Did you know that both government and non-government records held in the archival collections of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) are subject to access restrictions?
For federal government records, the Access to Information Act gives Canadian citizens the right to access information. It is also important to note that, in Canada, there is no “30-year rule” that applies to government documents, even if such rules exist in other countries.
For archival fonds or collections donated by private individuals, there will often be restrictions on research access. These are sometimes called “Donor restrictions.”
For access to both federal government records and documents donated by private individuals, legal mechanisms are involved and must be respected without exception.
So when you need to consult restricted material at LAC, you must factor into your project deadlines the time required to process your request. Processing time will vary based on the request and the materials involved.
For more information on restrictions and how to request access, please consult the Discover the Access Codes for Archival Records at Library and Archives Canada Part I and Part II pages on our blog.
Regardless of the ‘no 30 year’ rule, why should one need to fill out an ATIP request for patent records from 1824 (as I have been asked to do in the past). For someone who has to travel to Ottawa this is an additional bureaucratic hurdle and delay to accessing archival material and doesn’t seem justifiable given that the patent has long since expired and is in the public domain.
Thank you for raising this question.
The record in question has a “Code 32: restricted by law” status, which is the default access code for all government records. All government records have code 32 applied when LAC receives them. This is because we do not have the resources to go through all the documents when we receive them to determine which records should have which access conditions.
We recognize that this entails additional steps and delays for researchers. LAC has initiated a “systematic review of selected holdings against current access and privacy legislation with a view to opening records that should no longer be protected.” (Source : Departmental Performance Report, 2011-12, Summary of Progress Against Priority 3.).
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