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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
About Email

Email is probably the most frequently used form of communication in the Government of Canada owing to the ease and speed of sending and receiving information electronically as well as its cost effectiveness. The growth of this form of communication raises a number of questions about email and the responsibilities of users in handling email. The following FAQs provide guidance for the most commonly asked questions:

Is email a record?

Yes. An email message, including any electronically attached documents and any related meta data, containing information created, collected, received or transmitted in the normal course of government business, via an email system, is a record and must be managed in accordance with the Access to Information, Privacy and Library and Archives Canada Act, Treasury Board's Management of Government Information Policy and the Government Security Policy.

What records constitute the "normal course of government business"?

Records relating to the normal course of government business would include records pertaining to activities, transactions, and decision making processes; records that reflect the position or business of the institution; initiates, authorizes or completes a business activity/transaction; documents or records a decision or action; controls, supports or documents program delivery or may provide evidence of what an individual or institution has done.

Is email I send or receive at home a record?

Yes, provided it has to do with the business of the institution. A record is under the control of a government institution when that institution is authorized to grant or deny access to the record, to govern its use and, subject to the approval of the Librarian and Archivist of Canada, to dispose of it. Regarding the question of physical possession, a record held by an institution, whether at headquarters, regional, satellite or other office, either within or outside Canada, is presumed to be under its control unless there is evidence to the contrary. A record held elsewhere on behalf of an institution is also under its control.

What are my responsibilities to ensure that email messages are retained as records of the Government of Canada?

Users should file email relating to the business of the Government of Canada into the institution's corporate records system. Information/Records Management staff can provide advice on how to do this.

We don't have an electronic records system, what should I do with my email messages?

If an electronic records system does not exist, email messages should be forwarded electronically, or printed and sent, to the institution's Information/Records Management office for inclusion in the paper-based corporate records system. If you have a large quantity of email messages, you should contact your Information/Records Management staff to discuss approaches to managing the situation.

From time to time I receive and create email messages of a personal nature, what should I do with them?

Email messages whose content is of a personal nature are not part of the official record of the Government of Canada. Examples include email messages regarding arrangements for lunch, an employee's own personal information, announcements or unsolicited advertising. This type of email should be deleted by users when no longer required. However you must not delete any email or document once an Access to Information (ATIP) request relating to the subject of the document or email is received.

I have copies of records I have already sent to the Records Office. Can I delete them?

Yes. Duplicate paper or electronic email messages which have been kept for convenience or reference purposes are normally considered to be of a transitory nature and should be deleted once they have served their purpose. Users should consult with their Information/Records Management staff to ascertain which records are considered to be the official record of the institution and review the Library and Archives Records Disposition Authority for the Destruction of Transitory Records. www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/government/disposition/007007-1016-e.html

What if I am not sure about the status of an email as an official record?

If users have any doubts about the value of an email message as an official record, the user should contact the information/records management staff of the institution for advice. Remember that it is better to retain such a message than delete it and lose potentially valuable information, and/or face sanctions for the unauthorized destruction of a record.

What is the institution's responsibility regarding the retention of email messages?

Institutions must retain email messages that relate to the normal course of government business as records of the Government of Canada in accordance with legal and policy obligations, and operational requirements. In order to dispose of any information holdings, including electronic messages, institutions must obtain a Records Disposition Authority from the Librarian and Archivist of Canada. For information on the application of existing Records Disposition Authorities, users should consult with their Information/Records Management staff.

What is a Records Disposition Authority?

A Records Disposition Authority is the document by which the Librarian and Archivist of Canada requires the transfer of records deemed archival or historical and by which consent is granted to destroy other records or transfer records from the control of the Government of Canada.

There is a collection of Multi-Institutional Disposition Authorities (MIDA) www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/government/disposition/007007-1008-e.html which provide direction regarding the disposal of administrative type records dealing with such topics as Finance, Human Resources, Real Property and other subjects common to most federal institutions,

Who do I contact if I still have questions about email?

The information/records management staff of your institution will provide further advice and assistance. If you require further information, please refer to the Guide to the Management of Email in the Government of Canada. For Information Management information and related products from Library and Archives Canada, please visit our website at www.collectionscanada.gc.ca, email us at centre.liaison.centre@bac-lac.gc.ca, or call us at 819-934-7519.