1. Welcome (N. Charbonneau)
N. Charbonneau welcomed members of the committee and thanked them for their participation. He then proceeded with an update on Indigenous projects.
- 2. Update on Indigenous Projects (N. Charbonneau, C. Marin-Comeau, J. Smith)
Library and Archives Canada (LAC) received $14.9 million in funding (in the 2017 federal budget) toward the following projects over a three-year period:
- Digitization and digital dissemination of material in the LAC's collection related to Indigenous peoples;
- Long-term preservation and promotion of oral histories from the LAC's collection and those of partners;
- Work experience opportunities for Indigenous peoples.
With respect to oral histories, content limitations have yet to be defined. LAC is seeking to work with communities and have them participate in the preservation and dissemination of material. The organization aims to work with communities and band councils to strike a balance between the three main groups: First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Key factors to be considered in the selection of projects are the relationships developed with communities and the resources that are available. The committee recommends working with material that is already available rather than funding new projects.
The digitization and digital access project will be focused on LAC collections containing material related to First Nations, Inuit and Métis. The goal of the project is to provide free and unrestricted online access to digitized material. One committee member noted that infrastructure and identifying the best communication channels were among the challenges posed by the project. At the moment, Facebook appears to be the best option. Another challenge is finding a translation tool. Crowdsourcing and labeling might help correct language-related errors. Information validation processes are currently being examined. Members discussed the digitization of newspapers on microfilm and copyright. LAC is thinking about obtaining newspaper rights.
Members then discussed work experience opportunities for Indigenous youth. These opportunities would provide LAC with new perspectives and new avenues for networking in communities, while enabling Indigenous youth to acquire experience in the fields of information science. They would be able to work either on LAC premises or in their community, on the aforementioned projects (oral histories, digitization, access) or on their own projects. One of the goals is to increase library and archival science capacity in Indigenous communities. They may also serve as an inspiration for future projects.
- 3. Public Services Strategy (J. Smith)
LAC's Public Services Strategy emphasizes the best aspects of our current service approach, identifies areas of opportunity and improvement, and describes a way forward to achieve open, collaborative, knowledgeable, and responsive services to the public. One member wanted to know how to reach a wider public. The more access LAC provides to its collections and the more material it makes available, the more public demand will increase. LAC is also seeking to provide services and tools that are tailored to different segments of its clientele. Another member asked how we would identify which tailored tools should be developed. LAC needs to communicate more with its clients, who are often experts in their fields, follow the development of their research models (possible with OCLC) and generate statistics to identify the specific fields and subjects that are most in demand.
Members next discussed the project with respect to sharing a building with the Ottawa Public Library. This project may be an opportunity to digitize all archival finding aids. Currently, all research guides and thematic databases are already available on LAC's website. One of the members of the committee suggested that LAC obtain digitized material through certain organizations such as law firms.
Lastly, one member suggested extending opening hours on Saturdays, as many clients travel to Ottawa on weekends. LAC is trying to balance the needs of clients and the resources that are available.
- 4. DigiLab Visit (J. Smith)
Committee members toured the DigiLab. This infrastructure allows clients to digitize and contextualize LAC collections of interest to their work, studies, and communities. DigiLab provides the equipment, training and access to collections. Clients must provide an overview of their project, including a detailed description of LAC material to be digitized, scans of the material, as well as descriptions, metadata and labeling of digitized records.
During the visit, a client digitized records and discussed her project and experience at DigiLab with committee members.
- 5. Collections Development Policy for Published Heritage (A. Bullock)
Following a review of the Legal Deposit Regulations and identification of shortcomings in the policy for acquiring publications, LAC is beginning to develop a collections development policy for published heritage.
Members discussed the acquisition of foreign Canadiana publications. One member pointed out that it was important to have material that deals with international realities (e.g.: First Nations in Canada and the United States). Another member suggested acquiring the same material that is available in Canadian Studies Centres abroad. With respect to reference material, one of the members noted that this type of material is easily accessible elsewhere and that LAC would not need to acquire much. Lastly, the committee believes that if editors received clearer instructions, there would be greater compliance with the Legal Deposit Regulations.
The committee then discussed newspapers. Responsibility for local newspapers should be decentralized and should rest with local communities. One of the priorities of the National Heritage Digitization Strategy is the digitization of newspapers. LAC has been digitizing newspapers dating from before 1929 and the provinces have their own digitization strategies as well. However, copyright prevents many newspapers from being digitized and made accessible online.
Members subsequently discussed the importance of preserving content published on the Web for the development of a national collection. Technological issues must be taken into account in order to strike a balance in the acquisition of these resources. It is important to acquire them even if they will not be immediately accessible. LAC tries to be thorough and complete in its acquisitions, though it must also keep in mind the resources that are available.
Lastly, the members discussed the pros and cons of collaborating on the acquisition of newspapers.
- 6. The Right to be Forgotten and Archival Practice at LAC (J. Bennett, S. Hurford)
The Right to be Forgotten (RTBF) has been the subject of much legal discussion in numerous countries. In Canada, exchanges on this topic are relatively new and the application of this right has yet to be properly defined. At LAC, questions that were raised through the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) have led to reflections on the Right to be Forgotten and on the right to remember, to be remembered. Those in favour of the right to remember cited the importance of not minimizing or denying what happened in the past and of keeping records so as to ensure that the government is held accountable for its actions. Those advocating for the Right to be Forgotten maintained that making such information public leads to even stronger feelings of victimization.
One of the members indicated that the IAP documents were quite detailed. Archiving these and making them accessible would effectively risk perpetuating traumatic experiences. There are many other sources of information that document these abuses, and such testimonies do not reveal anything new. Another member noted that many of the documents that accidentally survived provide much valuable information. These act as a memory so that such abuses never happen again. They may also have a role in reconciliation. In 200 years, the emotional bond with these incidents will be less intense. However, the role of archivists is also to protect citizens' privacy, especially when those citizens are not consulted when decisions relating to the availability of records are made. Although the government considers such records to be its property and LAC, as a national institution, is hesitant to part with these, archivists, as human beings, cannot turn a blind eye to the traumatic experiences that affected families would relive.
In addition, one of the members pointed out that one must not forget that Indigenous peoples have their own healing rituals. For example, cultural objects must be repatriated so that they can be [translation] "returned to the earth." Thus, it is important that their wishes be respected with regard to information shared through the IAP. Another member asked whether it would be possible to simply erase information upon request. However, delays caused by such changes pose a problem. For now, the court provides survivors with a 15-year timeframe in which to determine whether the records are to be archived or destroyed.
Due to the variety of records and situations, there do not appear to be any clear answers to these questions at the moment. Memory institutions need to find a balance between protecting the privacy of citizens and the collective right to remember. One thing is certain, and that is that from now on, instructions with respect to accessing records will need to be determined in advance. The manner in which the Crown handles Right to be Forgotten requests will have an impact on the quality of its relationships with Indigenous peoples. Lastly, when the "Privacy Act" is renewed, this friction between the disclosure and protection of information will need to be addressed.
- 7. Description and Access to Private Archives (M. Miniggio, L. Beauregard)
One of the main objectives of LAC is to process archival records more rapidly so as to make them more accessible to users. In 2016 - 2017, the Private Archives Branch released two new guidelines: the "Guideline on the Classification and Description of Private Archives" and the "Guideline for the Establishment of Access Restrictions on Private Archival Records". The three main factors behind the decision to develop these guidelines are the following: the volume of private archives acquired, the need to provide open and quick access to these acquisitions, and the need to put the expertise of archivists to better use.
During negotiations on the acquisition of an archival fonds, LAC is now requesting that donors provide a list of documents. Moreover, clearer instructions in relation to the description of records allow these to be processed more rapidly.
One of the members mentioned the example of DigiLab and suggested that minimal descriptions could be improved through crowdsourcing. LAC could call upon volunteers who have experience in description or who have a knowledge of fonds (members of an individual's family, company employees, etc.)
Another member noted that digitization requires a more detailed description to locate records. The work involved in the description of digitized records is very time-consuming. One member suggested that restrictions not be imposed on records that are already accessible electronically. Blogs produced by archivists might also be used to improve descriptions.
LAC is experiencing a tension between its ability to acquire the records that correspond to its mandate and its resources to describe those records. A balance needs to be struck with respect to the level of description (minimum, medium, or enhanced level). LAC must ensure that the budget spent on description (millions of dollars each year) translates into faster and improved access to records.
Lastly, LAC is also seeking to improve its ability to plan its acquisitions and be more proactive, i.e. approaching donors and other institutions that may be interested in a fonds.
- 8. Developing a Policy Regarding Records at Risk (K. Comber)
Subsection 13(3) of the "Library and Archives of Canada Act" (2004) sets out that "[i]f government records referred to in subsection (1) are, in the opinion of the Librarian and Archivist, at risk of serious damage or destruction, the Librarian and Archivist may require their transfer in the manner and at the time that the Librarian and Archivist specifies". LAC has never invoked subsection 13(3) and will formalize its approach with a policy this year.
Members discussed the application of a similar clause by other jurisdictions. In Quebec, this clause has never been used. In France, it is used frequently, and in the United States, criminal penalties are imposed if records are destroyed. LAC would like to develop a policy instrument before having to use this clause. If a criminal proceeding were to be launched in Canada, the Attorney General would be responsible.
The members discussed the transfer of records when a department or agency is privatized. There should be a policy tool to preserve records or a provision in privatisation legislation allowing for the transfer of records to LAC prior to privatization, while those records are still the property of the Crown. In such circumstances, LAC should also be proactive and try to contact the department or agency that is being privatized.
With respect to the protection of electronic records, the most important thing is to monitor the stability of formats. Members asked how to protect confidential electronic government records. These records are transferred to other media or to servers that are not connected to the Internet.
Members recommended that LAC visit departments to verify the storage conditions of records. The main way in which LAC can help departments protect their records is to provide advice. An excellent disposition program is the best tool for protecting records.
- 9. Closing remarks (N. Charbonneau)
N. Charbonneau thanked members of the committee for their participation and insightful discussions. He also thanked those who gave presentations. He noted that briefing documents with questions for discussion are a good way to encourage and guide discussions. He reminded those in attendance that the next meeting would be held in the fall.