- In accordance with the Library and Archives of Canada Act, no government record can be disposed of without the written consent of the Librarian and Archivist of Canada or their delegate. This consent is provided through the issuance to federal institutions of Disposition Authorizations (DAs), which are approved by the Deputy Librarian and Archivist. These authorizations also compel the transfer of records of archival and/or historical value to Library and Archives Canada (LAC) when they no longer have business value. DAs are developed and implemented under the Government Records Appraisal and Disposition program.
- The current program is the result of a complete renewal, which followed the 2014 report of the Auditor General of Canada. This report highlighted LAC’s failure to provide disposition authorizations to all federal institutions: in effect, only 25% had specific disposition coverage in 2014. The renewed program allowed LAC to provide 100% disposition coverage to the then 175 Government of Canada institutions subject to its Act in 2018, a feat never accomplished before by LAC and its predecessor institutions in almost 150 years of existence.
- Under LAC’s current appraisal methodology for government records, records are first considered in relation to their context of creation rather than the information they contain. This approach, known as Macroappraisal, is the theoretical and methodological underpinning of the program. The identification of specific records is performed in a subsequent phase called “validation.”
- Full Disposition coverage having been recently provided, the archivists of the Government Archives Division (GAD) are actively working with federal institutions on implementing their DAs through this validation process.
- Archival selection is very sensitive as only a small portion of government records is identified for transfer to LAC. As stakeholders might express interest in the rationale behind this selection, the program has a documented, transparent decision-making process to account for appraisal decisions.
- It should be noted that while the GAD increased disposition coverage by 75% during the last years and is now responsible for 177 institutions, the number of archivists has remained at 38. All GAD archivists are responsible for a portfolio of institutions—ranging from 5 to up to a dozen departments—which limits the ability to be more proactive and involved with Government of Canada institutions.
- Some senior managers of federal institutions have expressed concerns with the duration of the validation process. The state of information management within federal institutions has a significant impact on the pace of validation and can be a source of delay. Moreover, the selection made during validation often needs to be revisited to reflect legal, organizational and technological changes within institutions.
Key public messages
- Macroappraisal, created and implemented at the National Archives of Canada under the leadership of Terry Cook, is still considered to be at the forefront of archival science. LAC’s current application of this approach through its appraisal and disposition program still raises interest in the national and international archival communities.
- The current appraisal and disposition program is the result of a profound and thorough recasting of LAC’s processes. The revised approach streamlined the creation and implementation of DAs as much as possible, but these processes still entail a serious commitment of resources from both the institutions and LAC.
- Identifying the documentary heritage of the Government of Canada is an ongoing iterative process as digital transformations affect how information is created and used in the federal administration. Such an endeavour requires a strong relationship between LAC and Government of Canada institutions.
Director, Government Archives Division
Manager, Government Archives Division