05 May 2011

Canada's vulnerable federal records

In the US, by law, federal agencies have 30 years to turn over all the records that must be permanently retained by the National Archives.  But the US National Archivist David Ferriero, in testimony before the US House of Representatives, stated his belief that such a long time-frame is a recipe for lost documents and a spotty historical record, especially in this age of electronic records.

In Canada, by contrast, there is no law requiring such deposit.  As long as the agency or department claims they are working records they may retain them with their files. Thus we have the absurd situation that only incoming ships passenger lists up to 1935 are held at Library and Archives Canada. Canada's National Librarian and Archivist apparently sees no problem with this.

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