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Frequently Asked Questions


Useful Definitions

agreement for transfer

common administrative record

corporate controls

exclusions

federal records centre

function

functional profile

general administrative function

government information

ISDA (Institution-Specific Disposition Authority)

MIDA (Multi-Institutional Disposition Authority)

office of collateral interest

office of primary interest

operational record

record

records categories

RDA (records disposition authority)

records retention periods

terms and conditions

transitory record

Frequently Asked Questions

What federal legislation deals with government information?

What Treasury Board of Canada policies deal with government information?

How does the Copyright Act apply to the ownership of government information?

What section of the National Archives of Canada Act gives permission to dispose of government information?

Where can I find guidance for setting retention periods for common administrative records?

What about setting retention periods for operational records?

about MIDAs:

What is a MIDA's purpose?

Who may use MIDAs?

How many MIDAs are there?

What authority should I apply first, my institution's operational authorities, the MIDAs for common administrative records, the four generic MIDAs or the Transitory Records Authority?

Do MIDAs include retention periods?

Must I destroy common administrative records at the end of the retention periods specified in the Retention Guidelines for Common Administrative Records of the Government of Canada?

   Can I change those retention periods?

What is a record?

A record, as defined in Section 2 of the National Archives of Canada Act,

"includes any correspondence, memorandum, book, plan map, drawing, pictorial or graphic work, photograph, film microform, sound recording, video tape, machine readable record, and any other documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, and any copy thereof."

(Source: National Archives of Canada Act - Section 2 and MIDA 2.1, 4. Definition)

This definition emphasizes the physical form of a record. MIDAs may also focus upon records in a particular physical format, for example:

Authority No. 96/023

Electronic Imaging Systems;

Authority No. 96/024

Poster-Creating Areas of Government Institutions; and

Authority No. 2001/004

Audio-Visual Records Stored on Behalf of Client Departments by the Communications Coordination Services Branch of Public Works and Government Services.

Other MIDAs however, focus on the function that causes the creation of records, for example:

Authority No. 98/001

General Administration Function;

Authority No. 98/005

Human Resources Management Function

Authority No. 99/003

Materiel Management Function;

Authority No. 99/004

Comptrollership Function;

Authority No. 2001/002

Real Property Function.

The following International Council on Archives definition of a record, may help in understanding its functional characteristics:

"a record is recorded information produced or received in the initiation, conduct, or completion of an institutional or individual activity and that comprises content, context, and structure sufficient to provide evidence of the activity regardless of the form or medium."

(Source: International Council on Archives, Committee on Electronic Records, Guide for Managing Electronic Records from an Archival Perspective, Study 8, revised edition, [Paris, 2000])



What is a common administrative record?

Common administrative records are records that are created, collected or received by a federal government institution to support and document broad internal administrative functions and activities common to or shared by all federal government institutions, for example: finance and the management of human resources.
(Source: MIDA 3, Common Administrative Records, Appendix I - Terms and Conditions, A. Key Definitions)

What is an operational record?

Operational records are records created, collected or received by a federal government institution to support and document business functions, programmes, processes, transactions, services and all other activities uniquely or specifically assigned to that particular institution by legislation, regulation or policy.
(Source: MIDA 3, Common Administrative Records, Appendix I - Terms and Conditions, A. Key Definitions)

What is a transitory record?

Transitory records are those records that are required only for a limited time to ensure the completion of a routine action or the preparation of a subsequent record.

Transitory records do not include records required by government institutions or Ministers to control support or document the delivery of programs, to carry out operations, to make decisions or to account for activities of government.
(Source: MIDA 2.1, 4. Definition)

What are corporate controls?

In the context of the Treasury Board Secretariat Management of Government Information Holdings (MGIH) policy*, corporate controls are the institution's policies, practices and procedures approved by the deputy head which define the process of planning, directing, organizing and evaluating the collection, creation, use, maintenance, security and preservation or disposal of information required to achieve program objectives and operational goals.
(Source: Management of Government Information Holdings Policy, Appendix D, Definitions. *Note: this TBS policy is under review.)

What are records categories?

For the purpose of records disposition, there are three broad categories of government records:

  • records common to the internal administration and operations of institutions;
  • records unique to the specific operational responsibilities of an institution; and
  • ministerial records.

(Source: MIDA 2.1, 5. Guidelines)

What is an office of primary interest?

Within the MIDA context, an office of primary interest (OPI) is the federal government institution -- department, agency, board, office or commission -- to which the authority, responsibility and accountability to perform a particular function on behalf of the Government of Canada has been specifically assigned by legislation, regulation, policy or mandate.
(Source: MIDA 3, Common Administrative Records, Appendix I - Terms and Conditions, A. Key Definitions)



What is an office of collateral interest?

Within the MIDA context, an office of collateral interest (OCI) is the federal government institution -- department, agency, board, office, or commission -- which is implicated in or associated with the performance of, or some aspect of, a function, the management of a program, or the delivery of a service for the Government of Canada by virtue of legislation, regulation, policy or mandate.
(Source: MIDA 3.2, Real Property Management Function, Appendix 1 - Terms and Conditions, A. Key Definitions)

What about records retention periods?

Government institutions must ensure that all information, as identified in the corporate inventory, is scheduled for retention and disposal.
(Source: Management of Government Information Holdings Policy, Policy Requirements, 6. Preservation, retention and disposal. Note: this TBS policy is under review.)

It is incumbent upon each government institution to understand and apply generally any legislation regarding the retention and disclosure of information and more specifically its own legislation. Each government institution is therefore required to determine the appropriate retention periods for its records, including those common administration records covered by MIDAs.
(Source: MIDA 3, Common Administrative Records, Appendix 1 - Terms and Conditions, B. Scope of the Authority)

What is government information?

Government information is "information created, received, used, and maintained regardless of physical form, and information prepared for or produced by the Government of Canada in the conduct of government activities or in pursuance of legal obligations."
(Source: Management of Government Information Policy, Draft TBS Policy)

Related terms under the umbrella term government information are as follows:

Records: Includes any corresondence, 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
(Source: National Archives of Canada Act; Access to Information Act)

Published Information: For the purposes of this policy, published material is library matter of every kind, nature, and description resulting from the act of publishing and released for public distribution or sale. Publications include material such as books, maps, periodicals, documents, working or discussion papers, audio or video recordings, online/networked publications (both static and dynamic), and compact discs. Publications can be in any format on or in which information is written, recorded, stored or reproduced. The National Library provides guidance on which documents on a government Internet site will be considered to be "books" for the purposes of the National Library Act.
(Source: Management of Government Information Policy, Draft TBS Policy)

What federal legislation deals with government information?

Any piece of federal legislation may contain provisions relating to government information. However, the following acts deal generally and specifically with government information:

  • Access to Information Act
  • Canada Evidence Act
  • Copyright Act
  • Criminal Records Act
  • Emergency Preparedness Act
  • National Archives of Canada Act
  • National Library Act
  • Official Languages Act
  • Official Secrets Act
  • Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
  • Privacy Act
  • Statistics Act

What Treasury Board of Canada policies deal with government information?

Any Treasury Board policy might deal with government information however, the following policies deal generally and specifically with government information:

How does the Copyright Act apply to the ownership of government information?

Section 12 of the Copyright Act directs that

"where any work is, or has been, prepared or published by or under the direction or control of Her Majesty or any government department, the copyright in the work shall, subject to any agreement with the author, belong to Her Majesty and in that case shall continue for the remainder of the calendar year of the first publication of the work and for a period of fifty years following the end of that calendar year."

Section 13 (3) of the Act directs that

"where the author of a work was in the employment of some other person under a contract of service or apprenticeship and the work was made in the course of his employment by that person, the person by whom the author was employed shall, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, be the first owner of the copyright..."

What section of the National Archives of Canada Act gives permission to dispose of government information?

Section 5 (1) of the National Archives of Canada Act directs that

"no record under the control of a government institution and no ministerial records, whether or not it is surplus property of a government institution, shall be destroyed or disposed of without the consent of the National Archivist."

This National Archivist 'consent' normally takes the form of a records disposition authority which enables a government institution to dispose of records which may no longer have operational or legal utility, either by permitting their destruction, by requiring their transfer to the National Archives, or by agreeing to their alienation from the control of the Government of Canada.

What is a Records Disposition Authority (RDA)?

In accordance with the provisions of the National Archives of Canada Act, a records disposition authority is the instrument that the National Archivist issues to enable government institutions to dispose of records which no longer have operational utility, either by permitting their destruction, 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 (RDAs) are granted in two ways:

  1. on an institution-specific basis or
  2. on a multi-institutional basis.

(Source: MIDA, Introduction)

What is an ISDA?

An ISDA or Institution-Specific Disposition Authority is a Records Disposition Authority (see definition of records disposition authority) related to records managed by a single government institution, and which allow the institution empowered to use the authority to dispose of records under certain terms and conditions.

ISDAs take precedence over all other Records Disposition Authorities issued by the National Archivist.
(Source: MIDA, Introduction)

What is a MIDA?

A MIDA or Multi-Institutional Disposition Authority is a Records Disposition Authority (see definition of records disposition authority), granted by the National Archivist to government institutions on a multi-institutional basis, which relates to records managed by all or a multiple number of government institutions, and which allows the institutions empowered to use the authority to dispose of records under certain terms and conditions.

MIDAs incorporate three components: the Records Disposition Authority, terms and conditions and a functional profile.
(Source: MIDA, Introduction)



What is an agreement for transfer?

In accordance with Section 6 (1) of the National Archives of Canada Act, the Librarian and Archivist of Canada enters into agreements with government institutions covering the transfer of records deemed to have archival value from those institutions to Library and Archives Canada.

Where archival records have been identified, an agreement for transfer will form part of a records disposition authority ; the details of the records transfer are contained in the terms and conditions attached to the agreement.

What are terms and conditions?

Terms and conditions are part of a negotiated agreement for transfer attached to an Institution-Specific Disposition Authority.

Records identified as archival in the terms and conditions document are transferred to the care and control of Library and Archives Canada from client institutions according to the clauses contained therein. The terms and conditions, together with the agreement for transfer to which they are attached, are as binding as a contract.
(Source: Guiding Principles for the Drafting, Editing and Translation of the Terms and Conditions, National Archives internal document)

Terms and conditions associated with a Multi-Institutional Disposition Authority are attached as an appendix to the authority or, in the case of the Authority for the Destruction of Transitory Records, imbedded within the authority. Terms and conditions for MIDAs govern the application of those authorities to common administrative records.

What is a functional profile?

Functional profiles are attached to each of the MIDAs covering common administrative records to facilitate the application of the terms and conditions appended to each of these authorities.

They relate to the scope of the particular authority and consist of templates describing sub-functions, with each sub-function further divided into tasks, activities and processes, as appropriate.
(Source: MIDA 3, Common Administrative Records, Appendix II of each authority)

Who may use MIDAs?

Unless otherwise specified, all government institutions subject to the National Archives of Canada Act may use the Multi-Institutional Disposition Authorities to dispose of records which do not have archival or historical value.
(Source: MIDA, Introduction)

What is a MIDA's purpose?

Multi-Institutional Disposition Authorities are issued by the Librarian and Archivist of Canada to provide direction to government institutions subject to the National Archives of Canada Act regarding the disposal of records managed by all or a multiple number of government institutions.

They are designed to eliminate the need for government institutions individually to prepare submissions for and negotiate agreements with the Librarian and Archivist of Canada for records which have similar administrative or operational status.
(Source: MIDA, Introduction)

What is a Federal Records Centre?

Pursuant to Section 4 (2) of the National Archives of Canada Act, Library and Archives Canada provides "records storage facilities to government institutions."

The federal records centres manage records in all media on behalf of 80 federal government departments and agencies. Centres are located in Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver.

  • Centres take in records of continuing value to government institutions when it is no longer cost effective for them to be maintained in departmental premises.
  • Centres economically store and protect the records, retrieve them when required for reference or research, segregate archival and historical records so designated by the Librarian and Archivist of Canada for permanent preservation, and destroy other records in a timely and secure manner when they are no longer required.
  • Centres also hold backup copies of electronic records which are deemed essential, in the event of disaster or emergency, to the operations of government and the protection of rights.
  • The Centre in Ottawa manages the records of former military personnel, and the Centre in Winnipeg manages the records of former federal public servants.

For more information see Regional Operations on the National Archives web site.

What is a function?

For the purposes of archival appraisal, records disposition and records and file classification system design, a function means:

  1. any high level purpose, responsibility, task or activity which is assigned to the accountability agenda of an institution by legislation, policy or mandate;
  2. typically common administrative or operational functions of policy development and program and/or delivery of goods or services;
  3. a set or series of activities (broadly speaking a business process) which, when carried out according to a prescribed sequence, will result in an institution or individual producing the expected results in terms of the goods or services it is mandated or delegated to provide.

(Source: MIDA 3.2, Real Property Management Function, Appendix II -- Profile)

Do MIDAs include retention periods?

No.
Records Disposition Authorities issued by the Librarian and Archivist of Canada to government institutions, including Multi-Institutional Disposition Authorities, do not provide or authorize retention periods for records.

In cases where records are determined to have archival or historical value and are required to be transferred to the custody and control of the National Archives, the Librarian and Archivist of Canada negotiates agreements with government institutions regarding the timing of transfers (or other arrangements) in order to secure their preservation as archival documents.
(Source: MIDA, Introduction)

Government institutions must ensure that all information, as identified in the corporate inventory, is scheduled for retention and disposal.
(Source: Management of Government Information Holdings Policy, Policy Requirements, 6. Preservation, retention and disposal. Note: this TBS policy is under review.)

Where can I find guidance for setting retention periods for common administrative records?

Library and Archives Canada is preparing new guidelines to assist government institutions in the setting of retention periods for common administrative records. In the meantime, Library and Archives Canada has issued interim guidelines to address the retention of common administrative records of the Government of Canada. This instrument presents retention periods based on best practices established over the last thirty years, and as well, contains Treasury Board policy direction on the retention of records containing personal information. These guidelines may be used temporarily by government institutions.

When the interim guidelines do not meet institutional records retention requirements, they may be adjusted to accommodate specific institutional needs. Please note that when government institutions request Library and Archives Canada Federal Records Centres (FRC) to manage common administrative records on their behalf, and institutional retention requirements for common administrative records exceed the retention time frames offered as guidelines in this instrument, representatives of Federal Records Centres will request from institutional representatives justification for deviating from the guidelines.

The guidelines apply to records of institutions subject to the National Archives of Canada Act when those records are collected, created or received to support internal administrative functions. The guidelines do not apply, however, to records which are collected, created or received by an institution in carrying out a government-wide administrative function on behalf of the Government of Canada. (See also office of primary interest and office of collateral interest.)

Personal Information

The retention of records containing personal information is governed by the Privacy Act and regulated by the Treasury Board which publishes descriptions and retention standards for such records. These guidelines include Treasury Board's retention standards for records described in Standard Banks and published in its publication entitled: Info Source: Sources of Federal Employee Information. The retention information from Standard Banks is compulsory and must be adhered to. The authority for retention standards for records containing personal information about federal employees is the Treasury Board of Canada.
(Source: MIDA, 1.4 Retention Guidelines for Common Administrative Records of the Government of Canada, Introduction)



What about setting retention periods for operational records?

There are numerous publications which deal with the subject of developing retention periods for operational records. A bibliography can be provided upon request.

The main issues to consider include:

  • conducting an inventory of information holdings or identifying business functions and activities;
  • determining the short and long term needs for access to the information -- for purposes relating to administering the program which caused their creation or collection; and
  • conducting research into legislation, regulations and/or government-wide or institutional policies that may stipulate retention requirements.

Since the value of information as evidence of an institution's actions in response to its roles and responsibilities, (i.e., for establishing an audit trail of decision-making) and for protecting the legal rights of the Crown, citizens and/or external organizations, retention periods should be reviewed by appropriate internal sources of authority, such as program managers, legal counsel and financial officers to cite just a few examples.

Final approval of all institutional records retention periods should come from a senior official, usually the senior manager designated, "to represent the deputy head to the Treasury Board Secretariat and other central agencies for the purpose of the MGIH policy"*

(see Management of Government Information Holdings Policy, Policy Requirements. *Note: this TBS policy is under review.)

How many MIDAs are there?

Library and Archives Canada has released eleven Multi-Institutional Disposition Authorities; they cover transitory records, common administrative records and common operational and medium-specific records.

The MIDA covering transitory records is the Authority for the Destruction of Transitory Records.

The MIDAs covering common administrative records are:

Authority No. 98/001

General Administration Function;

Authority No. 98/005

Human Resources Management Function;

Authority No. 99/003

Materiel Management Function;

Authority No. 99/004

Comptrollership Function;

Authority No. 2001/002

Real Property Management Function.

The MIDAs covering common operational and medium-specific records are:

Authority No. 96/021

Institutional Records in the Office of a Minister;

Authority No. 96/022

Records of Deputy Heads of Government Institutions;

Authority No. 96/023

Electronic Imaging Systems;

Authority No. 96/024

Poster-Creating Areas of Government Institutions;

Authority No. 2001/004

Audio-Visual Records Stored on Behalf of Client Departments by the Communications Coordination Services Branch of Public Works and Government Services.

What are exclusions?

The Retention Guidelines for Common Administrative Records of the Government of Canada contain an extensive number of exclusions; these are subject records which are not specifically authorized for disposition by a function-based MIDA and as such, are not allocated a specific retention period within the retention guidelines.

This primarily occurs because either:

  • the records can be more logically connected to the institution's operational mandate and should therefore be included in an Institution-Specific Disposition Authority (ISDA) governing the records of that institution; or
  • because the records can be more logically grouped under another common administrative activity and should therefore inherit the retention period of that new activity.

Examples of records excluded from each of the administrative functions are contained in the introduction to parts 1 through 5 of the Guidelines.
(Source: MIDA 1.4, Retention Guidelines for Common Administrative Records of the Government of Canada, Introduction)

•  Must I destroy common administrative records at the end of the retention periods specified in the Retention Guidelines for Common Administrative Records of the Government of Canada?

Can I change those retention periods?

The MIDAs, like all other Records Disposition Authorities issued by the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, do not constitute a requirement to destroy non-archival records, nor do they provide direction regarding the timing of records destruction.
(Source: MIDA, Introduction)

Retention periods for records under the control of a government institution are determined by legislation, regulations or government policies that apply to the records, and through analyses of the business risks involved in disposal.

Until such time as the Treasury Board and Library and Archives Canada provide new guidelines for the retention of common administrative records, Library and Archives Canada Federal Records Centres will respect the retention guidelines as outlined in the Retention Guidelines for Common Administrative Records or negotiate other retention periods with your institution.
(Source: MIDA 1.4, Retention Guidelines for Common Administrative Records of the Government of Canada, Introduction)

For further guidance regarding the setting of retention periods, please consult the answer to FAQ "What about setting retention periods for operational records?"

What authority should I apply first, my institution's operational authorities, the MIDAs for common administrative records, the five generic MIDAs, or the Transitory Records Authority?

Records Disposition Authorities should be applied to records by government institutions in the following order:

  1. Institution-Specific Disposition Authorities (ISDA) relating to records managed by single government institutions;
  2. Multi-Institutional Disposition Authorities related to operational or medium-specific records;
  3. Multi-Institutional Disposition Authorities related to common administrative records.

(Source: MIDA, Introduction)

Note: the Authority for the Destruction of Transitory Records may be applied at any time to records which meet the criteria for destruction under the terms and conditions of that authority, except where an ISDA contains instructions to the contrary.

What is a General Administration Function?

A General Administrative Function encompasses the functions, processes, activities and transactions of administrative business concerning the administrative services commonly provided in and across all federal government institutions to facilitate the application of operational policies and the delivery of programmes and services. The General Administrative Function includes the following sub-functions: management of government information, security and administrative support.
(Source: MIDA 3.1, Appendix 1)