there are a whole series of Meta-Data initiatives moving forward. Developing a strategy for storing less used records. Developing a common infrastructure for electronic records. That's a key issue. The hardest thing in the electronic world is to preserve a record that has authenticity and integrity for the long term. Ask an auditor, ask a lawyer about the value of electronic records as evidence. We are funding a major research study at the University of British Columbia on this right now. Looking at e-records with integrity and authenticity as evidence for the long term. We are learning a great deal from that. The United States has recently voted, I think, $300,000,000 for a major project looking at preservation of electronic records. If we play our cards right we will let them find the solution and we will steal the solution from them. I'm not sure Treasury is ready to spring for $300,000,000. But, the fact is a lot of this is being done by cooperation amongst the central agencies, by activity with many of your departments. I think we very much appreciated that. There is a lot of work to be done. There is no simple way. But, I very much welcome your participation, your input, your advice, as we collectively tackle, I think, what is one of the major challenges facing modern government. At least facing modern, accountable, democratic government. Records are absolutely the fundamental bases for democratic, accountable government. Without records, we have no memory. Without records we have no history. Without records we have absolutely no accountability to our political leaders. That I think, we as citizens of this country and we as a professional Public Service must be concerned about.

So, finally I want all of you to visit the Library and Archives booth, which is just out here and invite you to participate in the various forums, committees and discussions. A number of the things I've touched on today will be dealt with in sessions that follow on the capacity check and on the development of Meta-Data and other issues. Its interesting time, its challenging time and we look forward to working with you.

Thank you

Return to Speeches