At the centre of it all: Library and Archives Canada’s Vancouver Office

By Caitlin Webster

After providing service for many years from a suburban warehouse, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) Vancouver is celebrating six months at its new public service point at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch.

Since 1992, LAC clients in British Columbia had been travelling to the Western Canada Regional Service Centre in Burnaby to consult archival records in reading rooms set up within the vast facility.

More recently, LAC began a project to redefine our national presence, in an aim to broaden services outside Ottawa, collaborate more closely with local memory institutions, and have greater visibility and impact across the country. One result of these efforts has been the establishment of co-location arrangements for LAC offices in Halifax and Vancouver.

Following closely on the successful establishment of LAC‘s public service point in Halifax, the LAC Vancouver office implemented its co-location partnership with the Vancouver Public Library VPL. LAC launched its public service point in the central branch of VPL on November 8, 2017, with a Signatures Series interview featuring former Prime Minister Kim Campbell. At this public service site, LAC Vancouver provides in-person orientation and reference services, as well as kiosks for LAC research tools and subscription databases such as Ancestry.ca.

A colour photograph of a round building resembling the architecture of the Colosseum in Rome but clearly contemporary with its glass windows on the top two floors.

Exterior view of the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch in downtown Vancouver. Photo: Vancouver Public Library.

In the first six months of service, LAC staff have assisted clients with questions on a variety of subjects, including Scottish emigration agents, the first Chinese Ambassador to Canada, evolving land-title laws, Indigenous genealogy, and the history of local buildings and other sites.

A colour photograph of a woman sitting behind a service desk with a Library and Archives Canada banner behind her.

Public service desk and self-serve kiosks at Vancouver Public Library’s central branch. Photo: Caitlin Webster.

In addition, given the ongoing needs of the local community regarding Indigenous claims, treaties and other subjects, LAC Vancouver continues to provide access to original archival records of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada from British Columbia and Yukon. LAC Vancouver provides reference, Access to Information and Privacy review, consultation, reprography, and other services for this selection of archival records at another site, next door to VPL‘s central branch.

A colour photograph of a room with large tables for the purpose of consulting documents.

LAC Vancouver’s reference and document consultation room at 300 W. Georgia Street. Photo: Caitlin Webster.

Since the move to this new location, interest in on-site document consultation has risen dramatically. The amount of archival material consulted by clients has increased by 54 percent, and the number of pages copied or scanned for clients has more than doubled!

Collaborative projects are also in the works, including exhibitions, information sessions and learning opportunities. For instance, LAC recently held an Indigenous genealogy workshop in which it highlighted relevant resources. LAC’s goal is to host many sessions like this one, offering diverse services to local clients and making the most of this new partnership.

For details on LAC Vancouver’s hours of service, location, and other information, please visit the Service Points Outside of Ottawa page.


Caitlin Webster is an archivist at LAC Vancouver.

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.