Opening Government Records: Library and Archives Canada

February 26, 2016


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United States Judge Damon Keith wrote: “Democracies die behind closed doors.” At Library and Archives Canada (LAC), as part of our commitment to Canada’s Action Plan on Open Government, we are working to open doors through open information, open data, and open dialogue. We are guided in this work by the Directive on Open Government, introduced by the Treasury Board Secretariat in 2014.

LAC’s main commitment to the plan is to open archived government records. Since 2010, we have opened more than ten million pages of Canadian government records. They document all aspects of Canadian public life, from our military history to the records of residential schools, from our diplomatic and trade relationships with foreign governments to celebrations of our founding as a nation. Canadians can visit the Library and Archives Canada website to search for records online or start planning an in-person visit.

Memory organizations throughout the world, such as libraries, archives, and museums, are responding to users who rank access to information, along with fresh water and breathable air, as a fundamental right. At the core of our mandate is facilitating public access to our documentary heritage, including the records of the Government of Canada.

Another commitment to the Action Plan on Open Government is to ensure that in the near future, the vast majority of government documents that arrive at LAC for archiving will already be open. The Directive on Open Government requires departments to maximize the removal of access restrictions on records before they come to us, and requires us to establish the criteria which allow records to be made available to the public as soon as possible.

LAC is currently consulting with a number of government departments on the best ways to make government documentary heritage available in the future. I would like to thank those departments for their commitment to this. Working with them, we are also drafting policies and directives which will make the entire process transparent. As a result, Canadians will have better access to their documentary heritage, government departments will have a useful tool for information management, and the conditions of access, as well as the security of government documents, will be clear to all.

We are also working with the Treasury Board Secretariat and Public Services and Procurement Canada on creating a service within the Open Government Portal to make much more Government of Canada information (e.g., publications and archives) discoverable and accessible to Canadians.

The bottom line is that the Government of Canada is committed to providing access to government information to Canadians wherever and whenever they want it.

Dr. Guy Berthiaume
Librarian and Archivist of Canada

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