Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada, 1867 to 1925

Are you looking for documents offering credible information to use in research on the period between the late 19th century and the interwar years of the 20th century? You may find that the Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada contain much useful information.

History and organization

Sessional papers are among the oldest form of government serial records, and are part of the family of parliamentary publications that includes journals, debates, votes and proceedings. They have been published since pre-Confederation times and were formerly collected in the appendices to the Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada. A distinctive group of these papers, titled Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada, exists for the period of 1867 to 1925. After this period the papers were issued separately.

Sessional papers are any documents formally presented in the House of Commons, filed with the Clerk, and tabled in the House during a given session of Parliament. Each report is recorded as a sessional paper and, as such, is open to public review. They are assigned a unique number in chronological order, known as the sessional paper number.

Sessional papers include the following:

  • Annual departmental reports
  • Reports of committees and task forces
  • Royal commission reports
  • Census returns
  • White papers (issued by the government as statements of policy) and Green papers (official documents sponsored by Ministers of the Crown to invite public comment and discussion on an issue prior to policy formulation)

Sessional papers are classified as either “Printed” (i.e., available for distribution) or “not Printed. Printed papers are collected and published by session in bound volumes that include the full text of the reports. They are proof of the government’s business and support government decisions. They also constitute a collection of data on a variety of topics related to the military, political, social and economic issues in the country at a specific point in time.

Each bound volume includes the text of papers for a given session of Parliament, separated into issues. The spine of each volume has the date along with the volume and issue numbers.

Inside each volume is an alphabetical list of papers as well as a numerical list arranged by sessional paper number. Some volumes have a limited subject index at the back of the final volume for a specific session of Parliament.

Finding a sessional paper

How do you find a sessional paper? If you know the date of the parliamentary session, the chronological arrangement of the volumes allows you to locate the paper by year of publication. The alphabetical and numerical lists at the front of each volume will provide the sessional paper number; you can then locate the paper by its number in the text of the volumes.

If you don’t know the date but you do know the subject, title or some keywords, you can access the comprehensive five-volume set of indexes to this collection of sessional papers: General index to the journals of the House of Commons of the Dominion of Canada and of the sessional papers of Parliament, AMICUS No. 568918.

The indexes provide the number and date of the sessional paper. However, many sessional papers are published separately, so even if you don’t know the date of a particular parliamentary session, you can conduct a search using AMICUS, the online catalogue of Library and Archives Canada.

Many of these sessional papers are now available online through the following databases:

Title page of the Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada, 1870, Volume I, 1st Parliament, 3rd Session, from Early Canadiana Online.

Table of contents providing an alphabetical listing of the Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada, Vol. III, 1870, from Early Canadiana Online.

Other formats of the sessional papers include microfilm. The following publication can provide additional information on sessional papers and other parliamentary proceedings:

Library and Archives Canada holds a complete collection of sessional papers (in print) for the period of 1867 to 1925. These are located on the 2nd floor at our 395 Wellington Street location in Ottawa. Should you need assistance in using these documents, please feel free to contact the LAC Reference Services.

Have you noticed changes in our Library Search?

We have made changes to our Library Search to improve your search experience. The interface remains largely the same. However, you may have noticed a few enhancements designed to provide you with more reliable, timely, pertinent, consistent and accurate results. These changes affect searches of all published materials at Library and Archives Canada that are fully catalogued and accessible for consultation or use.

Both the Basic and the Advanced Library Search have been affected by these changes.

If you are unable to find what you are looking for, use the AMICUS catalogue or the Ask Us a Question form.

Help us to improve the Library Search by submitting your comments, suggestions or ideas online.

Newly transcribed finding aids

To help users find material more easily, Library and Archives Canada has transcribed some paper-based finding aids that were previously available only in the Reference Room at 395 Wellington Street. Highlighted below are a few of the finding aids that are now available online. If you want to learn more about finding aids, see this three-part series, Discover finding aids!

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Administrative Records

  • Finding Aid 18-16—Volumes 2511-2647
    Created between 1868 and 1878, these records deal with the administrative expenses of the Frontier and Dominion Police and include some applications for the proposed Mounted Force for the North-West Territories.
  • Finding Aid 18-29—Accession 1985-86/574 boxes 1-32
    This accession consists of registry records pertaining to the administration of the RCMP for the years 1940 to 1970. One group of files concerns the organization, procedures and functions of the Force including headquarters, Criminal Investigation Branch, “S” Directorate, marine and aviation divisions as well as the various divisions across Canada. Another group of records deals with the communications system ranging from the use of car radios to telex equipment. Other subjects include the filing system, RCMP reserves, and management studies. Also included are nine service files for special constables and regular members.
  • Finding Aid 18-30—Accession 1985-86/612 boxes 1-42
    The files deal with the inter-departmental committee on the Marin Commission recommendations, study groups on police associations and sovereignty control, the RCMP College, the Museum, policing in the provinces, northern patrols, memorials and cairns as well as assistance to publishers. Created between 1939 and 1980, most of the files concern routine administrative matters such as personnel, training, courses, supplies, and the band.

Supreme Court Case Files

  • Finding Aid 125-3—Volumes 3009-4067, 4294-4295
    These case files contain the collection of records created by the appellants, the respondents, the Court’s staff and the Justices for all cases brought before the Court. The finding aid is a file list that indicates volume number, case number, name of appellant, name of respondent, and the year in which the case was filed by the Court. Over 6,000 additional file descriptions for 1980–1990 case files have been added to our database.

Canadian Hydrographic Service

  • Registry files—Finding Aid 139-1—Volumes 1-29
    These files were created between 1938 and 1965 and pertain to Canadian Notices to Mariners. The Canadian Hydrographic Service was under the jurisdiction of the Department of Mines and Resources (1936–1948) and the Department of Mines and Technical Surveys (1949–1966) at the time of the creation of these files. The content of these Notices to Mariners include changes made to hydrographic charts; correspondence concerning surveys conducted in different parts of the country; reports, various committees, hydrographic instruments and equipment, and liaison with international organizations on matters concerning oceanography; monthly reports from various vessels of the service, tidal station documentation, and current surveys.
  • Ships Logs—Finding Aid 139-1—Volumes 33-66 (MIKAN 181475)
    These files relate to ships’ logs of various vessels designated for hydrographic operations under the Marine Branch of the Department of Marine and Fisheries (1905–1910, 1922–1936), the Department of Naval Services (1910–1922), the Department of Mines and Resources (1936–1948), the Department of Mines and Technical Surveys (1949–1966) and the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources (1966–1967). The logs contain a diurnal record of activities and observations aboard these vessels. The earlier logs provide succinct four- to eight-line descriptions of weather conditions and ship maintenance. The information in the later logs, for the 1950s and 1960s, pertains to weather, ship maintenance activities, the day’s itinerary, the vessels’ compass course, periodic positions expressed in longitude and latitude, swell and wind conditions, barometric pressure, atmospheric temperature, and visibility. Few details of actual hydrographic work are recorded.

How to Cite Archival Sources

Citing archival material in an academic paper for school or for publication can be a challenge. A complete set of references must contain all the details about each source used in your research so that each one can be relocated and examined in its descriptive context. That’s not always as straightforward as it sounds, especially with respect to archival material.

The style guide that your professor, editor, or publisher recommends is a good starting place. A number of style guides offer useful information on how to cite archival or manuscript material. Most of the questions we receive about citation styles relate to those followed by the American Psychological Association or APA and the Chicago Manual of Style.

If those guides aren’t helpful, seek advice from a reference librarian at a university library or browse its website for a condensed style guide, available on most university library sites. Local public libraries may also have hard copies or online versions of various style guides, so it’s worth checking their catalogues or speaking to their reference team.

If you still have questions about citing materials from Library and Archives Canada’s collection, consult the web page How to Cite Archival Sources, which has examples of footnotes and citations for several different types of archival material.

Always keep in mind, too, that the main point of a citation is to leave a trail that will lead future researchers back to the source you used in your research. And if you’re unsure about what information to include in your citation, remember that more is better than too little. It’s much easier to sift through too much information than it is to fill in the blanks!

Published Sources for Aviation Accident Reports

By Megan Butcher

In our previous blog post on searching for aviation accident reports, you learned that you need to know a few basic details before starting your search:

  • Aircraft model
  • Accident date and location
  • Aircraft registration number
  • Aircraft type (civilian or military)

This is a great starting point if you have those details already. But what if you don’t? There are a few different ways to find what you need.

To start with the most broadly accessible resources, while the following two databases aren’t exhaustive, they do include quite a number of Canadian aircraft accidents, including the first fatal accident in 1913:

Local newspapers can also be a great resource to find at least some of the details. You could start your newspaper research here at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) by checking out our microform holdings. If you aren’t able to visit us in Ottawa, you could contact your local library instead to see if they’re able to borrow the reels you need from us or another library.

If you’re still missing some important details, you may have some luck with the Canadian Aviation Safety Board annual reports and aircraft accident synopses. Most of the entries are very short, but sometimes they include a surprising amount of occasionally heartbreaking information:

A typewritten document on white paper giving details about an aircraft accident that occurred on September 8, 1978.

Synopsis of an aircraft accident from the annual report of the Canadian Aviation Safety Board, 1980, Issue 5, p 56 (AMICUS 2828768)

Our collection includes many issues from the following years:

  • 1967: Accidents to Canadian registered aircraft. Canadian Air Transportation Administration. Aircraft Accident Investigation Division. AMICUS 3236225
  • 1968-74: Aircraft accidents. Canadian Air Transportation Administration. Aircraft Accident Investigation Division. AMICUS 11371
  • 1975-84: Synopses of aircraft accidents; civil aircraft in Canada. AMICUS 2828768
  • 1984-89: Annual report. Canadian Aviation Safety Board.  AMICUS 5348822

There are also two other publications that we don’t have, but about which you could ask your local librarian:

  • 1947-1958: Canada. Civil Aviation Division. Annual report on aircraft accidents: 1947-1958. — [Ottawa], Dept. of Transport, Air Services Branch, Civil Aviation Division
  • 1960-1963: Canada. Civil Aviation Branch. A survey of accidents to aircraft of Canadian registry, 1959-1962. — Ottawa, [1960-1963]

If you find anything in our collection you’d like to see, you can view it onsite, request a reproduction, or talk to your local library about the possibility of borrowing it through our Loans to Other Institutions program

.And, as always, if you’re stumped and need help, don’t hesitate to ask us a question!


Megan Butcher is a Reference Librarian in Reference Services Division at Library and Archives Canada.

How to find Government of Canada press releases

By Emily Dingwall

Government of Canada press releases, also referred to as news releases, are issued for the media to announce the latest news of government departments. At Library and Archives Canada (LAC), we hold a number of press releases, some in hard copy format in our archival holdings, and some in our published collection. The LAC collection is a great starting point to search for older releases that are not currently online. However, it should be noted that the collection is not comprehensive because press releases were not collected systematically throughout the years. This blog post will focus only on the available materials we have in our published collection, most of which span the years 1945 to 2004. It will also discuss how to find more recent press releases on individual government department websites and through the Government of Canada Web Archive (GC WA).

News releases in our published collection can be retrieved through the AMICUS library catalogue. It is helpful to know the department and time period you are seeking, as the releases have been catalogued chronologically for each government department. Here is an example of a series of press releases in our collection from the former Department of Communications. For more search tips, please contact us with your question or visit us in person. There are also search tips available in AMICUS.

To find more recent news releases, such as those dating back to the late 1990s, try searching the GC WA. The GC WA is available through our website and provides access to harvested material from former Government of Canada websites. The archive can be searched by keyword, department name, or URL. It is most effective to search by department name (available through the red menu on the left), then scroll through the list of departments and click on specific ones of interest. This will take you to different snapshots of the websites where you can navigate to the news section to view the releases. Please note that this is an archived website, so certain links may not be functional, and older content on the website is no longer being updated.

A colour image showing screen captures of two Government of Canada web pages side by side.

A screen capture of the introductory page for the Government of Canada Web Archive (left) and the page listing the departments (right).

In regard to the most recent news updates, the releases for the last several years (depending on the department) are mainly available through individual websites for government departments, crown corporations, and the Prime Minister’s Office. For example, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (formerly Industry Canada) has news releases on its website archived back to 2012.

There is a Government of Canada News Releases website as well, which is a list of the most recent news releases compiled from all federal departments.

Please contact us for any other questions you may have on Government of Canada press releases!


Emily Dingwall is a Reference Librarian in the Reference Services Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Are we missing part of the historical record regarding Oronhyatekha?

By Richie Allen

Searching through archival records can sometimes lead to unexpected discoveries.

 In my work as a reference archivist at Library and Archives Canada, I regularly conduct research for researchers’ requests. While investigating if a certain individual had actually received formal military training in 1865 at the Toronto School of Military Instruction, I consulted Library and Archives Canada’s online database, Archives Search. A keyword search located the first Register of Candidates Admitted to the School of Military Instruction, Upper Canada (Toronto), 1865-1867, in the record group relating to the Department of Militia and Defense (RG9), Volume 7.  When I consulted the school ledger, the name I was looking for was not there, but another name instantly caught my attention.  Standing out clearly on the list, amid the old script of European first-middle-last name format, was the single Mohawk name Oronhyatekha.

A colour photo showing on the left side an opened book and on the right side a close-up showing a name on the page of the book.

Register of Candidates Admitted to the School of Military Instruction, Upper Canada, 1865-1867. The name “Oronhyatekha” has been highlighted with a blue circle (R180-124-1-E, MIKAN 195106)

The ledger contains many columns of information. In particular, on page 9, it indicates that Oronhyatekha was 23 years old, from Shannonvillle, but living in Toronto. In subsequent lists, he is indicated as being admitted to the school at Toronto on May 6, 1865. On July 29, 1865, he is noted as the “candidate permitted to remain in school for purpose of qualifying for 1st class certificate”—an honour accorded to few students.

A colour image showing a close-up of a page from a book.

Information from the ledger indicating that Oronhyatekha is permitted to remain in the school for the purpose of qualifying for a 1st class certificate (MIKAN 195106)

Information can also be found on Oronhyatekha, also known as Peter Martin, born in 1841, in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, where select biographical entries on significant Canadians can be found. Upon reading this entry, you will note that there is no specific mention of Oronhyatekha attending the School of Military Instruction. Therefore, it appears that there are gaps in the historical record, and we are wondering if this is something new to add to his biography. Please contact us if you have any additional information on this important individual.


Richie Allen is a reference archivist in the Reference Services section at Library and Archives Canada.

Tips for aviation accident research

Let’s be honest: Finding information on a civil aviation accident is no small feat. In the federal government, organizational changes involving aviation accident management and the evolution of records classification are making the researcher’s task even harder.

But seek and, generally, ye shall find! So let’s look at how to go about researching an aviation accident effectively.

First, you need to have certain basic information on the accident you’re researching:

  • Aircraft model
  • Accident date and location
  • Aircraft registration number
  • Aircraft type (civilian or military)

This will make things easier, because the finding aids related to aviation accidents are put together based on that basic information.

You must then determine where the records you are looking for might be located, i.e., select the right record group. The following reference table will help guide your first steps:

Years of Responsibility Department Record Group Number
1923–1936 Department of National Defence

Civil Aviation Branch

RG24 / R112
1936–1984 Department of Transport
Air Services Branch (1936-1970)
Canadian Air Transportation Administration (1970-1985)
RG12 / R184
1984–1989 Canadian Aviation Safety Board R13086
1990–present Transportation Safety Board RG156 / R1009

Each record group is divided into series and sub-series. For each of those subdivisions, you will need to consult a finding aid to determine whether a file exists pertaining to your research topic. It is a painstaking process, but some aids are available online (for example, the accession “Aviation Accident Reports 1919-1977“—RG12), which narrows down the research that needs to be done at 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa.

Here are some things to take into consideration:

  • Two types of records pertain to accidents: the accident report and the occurrence investigation. They are not always filed in the same location, so you’ll have to check the entire record group to find them.
  • In the 1920s and 1930s, National Defence had the mandate to investigate accidents. Even if your research is on a civilian aircraft, consult RG24.
  • Your file could be located in the Central Registry (records originally stored in Ottawa) or in the regional registries (stored in the regions: Maritimes, Pacific, etc.).
  • Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) collection has gaps: we do not have all records pertaining to aviation accidents. Sometimes, a file simply does not exist.
  • Some records are still at the accession stage. They have been transferred to LAC but have not yet been processed by an archivist. If the description in our database contains a note to that effect, consult the links under the heading “Accession” (see “Scope and Content” in connection with the note “Please consult the related accessions”).

For example, here is a screenshot associated with the series Central Registry Files from the Transportation Safety Board fonds:

Screenshot showing that the files have indeed been acquired, but not yet processed.

List of accessions from Central Registry Files (RG156)

Each record group has its own challenges but the basic concepts explained here will help you to conduct your research effectively.

Canadian company directories held at Library and Archives Canada

There are over one million companies in Canada. They include banks, grocery stores, pharmacies and department stores and we interact with them on a daily basis. If you need information about companies’ origins or how they were organized at varying points in time, the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) collection has a number of published resources to help you find what you need. With more recent information often accessible in online directories and business resources, you may find LAC’s resources more useful for historical research. This post will focus mainly on directories, a significant source of information about companies.

A company directory, whose title may change frequently in the course of its lifetime, provides factual, publicly available information that is published annually in a single resource. Directories may also differ in content and comprehensiveness. Print directories generally cover a larger time period than other formats, such as online or microform.

Well-known directories include the white pages telephone companies publish. Yellow Pages can be used to locate companies by name or line of business. LAC, meanwhile, has a historical collection of telephone books on microfilm, some dating back to the 19th century. The microfilm includes an index. A printed index is also available for consultation in the reference room on the 2nd floor of our facility at 395 Wellington Street.

Another important resource is the Financial Post family of directories, published by MacLean-Hunter Limited since the late 19th century. The FP Survey of Predecessor & Defunct Companies provides information on the status of companies including incorporation, bankruptcies and dissolutions, as well as dates and jurisdictions.

Other directories from this publisher are:

Also part of this collection is the Financial Post, later the National Post, a major Canadian business newspaper. An index for the first half of the 20th century has been published separately.

City directories include large bodies of company information and allow searches by company address, name and line of business. Names of company directors are sometimes included. Many city directories have sections dedicated to company listings and advertisements. The bibliography that follows can be used for retrospective searching. LAC has a comprehensive collection of city directories for consultation on site. Additional information on this collection can be found on the LAC website.

Other helpful directory titles include the series of directories of Dun & Bradstreet of Canada, Scott’s Directories (various titles covering manufacturing, industries, etc.), and the Canadian Trade Index. In addition, the microfiche set Annual reports and financial statements of Canadian companies includes information on both public and private companies.

If you wish to continue your company research online, helpful options include:

Furthermore, provincial company registrars, whose details can be found in the Corporations database of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (formerly Industry Canada) are useful for finding information on difficult-to-locate companies.

Please note that many of these financial services companies have adapted their resources to the digital era and digitized copies of their print editions. Historical reports on the companies are also preserved and are available in both print and digitized formats.

If you have any additional questions regarding Canadian company information, we would be happy to assist you with your research!

What is MIKAN?

The blog post “Ordering documents: what numbers do I need?” helps clients locate the right reference numbers among all the choices in a descriptive record. But what about the MIKAN number? What is that all about?

MIKAN is a computer system for searching, creating, and modifying information about archival materials. The name is based on an Algonquin word, meaning “road,” “path” or “discovery.”

The MIKAN number is a unique record number automatically assigned by the MIKAN system to a record at all levels of description (fonds, series, accession, file, item). Because it is a mandatory field in the MIKAN system, the number appears on each archival descriptive page – at the very bottom – in our Archives Search database. See example below.

Example of a MIKAN number.

Although it can be used to locate and order material, it is not an archival reference number per se and will not show up on our examples of reference numbers page. Therefore, it is best to always include the full archival reference and not just the MIKAN number.