Retention Periods for Government Records
The Government Records Disposition Program helps departments recognize the business and historical value of millions of records managed by the government every year. Under this program, Library and Archives Canada issues Records Disposition Authorities (RDAs), which enable departments to dispose of records no longer having value to the organization, by permitting their destruction, by releasing them from the control of the Government of Canada or by requiring the transfer of archival records to Library and Archives Canada.
But how long must records be kept before disposition is permitted? What is the process for determining the useful life of government records for business purposes?
What exactly is a "record"?
A "record" includes any correspondence, memorandum, book, plan, map, drawing, diagram, pictorial or graphic work, photograph, film, microform, sound recording, videotape, machine readable record, and any other documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, and any copy thereof.
What factors are involved in setting the retention period of a record?
Many records in government relate to the specific mandate of the individual organization. The organization's needs, requirements and considerations establish the context for decision-making about the value of records for continuing business purposes. Establishing the period of time for which these records must be kept, called "retention periods", is the responsibility of individual government institutions. The retention periods set for records reflect the values those records have to the institution, such as:
Working with departmental information specialists, Library and Archives Canada provides advice on the setting of retention periods, to ensure that departments keep the appropriate records and only for as long as they are needed.
Records Retention Periods for Common Administrative Functions
In addition to institution-specific records, there are also records that relate to government-wide common administrative functions. Direction about the disposal of these common administrative records is found in Library and Archives Canada's Multi-institutional Disposition Authorities (MIDAs), which cover five administrative areas:
To assist departments in setting retention periods for those records covered by the MIDAs, Library and Archives Canada has developed a set of recommended retention periods. This guidance can be found on Library and Archives Canada website, along with a training package that encourages a self-help approach to applying the suggested retention periods.
By establishing recommended government-wide retention periods for common administrative functions, the result is a significant reduction in the number of records that need institution-specific retention periods.
What will establishing and respecting Records Retention Periods help my department achieve?
Establishing and respecting record retention periods will help your department to:
Library and Archives Canada encourages and supports your IM program
As a centre of excellence for IM, Library and Archives Canada is developing an increasing number of resources that can help strengthen your department's Information Management practices. Over time, these products and services will address all stages of your records and information life cycle, to ensure your efforts produce optimum results. Contact us to find out more.
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Government Information Management Office