Government Records Disposition: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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.

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, order-in-council or policy.

What is a transitory record?

Transitory records are not of business value. They may include records that serve solely as convenience copies of records held in a government institution repository, but do not include any records that are required to control, support, or document the delivery of programs, to carry out operations, to make decisions, or to provide evidence to account for the activities of government at any time.  (Source: Disposition Authorization #2016/001 for Transitory Records, Section A.2)

What is an office of primary interest?

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.

What about records retention periods?

Under the Treasury Board Secretariat’s Directive on Recordkeeping each government institution is responsible for “establishing, implementing and maintaining retention periods for information resources of business value.” 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 when setting those retention periods.

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

Section 12 (1) of the Library and Archives of Canada Act directs that

"No government or ministerial record, whether or not it is surplus property of a government institution, shall be disposed of, including by being destroyed, without the written consent of the Librarian and Archivist or of a person to whom the Librarian and Archivist has, in writing, delegated the power to give such consents."

This Librarian and Archivist’s ”written consent” normally takes the form of a disposition authorization 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 Library and Archives Canada, or by agreeing to their alienation from the control of the Government of Canada.

What is a disposition authorization (DA)?

In accordance with the provisions of the Library and Archives of Canada Act, a disposition authorization is the instrument that Library and Archives Canada 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.

Disposition  authorizations (DAs) are granted in two ways:

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

What is an ISDA?

An ISDA or Institution-Specific Disposition Authorization is a disposition authorization related to records managed by a single government institution, and which allows the institution empowered to use the authorization to dispose of records according to the terms set by Library and Archives Canada.

What is a MIDA?

A MIDA or Multi-Institution Disposition Authorization is a disposition authorization granted by Library and Archives Canada to government institutions on a multi-institution basis, which relates to records managed by all or an identified group of government institutions, and which allows the institutions empowered to use the authorization to dispose of records under terms set by Library and Archives Canada.

Some older MIDAs issued between 1998 and 2013 incorporate three components: the records disposition authority, terms and conditions and a functional profile.

What is an agreement for transfer?

Agreements for transfer are part of disposition authorizations (“records disposition authorities”) issued prior to 2015.  In accordance with Section 13 (1) of the Library and Archives of Canada Act, the Librarian and Archivist of Canada entered into specific 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 were identified, an agreement for transfer formed part of the disposition authorization; the details of the records transfer would be 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 that may be attached to a disposition authorization issued prior to 2015 (also referred to as a “records disposition authority”).

Records identified as archival in terms and conditions documents are to be transferred to the care and control of Library and Archives Canada from GC 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.

Terms and conditions associated with some older MIDAs (issued between 1998 and 2013) may be attached as an appendix to the authorization or, in other cases, embedded within the authorization itself. Terms and conditions for MIDAs govern the application of those authorizations to common administrative records.

What is a functional profile?

Functional profiles are attached to each of the MIDAs issued prior to 2013 that covered common administrative records to facilitate the application of the terms and conditions appended to each of these authorizations.

They relate to the scope of the particular authorization and consist of templates describing sub-functions, with each sub-function further divided into tasks, activities and processes, as appropriate.

Who may use MIDAs?

It is important to understand that there are two types of MIDAs:  those issued between 1998 and 2013 that covered all GC institutions, and those issued after 1 January 2015 to specifically identified groups of government institutions.

  • For GC wide MIDAs issued 1998-2013

Unless otherwise specified in a new disposition authorization issued to the institution after 1 January 2015, all government institutions subject to the Library and Archives of Canada Act may continue to use the Multi-Institution Disposition Authorizations to dispose of records which do not have archival or historical value.

Specific exceptions to the application of a Multi-Institution Disposition Authorization issued between 1998 and 2013 are identified in its appended terms and conditions, notably in the statement of the scope of records disposition coverage and in the statement of the authorization to destroy.

  • For MIDAs issued after 1 January 2015:

Only institutions listed in Appendix A of the MIDA may apply the authorization.

All other GC institutions that have been issued a new disposition authorization after 1 January 2015 must follow the terms of that authorization, which includes the continuing applicability of only three GC-wide MIDAs

  • the  authorization covering transitory records (e.g., DA 2016/001);
  • the authorization covering the disposal of records provided in confidence to a government institution for the purpose of prosecuting or defending the interests of the Government of Canada in dispute resolution (e.g., MIDA 2009/001); and
  • the authorization covering the disposition of digitized records (e.g., MIDA 96/023).

Do MIDAs include retention periods?

No.
Disposition authorizations issued by Library and Archives Canada to government institutions, including Multi-Institution Disposition Authorizations, 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 Library and Archives Canada, LAC makes arrangements with government institutions regarding the timing of transfers (or other arrangements) in order to secure their preservation as archival documents.

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

Library and Archives Canada has created a suite of Generic Valuation Tools (GVTs) which describe common administrative activities (or “internal services”), the information resources those activities produce and recommended retention periods.  These are suggestions only and should be used only if suitable to an institution’s legislative, policy and business requirements.

What about setting retention periods for operational records?

There are several Generic Valuation Tools (GVTs) which relate to operational activities common across government institutions, such as investigating and regulatory compliance.  Most of the operational GVTs contain recommended retention periods based on input from subject matter experts across the Government of Canada.

When setting retention, the main issues to consider include:

  • determining the business needs for access to the information -- for purposes relating to administering the program which caused their creation or collection; and
  • legislation, regulations and/or government-wide or institutional policies that may stipulate retention requirements.

Since the value of information is to act 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 the institution's Information Management Senior Official. 

How many MIDAs are there?

Between 1998 and 2016, Library and Archives Canada released fourteen government-wide Multi-Institution Disposition Authorizations that cover transitory records, common administrative records and common operational and medium-specific records.

The MIDA covering transitory records is the Disposition Authorization #2016/001 for Transitory Records.  An application guide is available to provide general guidance on how to apply the DA.

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:

Authorization No. 96/021
Institutional Records in the Office of a Minister;
Authorization No. 96/022
Records of Deputy Heads of Government Institutions;
Authorization  No. 96/023
Electronic Imaging Systems;
Authorization No. 96/024
Poster-Creating Areas of Government Institutions;
Authorization 2005/006
Operational Case File Records
Authorization 2009/001
The Disposal of Records provided in Confidence to a Government Institution
Authorization 2010/004
The disposal of Surplus Publications in Government Institutions
Authorization 2013/001
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What authorization should I apply first, my institution's specific disposition authorization, the MIDAs for common administrative records, the generic MIDAs, or the Disposition Authorization for Transitory Records?

First, determine if your institution has been issued a disposition authorization after 1 January 2015.  If this is the case, then that institution specific DA should be used for disposition.

If your institution has not been issued a DA since 1 January 2015, then existing authorizations (including any applicable MIDAs issued between 1998 and 2013) should be applied to records in the following order:

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

Note: the Disposition Authorization #2016/001 for Transitory Records may be applied at any time to records which meet the criteria for destruction under the terms of that authorization, except where an ISDA contains instructions to the contrary.

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