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The Government Records Appraisal and Disposition Program of Library and Archives Canada

1.  Records Disposition Authorities

Every year, federal government institutions1 create and manage information in all media of recorded communication in support of public policy, the administration of government, and the delivery of programmes and services to Canadians.

In accordance with Library and Archives of Canada Act (2004), Library and Archives Canada is charged with various responsibilities regarding the disposal of this information, including the authorization of records destruction by government institutions and the preservation of records for their historical or archival importance.

To meet these legislative requirements, Librarian and Archivist issues Records Disposition Authorities to enable government institutions to dispose of records which no longer have operational value, either by permitting their destruction (at the discretion of institutions), by requiring their transfer to Library and Archives Canada, or by agreeing to their alienation from the control of the Government of Canada.

Records Disposition Authorities are granted by the Librarian and Archivist to government institutions in two ways, either

  1. on an institution-specific basis, through the provision of records disposition authorities which relate to records managed by a single government institution, and which allow the institution to dispose of records according to the terms and conditions of an agreement negotiated between the Librarian and Archivist and the institution,or
  2. on a multi-institutional basis, through the provision of records disposition authorities which relate to records managed by all or a multiple number of government institutions, and which allow the institutions empowered to use the authorities to dispose of records under terms and conditions set by the Librarian and Archivist.

2.  The Legislative Framework of Government Records Appraisal and Disposition: the Library and Archives of Canada Act

By virtue of the Library and Archives of Canada Act, the disposal of records managed by government institutions must occur under processes and procedures which permit the identification and preservation of archival and historical records.

A government institution is subject to the Library and Archives of Canada Act if it is listed in Schedule 1 of the Access to Information Act or in the Schedule to the Privacy Act.

The Library and Archives of Canada Act establishes the authority of the Librarian and Archivist:

  • to control the disposal or destruction of records by government institutions

    no government or ministerial record, whether or not it is surplus property of a government institution, shall be disposed of, including by being destroyed, without the written consent of the Librarian and Archivist or of a person to whom the Librarian and Archivist has, in writing, delegated the power to give such consents (Section 12.1)
  • to preserve records identified by the Librarian and Archivist to have historical or archival importance

    the transfer to the care and control of the Librarian and Archivist of government or ministerial records that he or she considers to have historic or archival value shall be effected in accordance with any agreements for the transfer of records that may be made between the Librarian and Archivist and the government institution or person responsible for the records (Section 13.1)
  • and to take whatever measures and steps are deemed necessary to achieve these goals and objectives (Section 7 and 8).

A permission to dispose of records granted by the Librarian and Archivist to a government institution indicates that Library and Archives Canada has determined that these records do not need to be preserved for the future historical or archival use of Canadians. Accountability regarding the decision to destroy records and the timing of records destruction rests with individual government institutions.

It is important to note that a Records Disposition Authority issued by the Librarian and Archivist to permit the destruction of records by a government institution does not constitute a requirement to destroy, nor does it provide direction regarding the timing of records destruction.

3.  Retention Periods for Records in Government Institutions

The determination of retention periods for records managed by government institutions in the conduct of government business is the responsibility of individual institutions. The determination of retention periods occurs within the context of an institution's business risk analysis and assessment of its information resource requirements, taking into account federal information law as well as other statutes or regulations which may have application to the retention of records. However, Library and Archives Canada facilitates the means by which government institutions can set retention periods for their records by providing advice and serving as a source of expertise.

Records Disposition Authorities issued by the Librarian and Archivist to government institutions do not provide an approval for the retention periods which are necessary to the life-cycle management and disposal of records by institutions.

4.  The Transfer of Archival Records to Library and Archives Canada

Records Disposition Authorities which require government institutions to transfer records to Library and Archives Canada for archival preservation include an Agreement for the Transfer of Archival Records, which specifies the timing of transfers and other terms and conditions. These agreements are negotiated between Library and Archives Canada and the Senior Executive designated to be responsible for the management and disposition of records within a government institution.


1  For the purpose of records disposition, federal government institutions comprise all institutions subject to the Library and Archives of Canada Act.