Library and Archives Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Institutional links


Previous | Table of Contents | Next

8. Details of Individual Metadata Elements

8.23 Essential Status




Identifying Attributes




Essential Status

Defined by

Government of Canada Records Management Metadata Standard - essentialStatus

Element URI

[To be actioned by Treasury Board of Canada, Secretariat before publication]

Definitional Attributes


An indicator that a record or file is considered to be vital in the event of an emergency or disaster.


To identity those records or files that are critical to enable the resumption or operation of business.


"Certain vital records contain information critical to the Company's continued operation or survival during or immediately following a disaster. Such records are necessary to continue operations without delay under abnormal conditions. They contain information necessary to recreate an organization's legal and financial status and to preserve the rights and obligation of stakeholders, including employees, customers, shareholders and the public." ANSI/ARMA 5-2003, Vital Records Programs, s. 3

"Business continuity planning and contingency measures should ensure that records that are vital to the continued functioning of the organization are identified as part of risk analysis, protected and recoverable when needed." ISO International Standard 15489-1, s. 7.1

Value Domain

Enumerated representations of essential status.

Datatype Name



Applicable at record level or file level. Must be applicable for at least one level; may be applicable at both levels.


Mandatory at record level or mandatory at file level. Must be mandatory for at least one level; may be mandatory at both levels.

Relational Attributes

Encoding Scheme

Government of Canada Essential Status Encoding Scheme [under development - see Comments and Guidance]


"Protecting Essential Records - A Short Guide for Government Institution"


Event Type; File Code; Office of Primary Interest; Type

Conditions of Application - Record


Text, based on encoding scheme.


Pre Record Declared Locked

Post Record Declared Locked


Yes, by authorized official only.


Not repeatable

Conditions of Application - File


Text, based on encoding scheme.


Yes, by authorized official only.


Not repeatable

Comments and Guidance

a) Explanation of Definition/Usage

The Management of Government Information Policy states: "It is the policy of the Government of Canada that federal government institutions i) protect essential records to ensure the continuity of key services and business operations". Based on this requirement, it is incumbent on each institution to identify essential records and files for Business Continuity Planning. This element is designed to assist in this process.

Only essential records and files require identification since the vast majority of records and files are non-essential.

Library and Archives Canada is currently registering an encoding scheme for this element. The values that will be recommended are:

  • "0" - Non-essential

  • "1" - Category 1

  • "2" - Category 2

  • "3" - Category 3

  • "To Be Determined" - If it is unclear as to the essential status of a record or file, the default value "To Be Determined" shall be applied to this element.

b) Best Practices

It is essential for institutions to develop business rules that dictate how essential records and files will be protected. Each institution must perform an audit to determine which records and files are essential, and define how they will be maintained and protected.

Recommended best practice is to select a value from the Government of Canada Essential Status Encoding Scheme.

This element is generally applied at the file level, with the records in the file inheriting the value. It can, however, be applied at the record level. It must be applied to at least the file or record level and may be applied at both. Some records within a file may have an Essential Status different than that of the file itself (e.g. a contract within a file may be deemed essential while supporting documentation is not).

Only an authorized official may modify the value of this element once a record is locked or for a file. The status of a record or file may change over time and hence the value of Essential Status may have to be updated. Any such change should be noted in the element Event Type.

c) Obligation

This element is mandatory in order to comply with the Government of Canada Security Policy.

d) Default Values/Auto-populate

This element should be defaulted to "0" because the vast majority of records and files are not essential to the continuity of the operations of the institution.

e) Linkages

Since Essential Status is critical, it must be linked to the element File Code to ensure the value of Essential Status is explicitly available to the file.

Essential Status is also linked to the element Office of Primary Interest (OPI) because the OPI is central to the appraisal process for records under their accountability.

Additionally it is linked to the element Type since the value for that element may impact the conferring of essential status on a record.

Essential Status is linked to the element Event Type in cases where a change to the status of the record or file must be noted in the management and event history log.

f) Examples

  1. "0"

  2. "1"

  3. "2"

  4. "3"

  5. "To Be Determined"

Previous | Table of Contents | Next