Departmental Researchers

Who are Departmental Researchers?

Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) Departmental Researchers program allows federal government employees and other authorized individuals to access restricted records created by the Government that are now under LAC’s control. Researchers must have a specific reason to access restricted archival government records, and obtain the authorization of the Department that created the records in order to obtain Departmental Researcher status.

Note: This program only applies for particular access to restricted Government of Canada archival records. Please refer to our Services for the Public page for access to archival records that are available to the public (i.e., no access to information and privacy restrictions apply).

If you are not a Departmental Researcher visit our Services for the Public page for details on how to request access to archival records at LAC.

What do Departmental Researchers need to do to gain access to restricted records?

Obtain Departmental Researcher Status

A Director from the Department that created the records must submit an Authorization Letter [RTF 32 KB] to LAC’s Access to Information and Privacy Coordinator. The letter must include the following information:

  • the name of the researcher;
  • the institution/organization the researcher works with;
  • the employment status of the researcher (indeterminate, term, contract consultant, student);
  • the researcher’s LAC user card number (visit our User Card Registration page to request or renew a user card);
  • the researcher contact information (business address, telephone number and email);
  • the researcher’s Government of Canada security clearance level (enhanced reliability, secret, top secret, etc.). Please note this may require validation by LAC’s Security team;
  • specifications of the records the researcher needs to consult. For example, is it limited and specific to certain years, a certain set of records, or can they access all records created by that Department (blanket or specific);
  • LAC’s archival record reference for the restricted files being requested:
    • blanket access: where the researcher is allowed access to all of the departmental files that fall within the range of his/her security clearance level
      • provide the fonds (R) or record group (RG) number
    • specific access: where the researcher is allowed access only to specific files within the range of his/her security clearance level
      • provide fonds (R) or record group (RG) number
      • for each file or container where access is granted, provide a complete LAC reference (include the fonds or record group number; the accession number; the container number (volume or box) or microfilm number; and the file or item number) (examples of reference numbers);
  • a clear statement on whether or not the researcher may order reproductions of such records;
  • the expiry date of the authorization letter (note that authorizations can be granted up to a maximum of one year, or until the end of the Departmental Researcher's term or contract);
  • the contact information for a contact person at the Department in case the Director in the named letter is not available;
  • the full contact information of the Director authorizing access (i.e., signature block).

The letter must be prepared on the organization’s official letterhead and signed by an individual who is Director-level or above. An email containing the same information and sent from the account of the appropriate Director is also acceptable. Please address all correspondence to

Important: Responsible Directors may only grant access to their own institution's restricted archival documents. Should a researcher require access to restricted archival files created by a different organization, separate authorization letters must be obtained from each organization. For example, if an employee of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada needs to access restricted archival records created by Parks Canada, two authorization letters must be submitted to LAC.

Plan Your Visit

User Card Registration

All Departmental Researchers must have a valid user card. Visit our User Card Registration page to request or renew a user card.

Material Retrieval

Specific access:

Specific-access material will be ordered on your behalf. Once the material is available for review, a member of our team will contact you. Retrieval and processing of specific-access material may take up to twenty (20) business days.

Blanket access:

After receiving Departmental Researcher status, you may retrieve material yourself using the Material Retrieval (On-site Consultation) form. There is a limit of ten (10) boxes per day and we recommend ordering your material three (3) business days in advance of your visit. Please consult our Search Help page for tips using our search tools.

If you are unable to locate the material you are seeking through our various self-service search tools, please contact a LAC Reference Services by using our online form Ask Us a Question. Please quote your Departmental Researcher reference number in your message.

Consulting Material

The material may be consulted at LAC’s building located at 395 Wellington Street, in Ottawa. Visit our Service and Opening Hours page for details. Alternative arrangements will be made for access to materials that may require additional supervision due to sensitivity, media type or fragility.

Some of LAC’s government archival collection is located at our Winnipeg and Vancouver service points. For details about how to consult the collection material at these locations, see Service Points Outside of Ottawa.

Please have a copy of your Departmental Researcher confirmation email available at the time of your visit.

Copy services

Please visit our Copy services page for all reproducCopy servicesst have obtained the necessary authorization in order to request copies using the Online Order Form for Reproduction ReqCopy servicesur Self-Serve Copying services. Payment must be made using the interdepartmental payment process. That process requires the following three codes: the department number, the organization code and the reference code. Be sure to quote your Departmental Researcher reference number in any communications or requests through forms.

Important – Please Note: The restricted records to which you are being granted access continue to remain subject to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act, as well as any other applicable policy or directive. Any information obtained from these records should remain protected at all times, in accordance to the Government of Canada Policy on Government Security. Restricted records may be consulted for specific purposes only as authorized by the organization and cannot be used for other purposes such as writing personal articles or books. Contact your organization’s Information Officer, Security Office or ATIP Coordinator regarding the appropriate and approved release and handling of the outcomes of your research. Furthermore, personal information remains protected is only to be used in a way that has a reasonable and direct connection to the original purpose for which the information was obtained or compiled (consistent use).

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