22 May 2018

Library and Archives Canada Access to Information Request Response January - March 2018

You're likely heard of Reclaim the Records, the US not-for-profit activist group of genealogists, historians, researchers, and open government advocates who identify important genealogical records sets that ought to be in the public domain but which are being wrongly restricted by government archives, libraries, and agencies.  To find out about their work listen to Drew Smith's interview with Brooke Schreier Ganz, the group Founder and President.

Is Canada's Access to Information (ATI) system being used to obtain genealogical related information from Library and Archives Canada?

In the first three months of the year responses to a total of 138 applications to Library and Archives Canada under ATI are reported.

There were 36 applications for which responses were issued in January, 51 in February and 42 in March. There was no report for April available as "All institutions subject to the Access to Information (ATI) Act are required to post summaries of completed ATI requests within thirty calendar days after the end of each month."

Based on the Request Number it would appear eight of these applications dated back to 2016 with the remainder for 2017.

Full disclosure was made for 50; partial disclosure for 53; for 11 nothing was found or the record requested does not exist; for 22 nothing was disclosed (excluded) and for 2 nothing was disclosed (exemption).

The median response had 225 pages; the most voluminous 9,755 pages—a request for "Construction and administration of Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Carp; including all materials relating to Project EASE..."

The only application I could find with an obvious genealogical connection is:

Request Number: A-2017-01212
Organization: Library and Archives Canada
Disposition: Nothing disclosed (excluded)
Year: 2018
Month: March
Number of Pages: 0
Request Summary: 1881 Canadian Census Vancouver Island
Make an informal request for: A-2017-01212 (LAC)

The application would be excluded as the 1881 census is published and the Act does not apply to "published material or material available for purchase by the public". See chapter 13 of the Access to Information Manual. Unfortunately that means that ATI won't help in gaining online access newspapers and directories held by LAC.

There are other ATI applications that may be of family history interest such as "Reports of Candidates attending Officers' Training Centre, Brockville. 1941-1944." for which full disclosure was given in 228 pages. I'm investigating this further; look for more when LAC gets back to me.

Search for ATI applications at https://open.canada.ca/en/search/ati?_ga=2.40172386.1396726045.1526693558-1587750151.1525102889/.


Brian Glenn said...

Here is an example of LAC's ATIP response for a WW2 record for my family tree:
I made the online request on June 19, 2017, received a letter shortly thereafter saying that due to the large number of inquiries they "estimate" it would take 10 months for a reply. I diary dated my followup for April 2018. With no response I emailed LAC for an update and received a response on 25 April saying my request had been pulled from the queue and I would receive a response in a couple of weeks. No response as yet by 22 May! During this time frame I have made requests and received documents from both the Saskatchewan Archives and the BAnQ.

Gail B said...

BY pure chance, I will be attending a lecture tomorrow by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario; his subject title, "Access and Privacy in the Digital Age. I will be taking a printout of the Reclaim the Records bit from the ACC blog today. My experience as a professional Reference Librarian for years was that we would hand out the I & P forms to library patrons and they rarely informed us that they ever received adequate answers to their queries, if anything at all. When the previous gov't cancelled the Long Form Census, information and privacy of data for genealogists and history researchers was toast.

I will certainly ask the lecturer tomorrow about this in the Q & A, with reference to Reclaim the Records. Thanks for bringing this forward at such a time, for me.