The Current State of Privacy in Canadian Archives

Sagesse Winter 2021 – An ARMA Canada Publication


by Madeleine Krucker and Nicole D’Angela
MI Graduates, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto


Back to Sagesse 2021





This paper explores the situation of privacy in Canadian archives, focusing on personal records within non-government institutions. It provides a review of Canadian privacy legislations and past discussions in the information management community that have addressed the relationship between archives and privacy. Through investigating the roles held by archivists, researchers, and governments, this paper considers ethics, access, and the utilization of personal information in archival holdings. It is evident that a gap exists within archival conversations pertaining to privacy. This oversight must be addressed by the resurgence of discussion, advocation for updated legislation, and an inclusion of forward-thinking concepts. This paper encourages archivists to reintroduce themselves as privacy protectors.




As a professional community entrusted with the preservation of the nation’s memory for future research, privacy is an important factor for archivists to consider. The arrangement, access, and use of records is a heavily discussed topic amongst the information management community. However, consideration of the privacy of individuals, groups, and organizations within records has not always been the focus of conversation. After conducting a literature review and evaluating Canadian privacy legislation, it is evident that there is a gap in the discussion on the application of privacy legislation in Canadian archives.


This situation is not entirely the fault of archivists as discussions regarding rights of privacy remains an approaching rather than present problem. This is apparent in the slow-moving changes to privacy legislation available in Canada, such as the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act 2000 (PIPEDA) and the Privacy Act 1985, which are sorely in need of reform. The current legislation does not address the specific problems faced by archivists when considering privacy. These problems include describing private records that could potentially contain privacy issues, enabling their access, and entrusting researchers with sensitive information. Archives are only mentioned in privacy acts to secure exemption from legislation’s rulings, a decision that is based on the perspective that privacy and archives are fundamentally opposed and the main purpose of archives is to provide access to information. This attitude, along with the current legislation, must be challenged as it will not survive the dynamic digital world. Rather than being exempt from privacy conditions, archivists must be active participants in privacy discussions. As a result of Europe’s success with the General Data Protection Regulation 2016 (GDPR), privacy discussions will increase and become more prominent internationally, requiring archives to step up and get more involved with government legislations.


Since archivists rely on legislation such as PIPEDA to make decisions about privacy and access to records, they should be an active part of its review. This involvement not only stands to strengthen archival concepts but protect their position within society and demonstrates to the public a respect for privacy of individuals and their records. Although archivists and record managers are sometimes grouped together as information professionals, this specific discussion of privacy is unique to archives. Additionally, record managers are often found within corporations which are required to adhere to strict privacy laws. It is the lack of guidance found in non-government archives which requires the most attention. In response to government records playing a recurring theme throughout our literature review, this paper will attempt to fill the gap within the archival community by primarily addressing personal records.


Privacy is an important human right that allows individuals to have some form of control over how others access information about them and is essential for identity formation. According to Heather MacNeil, privacy “derives from a respect for individual autonomy, expressed as the individuals’ freedom from the scrutiny and judgement of others.” However, individuals can experience violations to their privacy, particularly when records that contain their personal information are no longer within their control upon donation to an archive, such as an address book or personal journal. MacNeil speaks to how “contemporary concerns over loss of privacy relate for the most part to the amount of information known about an individual, and have emerged in response to situations created by information-gathering practices ignored in traditional interpretations of invasion of privacy.” Archivists need to be aware of privacy requirements and how they relate to archival concepts as the records that will soon be brought into the archives could potentially face issues generated by these practices. Concerns over how personal information is collected and maintained in the active stage of the record’s life cycle can impact their integrity upon donation to archival institutions.


This paper aims to provide an analysis of the current approach to privacy within the archival community through reviewing literature, government legislation, and influential organizations. It will also explore the relationship privacy shares with ethics and access in the archival world. The role of the archivist versus that of the researcher will be considered, specifically questioning who holds the responsibility of maintaining privacy of the record. Beyond the perception that record creators rescind all rights to the information upon donation, this paper aims to demonstrate the importance of considering the privacy rights of individual donors, and any potential stakeholders that could be implicated in their records. Through evaluating the current state of the relationship between privacy legislation and archives, as well as identifying other contributing factors, the future of privacy within the archival community can be better addressed.


Literature Review


Discussions regarding privacy in the archival community were relatively common with the introduction of the Privacy Act in 1983. Daniel German explores the formation of access to information and privacy legislation and the role played by the Canadian government, the National Archives, and the Privacy Commission between 1983-1993. German specifically examines how the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act, both introduced in 1985, may interfere with access offered by archives. German’s prediction on the future of legislation was that it would continue to protect the sensitive information while making all other information easy to access for researchers. Unfortunately, the article does not dive into the problems of the acts that were identified through German’s deep dissection. The article supports that research in the past has focused mainly on government archives, meaning there is a hole when considering the private records of individuals and organizations that do not fall under the government’s jurisdiction. This is a point that has guided the discussion of this paper towards non-government records.


MacNeil provides a progressive approach on the issues of privacy in regards to archival  work that the professionals in charge of privacy legislation could benefit from today. MacNeil argues that archivists need to be at the forefront of these discussions due to their unique position and “professional responsibility” of considering “the individual’s right to privacy and society’s need for knowledge.” She argues that archivists need to “ensure that access to records implicating privacy values is administered in a systematic and equitable manner.” Though published in 1992, her analysis demonstrates the importance of archivists possessing a solid grasp of the merits of privacy to society by demonstrating how research conducted by invading personal privacy can harm individuals.


Looking to other countries for privacy guidance, Paul Sillitoe discusses the lack of policy and poorly defined privacy limits holding back archivists in the United Kingdom prior to the twenty-first century. Sillitoe encourages archivists to get involved with crafting legislation so they are not “hapless victims of laws drafted without regard, or even reference, to archive interests.” His article advocates for archivists to define the limits of privacy with access kept in mind and to determine criteria around access to personal information. Sillitoe places the archivist within policy creation to consider their unique position. The author defines levels of information as: impersonal, personal, sensitive, and confidential to replace timed access periods in order to determine privacy on a case-to-case basis. This would increase access on certain material while ensuring the privacy of more sensitive records. The discussion held by Sillitoe in the late 1990s is one which may be useful in determining the role archivists play in present day legislation formation as he offers solutions and encourages the community to act.


With the introduction of PIPEDA in 2000, the discourse continued as fears regarding how privacy legislation could curtail the role of archives and their ability to facilitate research intensified. There is a palpable fear from the archival community and historians that privacy legislation would result in the erosion of records available to preserve and conduct research. Tim Cook demonstrates this anxiety, claiming PIPEDA to be an overreaction with the potential to destroy archives. To the further detriment of archivist and policy professionals, he portrays the introduction of PIPEDA as a conflict that cannot be resolved and pits the two sides against each other, prohibiting any consideration for collaboration. However, Cook includes an outline of actions taken by archival and historical communities to advocate for their positions. This endeavour not only provides a potential explanation for why archives are exempt from PIPEDA, but also demonstrates how archives did not think privacy was a matter of concern for them.


Undeterred by this panic, discussion of the archivists’ role in regard to privacy abruptly diminishes with the arrival of PIPEDA, seeming to imply that archivists have accepted the situation. Despite the acceleration of technological innovation and increasing use of electronic documents, the discussion regarding privacy in the twenty-first century is sparse and does not reflect the severity of the issues. The archival community does appear to be aware of the lack of attention towards privacy in archives. Jean Dryden and Loryl MacDonald touch on this in their introduction of the Archivaria issue dedicated to archives and the law that came twenty-five years after the last analysis under editor Terry Cook. Dryden provides a book review of “Navigating Legal Issues in Archives” by Menzi L. Behrnd-Klodt criticizing the section devoted to privacy and access issues in archives as a superficial analysis that merely provides a list of statutes for archivists to refer to. However, beyond the examples depicted above, Dryden and MacDonald ultimately continue this negligence by failing to include an article that adequately addresses how archives can navigate privacy.  William Bonner and Mike Chiasson’s article also highlights that while privacy is important, legislation is often dismissed. This tradition, of continually passing over the chance to provide a critical analysis on the role of privacy in archives, presents a failed opportunity for archivists to lead an approach to properly collecting and preserving sensitive information that could strengthen their holdings and status within the information management community.


With the increasing use of technology to exchange information, archivists appear to have realized the numerous issues confronting storing records, including privacy. Considerations towards privacy are often present in discussions on how electronic records could alter archival approaches to recordkeeping. Amelia Acker and Jed Brubaker discuss the intricacies of archiving social media beyond their physical storage. They call attention to an essential element of social media sites that “rely on networked resources and many creators in order to provide and maintain contextual integrity.” However, Acker and Brubaker fail to consider the privacy implications of archiving such records other than referring to the privacy policies of social media platforms. In attempting to preserve these platforms, archivists risk implicating multiple individuals who are potentially unaware that their information would be managed for such purposes. Joan Elizabeth Kelly and Lucy Rosenbloom speak to the importance of ensuring donors’ privacy in digital archives and recognize that personal information has the potential to be misused, but do not provide much information on what this means or how it can be achieved. Moreover, they only consider the donor’s privacy as the sole record creator in these digital archives, thus ignoring any additional individuals who could be implicated through association or as record creators in their own right.


A potential solution for archiving digital records while maintaining privacy is to remove all personal information through de-identification, data aggregation, and anonymization. Pekka Henttonen addresses the issue of privacy within archives and suggests strategies for privacy protection, specifically for digital records. Henttonen recognizes that there are many writings that focus on digital privacy; however, few of these discussions occur within the archival community. Pointing to an evidential weakness within archival literature, Henttonen believes that archival and recordkeeping techniques are necessary for privacy protection. Additionally, how society reacts to privacy concerns will be influential on the information received by archives. With the archivist as the individual who carries information between contexts, Henttonen argues that they have a privacy role; however, privacy theories and definitions are not well defined. The five strategies suggested in the article are aimed at archives to effectively transfer information while being mindful of privacy, time, place, and context. These strategies ensure that the processing of personal information is used for the reason it was collected, and that the individual has influence over the usage and destruction of their personal information. Furthermore, the information will be destroyed after its use and anonymizing data will be used to minimize privacy risks. Henttonen goes on to suggest an information safe haven approach which begins once material has reached an archive. This approach encourages archives to have donors identify privacy concerns in their material while ensuring that users are appropriately using information, screening researchers, and having them sign user agreements. Henttonen makes it clear that he is aware these strategies remove the “open space” typically encouraged by archives but they do address privacy concerns. He believes that failure to create legal standards of privacy within archives is due to the lack of balance between research and privacy. This article presents a conversation surrounding archives, privacy, access, and legislation which must be expanded upon.


However, these techniques challenge the important archival concept of context that relies on preserving the relationships between records. Malcolm Todd calls attention to this and argues that “unless the personal details of the participants are either made explicit when the records are captured or can be linked subsequently, there will be a general effect of decontextualization that will be very detrimental to the value—even as we have seen to the validity—of archival records.” Todd demonstrates the need for privacy considerations in the design of technology that could benefit archivists in their goal of preserving digital records. Similarly, Jasmine McNealy speaks to the risks of information aggregation. This technique is used to offer privacy through compiling information but “can lead to erroneous judgements about the subject of the information because aggregation removes the content from which the information originated.” This challenges the perspective that information needs to be preserved in order to understand human behaviour, by demonstrating that if information is not preserved properly archivists could risk maintaining an incomplete and potentially harmful record of human nature. These solutions, designed to protect individuals in the collection of their personal information, may work for corporations pressured to protect their clients, but could severely harm records destined for long-term preservation. Archivists need to address this problem head on, through education and taking an active approach in how information is currently managed, to ensure that the records that reach archives remain integral.


Overall, the discussions on privacy in archives has changed throughout the years depending on the status of legislation. It is evident that although several solutions have been presented by well-established academics, the number of problems surrounding privacy have only increased with the introduction of electronic records. By identifying these issues and comparing solutions of past voices, a direction for the future can begin to form. However, the literature is not enough to review and current governing bodies must also be explored.


Canadian Legislation Review


The examination of Canada’s privacy legislation is necessary to understand where archives fit inside legislation, how they may be influenced, and what changes must occur. Through reviewing the Privacy Act, Access to Information Act, PIPEDA, and Ontario’s 2006 Archives and Recordkeeping Act, the current climate of legislation and other governing bodies can be established. When considering why it would be beneficial to apply federal or provincial privacy legislations to archival institutions, the role of the donor must be considered. The record creator or record holder is often the one to make the decision of where their records will be deposited. Specifically considering the case of personal records, this material will likely have information on the person’s life, family, and other relations. Rob Fisher identifies the call for privacy or anonymity as “the most forceful manifestation of donor agency.” This may affect interactions between donors and archives, as donors are concerned for their privacy and hesitate to offer their materials to the archives with the chance of releasing family details or tarnishing reputations. If archives operated under stricter privacy legislations, perhaps more donors would be willing to trust the archives with their material. Richard Valpy argues that Canada’s federal legislation “provides little guidance about the actual management of information and records but, rather, concerns itself mainly with how records with enduring value should be preserved and/or made available once they exist.” He goes on to say that any record legislation, “can only be effective if there is an equally effective management system in place.” The inclusion of archivists in privacy legislation formation would assist in creating a more effective legislation that can be applicable to archival practices.


Multiple active privacy laws were examined specifically to identify their recognition and inclusion of archives. Both the Privacy Act and Access to Information Act demonstrate a need for archivists to take an active role in the formation of privacy legislation. The Privacy Act allows for the disclosure of personal information to the Library and Archives of Canada (LAC) for “archival purposes.” Any government generated personal information under the custody or control of LAC may be used for research or statistical purposes as long as it follows regulations. The Privacy Act has requirements regarding personal information, specifically, its theory of “reasonable opportunity” which gives those who may be mentioned in the records a time period to become aware and access the information they are included in. The Access to Information Act exempts any government records that are “library or museum material preserved solely for public reference or exhibition purposes; [and] material placed in the Library and Archives of Canada…by or on behalf of persons or organizations other than government institutions.” Fiorella Foscarini recognizes a weak point in privacy legislation in which it “never specifies that archival processing of personal information for preservation purposes is different from the use of it for research or business purposes.” This distinction is crucial as it can impact how citizens view archives and potentially prompt distrust regarding the mismanagement of sensitive information in archival records, specifically private records which do not fall under most legislation. The responsibility of the archivist to consider privacy when processing and providing access could be greater defined through a more detailed legislation.


PIPEDA is the federal law for data privacy that governs the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information for private-sector organizations. PIPEDA rarely mentions archives except to exempt them from the disclosure of personal information without consent. However, the exact wording used suggests that those responsible for writing the act were ignorant of archival concepts. PIPEDA states that a disclosure of information is permitted by “an institution whose functions include the conservation of records of historic or archival importance, and the disclosure is made for the purpose of such conservation.” The emphasis on conservation is of particular interest as it connotes that the Act only covers information that is held within an archival institution and makes no reference that these records are retained for secondary purposes, such as research. This use of language demonstrates a misunderstanding of the unique position that archives hold by the privacy professionals responsible for shaping PIPEDA. Tim Cook surmises that the people working on PIPEDA did not fully understand the perspectives of historians and archivists, and recognized the involvement of archival groups in attempting to educate privacy professionals on the balance of privacy and a right to inquiry. Although PIPEDA assures the archival community that they are exempt from such stipulations, many were concerned over how the Act could change the nature of records available for preservation. Livia Iacovino and Malcom Todd argue that “without adequate archival exceptions, the Act encourages records destruction and de-identification.” However, Ian Forsyth refutes this belief, arguing, “the access to information law has no apparent impact on records.” An agreement amongst archivists must be made to better define archival material within PIPEDA.


At the Provincial level, in 2006 the Ontario government put in place the Archives and Recordkeeping Act which outlines how government archives are expected to deal with issues of privacy in the records that they manage. The Act stipulates that archivists are to have access to public records in order for them to fulfill their administrative duties. This includes the access of records that are protected under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act 1990, the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act 1990 or the Personal Health Information Protection Act 2004.  However, in terms of archivists providing access to researchers, the Archives and Recordkeeping Act ensures that the privacy legislations mentioned above will hold precedence. Most mention of privacy within this act is in relation to access and informing archivists that their work is exempt from any restrictions imposed by privacy legislation in Canada. There is no mention of how an archivist should approach the privacy of personal records.


Archival bodies can also provide archivists with guidance for how to navigate privacy concerns in recordkeeping. For example, the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) is a national organization that was created to represent and advocate on behalf of archivists throughout Canada. However, the ACA appears to lack any formal discussion regarding privacy or data protection in the information management profession, whether it applies to individuals or the institutions they run. Within their Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, the ACA fails to provide any guidance to archivists on how to uphold privacy by barely mentioning privacy except to state their respect for its existence. Nevertheless, the Association occupies a position within society that allows it to engage on issues of privacy and data protection facing archivists today. This is a position that the ACA should take advantage of as an influential body.


Aside from legislative bodies, it is also necessary to consider standards that govern archival practice. Canadian archivists frequently consult Rules of Archival Description (RAD) when arranging and describing material. RAD presents an additional platform to advocate for privacy within archives. There are several fields in RAD that provoke concerns over privacy. These include: the restrictions on access, use, reproduction, and publication; custodial history within archival description; administrative history and biographical sketch; and scope and content of restricted material. To begin with, restrictions on access, use, reproduction and publication are most significant in protecting the privacy of personal records. It is through these fields that archivists have the ability to choose privacy over access and where additional privacy guidelines would be most valuable. Custodial history, biographical sketch, and scope and content are fields where the archivist decides how they describe the group of records. These are also fields that can easily expose details about the record creators and past record keepers. Considering the specific example of personal records, Jennifer Douglas highlights the role of the record creator who is often described in finding aids. Once a record creator transfers their records to an archive, they are trusting the archivist to interpret, organize, and represent their material for future access. The creator gives the archivist the responsibility of protecting their privacy and the privacy of those within their records. A greater consideration of privacy must be placed when archivists describe material, especially restricted content. Since RAD has not been updated within the last decade, the opportunity for change presents itself within the archival community. An update that gives more attention to privacy is necessary as it would assist in refocusing the issue of privacy protection in archives, as well as in any ethical decision making.


Ethics and Privacy


Privacy is often found within the discussion of ethics. Eric Ketelaar explores the “layers of protection” that impact privacy. He identifies them as: legislation, transfer and access conditions provided by donors, regulations surrounding access, and physical measures of privacy protection. Ketelaar argues that these layers are not enough for privacy in archives. He states that physical measures of privacy protection, which addresses professional ethics, are necessary and must be negotiated between archivists and researchers. Although Ketelaar provides a Dutch context, his layers of protection can be used to support Canadian archivists who may want to incorporate privacy in legislation formation and address archival concerns.


Mary Neazor looks at ethics for archivists and recordkeepers; specifically, the international codes of ethics that exist around them, their application to real-life scenarios, and how they can develop in the field of information management. She found that in the Society of American Archivists’ (SAA) 1980 Code of Ethics they added an element which stated, “archivists respect the privacy of individuals who created or are the subjects of records and papers, especially those who had no voice in the disposition of the materials.” Similarly, her research indicated that the Association of Records Managers and Administrators’ (ARMA) 1992 Code of Professional Responsibility stated that information managers must, “affirm that the collection, maintenance, distribution, and use of information about individuals is a privilege in trust: the right to privacy of all individuals must be both promoted and upheld.” Through Neazor’s investigation of codes, it is evident that privacy is often considered ethical and placed within the responsibility of the record holder. Although published in 2008, the author mainly explores codes from the 1990s which reflects the need for these guidelines to be revisited. Privacy, paired with trust and respect, appears as a right in ethical codes. This proves that there is an opportunity for associations to help in expanding the obligation to privacy outside of ethics.


In agreement with Neazor, Laura Millar considers archivists as the ones who hold responsibility over privacy. Millar states, “most access legislation includes time frames under which access is managed, with the belief that as time passes the importance of protecting privacy diminishes and the value of providing access increases.” After considering codes of ethics, it must be discussed whether privacy would be better enforced through legislation. Millar does argue that when legislation is not applicable to archives, it is ethics which encourages archivists to decide what privacy considerations are “reasonable” to apply, along with what access is given. Millar’s discussion of ethics in place of legislation puts significant responsibility on the archivist. Alyssa Hamer calls attention to how ethics are often obscured in archives as the decision process of archivists on what records are accessible is traditionally hidden from the public. Hamer also acknowledges the existence of archival bodies that provide codes of ethics that touch on aspects of privacy in ethics, but reveals that individuals are often left to their own devices in terms of figuring out how to navigate privacy and access. Bringing privacy to the forefront of archival discussions only serves to strengthen the profession. Iacovino and Todd suggest that “stronger privacy legislation can…enhance record integrity.” If the archivist had legislation to follow, they would not have to question such moral and ethical dilemmas as their decision would be supported by law. The enforcement of privacy legislation within archives would eliminate the stresses and doubts archivists may experience when making decisions surrounding privacy.


Access versus Privacy


As demonstrated throughout the literature review, archivists tend to consider privacy alongside access. However, this approach often results in negligence towards privacy in preference to the more manageable discussion of access. Henttonen points out this trend and offers an explanation by stating that archives exist “precisely to transfer information in usable and understandable form from one context and point in time to another context and time.” Additionally, legislation often exempts archives in order to ensure that access is provided to record users. Cook expresses the belief that by “protecting privacy and personal information, privacy legislation and advocates seem willing to sacrifice aspects of our culture and history.” This perspective portrays privacy and access as fundamental opposites that cannot both be satisfied. MacNeil recognizes this oversight, stating that “although archivists do not dispute the significance of privacy interests, they have been more inclined to publicly promote the virtues of access.” Todd attempts to explain this bias towards access by arguing that without including personal information archives “shall be restricted to fragmentary ‘whisper’ about their stories.” This fear towards upholding privacy will only serve to delay any positive change that could improve access to records.


Although Todd appears to support the prioritization of access over privacy, he also speaks  to the importance of finding a balance in the “trade-off between individual privacy and the collective memory.” MacNeil also questions the need for knowledge versus the right to privacy and specifically how it arises as an archival problem. She suggests that the problem of access over privacy can be considered through the risk-benefit approach that weighs the value of research with the maintenance of privacy; however, this approach has its flaws. The main proposition in MacNeil’s article is the establishment of a committee that enforces privacy by reviewing, evaluating, and applying it to research projects done in archives. The suggested guidelines include offering access to restricted records once the researcher has signed a contract ensuring the privacy of those associated with the record will not be violated. Although MacNeil had presented a solution, it is legislation which is necessary to better define where the importance lies between access versus privacy. This change in legislation may alter the relationship between researchers and archivists.


Archivist versus Researcher


A common solution for navigating privacy concerns, while still allowing research, is to only provide access to the records for scholarly purposes. Douglas explored the roles of the creator, the accumulator, the maintainer, and the user within the archive and how each of these roles can provide their own form of creation. With the record being the responsibility of multiple individuals, it brings to question who is required to think of privacy and if it is necessary for one to take that responsibility from those who proceed them in the chain of record handling. Specifically, if the archivist makes the decisions which will avoid privacy issues, it would remove the risk and tension present when offering access to material. On the other hand, Ketelaar argues that the archivist should focus on appraisal while it is up to the researcher or the historian to be assisted by ethics in the use of information while keeping privacy in mind. He continues to state that archivists should be interested in the research occurring within the archive and “weighing up privacy and disclosure.” The relationship between researchers and archivists must include trust to ensure privacy.


Iacovino and Todd call out the practice in which “third party archival researcher agreements place the onus of respecting personal information on the researcher.” These agreements require archivists to partake in subjective decision making to determine what is valid in terms of research. Any potential privacy violations of individuals would have little recourse for the victim other than the removal of the researcher from the archive. MacNeil reveals how this practice requires “heavy reliance on researchers’ voluntary self-regulation to ensure the protection of record subjects’ privacy during the research project and for an indefinite period thereafter.” She argues against this practice claiming that it “does not dispel the ethical ambiguity surrounding the disclosure of personal information to third parties without the consent of the individual concerned.” MacNeil’s proposed committee to navigate such research claims provides a potential solution that does not solely rely on archivists. It seems necessary that the responsibility of privacy is held by both archivist and researcher. However, legislation offers archivists greater assistance in navigating privacy while expecting less from researchers.




This overview excluded several important areas of concern that could serve as topics for future research. The nature of this paper was to call attention to the lack of discussion regarding privacy in archives and shed light on how the information community could attempt to address this oversight. Certain approaches and concepts were purposely omitted as we believe they can not yet be adapted by archives until legislation is strengthened. The solutions presented thus far are valid and prove as a starting point to guide developments. However, the archival community should keep in mind additional concepts while planning for the future. For example, privacy by design, established by the former Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Ann Cavoukian, is a concept that archivists could significantly benefit from in further securing their digital holdings. With the future being digital, software that is designed around privacy is essential for information institutions to invest in. This approach ensures privacy requirements are considered in the design of databases or collections and can adhere to archival needs that may lessen the concerns archivists have regarding access to records. Legislation to guide the design of software is necessary before archives can properly execute this concept.


Additionally, greater attention is required to analyze the concept of consent. Consent is required to use personal information for purposes other than that for which it was initially collected. However, this prerequisite goes against inherent archival concepts in which records are collected for research purposes. This disparity reinforces the perception that archival activities and privacy requirements are fundamentally opposed. Greater transparency is required to ensure both professions are properly represented which serves to improve that quality of records for archives. More recently, the presence of COVID-19 has impacted how archives interact with users and how everyday archival tasks are performed. New interactions between archives and society have already begun to take place which raise privacy concerns., This further encourages the need for updated legislation.


Through analyzing the current state of the relationship between archives, privacy, and legislation, the information management community will be able to better understand in which direction to advance. It is evident from the literature review that there are gaps in the discussion and archivists need to re-establish their place in legislation formation. The energy of privacy discussion seen in the 1980s and 1990s must be reignited to factor in the new challenges of today brought on by technology. The privacy legislation, which governs the Canadian archival community, appears to be dated and too out of touch to provide bona fide support required by archivists to make informed privacy decisions. Although involvement and education surrounding privacy is needed from Canadian archivists, the government must also provide an opportunity for legislative change. The consideration of ethics, access, and the role of the researcher is also present in the re-establishment of privacy protection. The balance between ethics and legislation must be decided within the information management community to enforce privacy. From this, decisions on the access of records can be made more confidently while keeping donors, archivists, and researchers satisfied. The re-identification of archivists as privacy protectors will increase the status they hold in society with both record creators and record users.


About the Authors


Nicole D’Angela


Nicole D’Angela is a recent graduate of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information, receiving her Master of Information with concentrations in Archives & Records Management, as well as Culture & Technology. She is interested in how records shape cultural memory and the relationship between privacy and access within archives. Nicole is currently working in records management at Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.


Madeleine Krucker


Madeleine Krucker has a Master of Information from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information, with concentrations in Archives & Records Management, and Critical Information Policy Studies. Her research considers the intersectionality of privacy with archival concepts, recordkeeping, and public policy. Currently, Madeleine is working at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick as a Private Sector Intern.




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Additional Resources


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Todd, Malcolm. “InterPARES 2 Project – Policy Cross-domain: Information Policy – Privacy Report.” InterPARES 2 Project (2005): 1-22.


Upward, Frank, Sue McKemmish, and Barbara Reed. “Archivists and Changing Social and Information Spaces: A Continuum Approach to Recordkeeping and Archiving in Online Cultures.” Archivaria 72 (2011): 197-237.


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La Loi sur le droit d’auteur et les droits de propriété intellectuelle autochtones pour les archivistes et les gestionnaires de documents canadiens


par Tomoko Shida

Back to Sagesse 2021


Ce document met en lumière les obstacles de la Loi canadienne sur le droit d’auteur au respect des notions autochtones de propriété et de contrôle de la propriété intellectuelle en ce qui concerne les documents destinés ou conservés dans les archives. Il donne d’abord un aperçu de l’évolution des connaissances autochtones et des droits de propriété intellectuelle selon les principes archivistique, avant de se tourner vers le contexte juridique canadien pour examiner des questions spécifiques au sein de la Loi sur le droit d’auteur.

Introduction : Contexte du droit d’auteur au Canada

Selon Jean Dryden, la Loi sur le droit d’auteur est un cadre juridique qui « […] vise à concilier un éventail complexe d’intérêts privés et sociétaux concurrents, notamment ceux des créateurs, des détenteurs de droits, des utilisateurs et des institutions qui préservent le matériel protégé afin de le rendre disponible pour utilisation » (« What Canadian Archivists Know », p. 78). Les archivistes et les gestionnaires de documents peuvent donc être considérés comme des intervenants importants dans les discussions sur le droit d’auteur, car comme le soutient Dryden, le droit d’auteur fait partie de toutes les fonctions archivistiques, depuis l’acquisition, la description et la préservation jusqu’à l’accès et la diffusion. Par exemple, l’acquisition d’une collection de documents signifie aussi parfois le transfert du droit d’auteur au dépôt, et les instruments de recherche comprennent de l’information sur le droit d’auteur (p. 78-79). Elle souligne également l’épineuse question de l’accès numérique aux documents d’archives. Selon Dryden, « […] le droit d’auteur est généralement perçu comme un problème dans la mise en ligne des documents du patrimoine culturel en raison de la difficulté à déterminer si ce droit est expiré ou non, et à identifier et localiser les détenteurs de droits pour obtenir les permissions appropriées, de même que de l’incertitude générale concernant l’application du droit d’auteur dans l’environnement numérique » (p. 79). Ainsi, la Loi sur le droit d’auteur fait partie du travail de plusieurs archivistes et gestionnaires de documents.

La Loi sur le droit d’auteur du Canada a été considérablement mise à jour en 2012. Un examen législatif des lois a eu lieu entre février et décembre 2018, et les membres du Comité permanent de l’industrie, des sciences et de la technologie se sont réunis pour entendre 209 témoins de partout au pays. L’un des nombreux enjeux était de savoir comment la Loi sur le droit d’auteur pouvait être modifiée pour respecter le savoir et les droits de propriété intellectuelle autochtones. La question avait été négligée par certains experts du droit d’auteur canadien de l’époque, y compris par Michael Geist dans son article paru en 2017, « What’s next, after the 2012 overhaul? ».  D’autres ont soutenu que la « consultation des peuples autochtones » est l’une des cinq composantes essentielles d’un régime de droit d’auteur moderne, comme Pascale Chapdelaine et Myra Tawfik de la faculté de droit de l’Université de Windsor dans un article du Globe and Mail. Elles y ont notamment écrit que « le Canada doit amorcer un processus de consultation attendu depuis longtemps en vue de la reconnaissance et de la protection des expressions culturelles autochtones traditionnelles, conformément aux obligations du Canada en vertu de la Déclaration des Nations Unies sur les droits des peuples autochtones, en particulier l’article 31 » (Chapdelaine et Tawfik, par. 5). Des représentants d’associations de bibliothèques et d’archives canadiennes comme Nancy Marelli pour le Conseil canadien des archives (CCA), Camille Callison et Victoria Owen pour la Fédération canadienne des associations de bibliothèques (FCAB) et Naomi Andrew pour l’Université du Manitoba et le Centre national pour la vérité et la réconciliation (CNVR) font partie des témoins qui ont plaidé en faveur de modifications à la Loi sur le droit d’auteur afin de mieux respecter le savoir et les droits de propriété intellectuelle autochtones.

En juin 2019, le comité permanent présidé par le député libéral Dan Ruimy a présenté son rapport final. Ce rapport comprenait 36 recommandations, dont l’une avait trait à la « protection des arts traditionnels et des expressions culturelles dans le contexte de la réconciliation » (recommandation 5, Canada, p. 3-4), et une section intitulée « Questions autochtones » (p. 29-34). Dans cette section, le comité reconnaît que « dans de nombreux cas, la Loi ne donne pas adéquatement suite aux attentes des Autochtones en ce qui concerne la protection, la préservation et la diffusion de leurs expressions culturelles » (p. 33).

Toutefois, le rapport admet que des modifications plus concrètes à la Loi exigeraient « un processus de consultation à la fois plus vaste et plus ciblé que le présent examen législatif » et que les futures formulations de politiques devraient « puiser inspiration ailleurs que dans les textes de loi sur le droit d’auteur et la propriété intellectuelle, et examiner de près les interactions entre différentes traditions juridiques – y compris les traditions juridiques autochtones » (p. 34).

Dans la foulée de la Commission de vérité et réconciliation du Canada sur le système des pensionnats indiens, les modifications futures de la Loi sur le droit d’auteur auront sans aucun doute des répercussions pour les archivistes et les gestionnaires de documents canadiens. Cela est particulièrement vrai pour ceux qui traitent des documents relatifs aux peuples autochtones, que ces derniers soient créateurs ou sujets de ces documents. Après tout, les archivistes travaillent souvent au sein d’institutions culturelles qui « se situent à la jonction tendue des besoins et des intérêts des divers intervenants : d’une part, les créateurs, les chercheurs, les universitaires et le grand public souhaitent accéder au patrimoine culturel traditionnel contenu dans les collections riches et variées des institutions culturelles, l’étudier, le partager, le réutiliser et le recréer, et, d’autre part, les peuples autochtones qui souhaitent prévenir le détournement de leur culture » (Vezina, p. 100).De même, les changements potentiels aux notions de propriété et de contrôle de la propriété intellectuelle exigeront que les gestionnaires de documents réexaminent de nombreux aspects de leur pratique, dont l’accès aux documents en leur possession qui concernent les peuples autochtones, de même que leur classification, leur conservation et leur élimination. 

Le présent document vise donc à examiner les aspects de la Loi sur le droit d’auteur du Canada qui, du point de vue des intervenants autochtones, ont été signalés comme problématiques relativement aux documents destinés à des dépôts d’archives ou qui y sont déjà conservés. Pour ce faire, je définirai d’abord le « savoir autochtone » dans le contexte des archives, puis je donnerai un aperçu de l’évolution du savoir et des droits de propriété intellectuelle autochtones au sein de la sphère archivistique, avant de me tourner vers le contexte juridique canadien pour examiner des points précis de l’actuelle Loi sur le droit d’auteur.

Le savoir autochtone dans les dépôts d’archives et d’autres institutions de gestion du patrimoine culturel

Le savoir autochtone englobe à la fois le savoir traditionnel défini comme « les expressions et manifestations culturelles autochtones (TK) transmises par les ancêtres autochtones au fil des générations successives » ainsi que « le savoir autochtone contemporain et le savoir issu d’une combinaison de savoir traditionnel et contemporain » (Younging, p. 67). L’article 31 de la Déclaration des Nations Unies sur les droits des peuples autochtones (DNUDPA) décrit plus en détail certaines catégories de savoir autochtone lorsqu’elle énonce que « [l]es peuples autochtones ont le droit de préserver, de contrôler, de protéger et de développer leur patrimoine culturel, leur savoir traditionnel et leurs expressions culturelles traditionnelles ainsi que les manifestations de leurs sciences, techniques et culture, y compris leurs ressources humaines et génétiques, leurs semences, leur pharmacopée, leur connaissance des propriétés de la faune et de la flore, leurs traditions orales, leur littérature, leur esthétique, leurs sports et leurs jeux traditionnels et leurs arts visuels et du spectacle » (DNUDPA, article 31).

Dans une déclaration instiguée par la bibliothécaire et archiviste autochtone Camille Callison, l’énoncé de position de la FCAB sur le savoir autochtone dans la Loi sur le droit d’auteur définit le savoir et les expressions culturelles autochtones comme incluant « […] des expressions tangibles et intangibles, notamment les traditions orales, les chansons, la danse, les contes, les anecdotes, les noms de lieux et les noms héréditaires » (FCAB, par. 2). Livia Iacovino divise le savoir autochtone considéré de nature archivistique en quatre catégories :

  1. « Mémoire orale et traditions associées »
  2. « Mémoire orale qui a été captée au moyen de diverses technologies occidentales »
  3. « Documents créés par des peuples et des organisations autochtones à l’aide des structures et des formes des systèmes de connaissance et de communication occidentaux »
  4. « Documents créés par des non-Autochtones et des Autochtones » (p. 355-356)

La théorie occidentale traditionnelle en matière d’archives a eu tendance à ne pas reconnaître la première catégorie d’Iacovino, la mémoire orale, comme étant de nature archivistique, mais cette conception commence à changer. Par exemple, outre Iacovino, l’archiviste canadien Raymond Frogner exhorte les archives publiques à explorer des façons d’acquérir « la culture et les traditions autochtones non écrites » afin de « préserver une représentation significative des groupes sociaux qui composent notre démocratie constitutionnelle » (Frogner, p. 126). De même, Rachel Buchanan « soutient que pour la décolonisation […], la définition de ce qui constitue des archives doit être élargie » (cité dans Luker, p. 112). La deuxième catégorie de savoir autochtone d’Iacovino comprend des mots, des histoires et des chansons qui ont été consignés sous une forme tangible à l’aide de technologies occidentales comme les stylos et le papier, les ordinateurs, les magnétophones, etc. La troisième catégorie fait référence, par exemple, aux documents textuels, audio et numériques créés par des Autochtones dont les créations vivent maintenant sous diverses formes, comme des lettres, des romans, des CD, des blogues, etc.

Enfin, il est particulièrement important de noter que Iacovino inclut également les documents créés par des non-Autochtones comme du savoir autochtone, car cette catégorie constitue une grande partie du savoir autochtone contenu dans les dépôts d’archives canadiens – principalement les archives gouvernementales, religieuses et universitaires. Bien que ce que Jennifer O’Neal écrit s’inscrit dans le contexte américain, sa description de la manière et des raisons pour lesquelles ces documents se sont retrouvés dans les dépôts d’archives s’applique également au Canada. Elle écrit : « […] la majeure partie de la documentation historique provient d’anthropologues, d’ethnographes et d’historiens qui croyaient souvent que les communautés amérindiennes étaient en train de disparaître. Les collections résultantes, qui comprenaient des documents tels que des notes de terrain, des manuscrits et des enregistrements, ont souvent été données à des universités, des sociétés historiques locales et d’État, des musées et des organisations religieuses souvent éloignés de la communauté d’origine dont les documents étaient issus [et] probablement à l’insu de la communauté tribale » (O’Neal, p. 129-130). Dans le contexte canadien, explique Frogner, « la mémoire des archives publiques déborde de documents rédigés par les communautés colonisatrices sur l’expérience coloniale autochtone : rapports des agences indiennes, documents de missionnaires, documents sur les sentiers de piégeage, commissions des réserves et études anthropologiques » (p. 128). Bibliothèque et Archives Canada détient à lui seul près de 20 kilomètres de documents textuels qui documentent la relation entre l’État colonial canadien et les peuples autochtones.

Réponses de la communauté archivistique au savoir autochtone

Les professionnels de la gestion des archives et des documents en Amérique du Nord peuvent sembler un peu en retard en ce qui concerne la réponse aux préoccupations des peuples autochtones concernant leur culture et leur savoir. Ils ont cependant réalisé d’importantes avancées récemment. En 1990, la Native American Graves Protection Act (NAGPRA) a été adoptée aux États-Unis. En vertu de cette loi, toutes les institutions recevant des fonds fédéraux devaient restituer les « objets culturels » en leur possession qui appartenaient aux tribus amérindiennes. Cependant, selon Randall Jimerson, « [c]e changement important dans les pratiques muséales a créé un précédent que les archives ont tardé à suivre, malgré des appels de toutes parts à l’application des concepts de la NAGPRA aux documents d’archives » (p. 354). Peu après, en 1995, les Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Protocol for Libraries, Archives, and Information Services ont été créés en Australie (p. 135), mais il a fallu plus d’une décennie pour qu’un document similaire soit produit aux États-Unis, puis une autre décennie pour qu’il soit officiellement approuvé par l’influente Society of American Archivists.

En 2006, le groupe First Archivist Circle a rédigé les Protocols for Native American Archival Materials (ci-après appelés « PNAAM » ou « protocoles »). Ce groupe de « 19 archivistes, bibliothécaires, spécialistes de musées et universitaires », dont la plupart étaient amérindiens ou membres des Premières Nations, s’est réuni en Arizona à l’initiative de Karen J. Underhill, alors directrice des collections spéciales et des archives à la bibliothèque Cline de l’Université de Northern Arizona (Agarwal, par. 2). Grandement inspirés des protocoles australiens, les PNAAM avaient pour but de fournir des lignes directrices sur les pratiques exemplaires « pour la gestion et la conservation des documents d’archives amérindiens conservés dans des dépôts non tribaux » (par. 2).

Le First Archivist Circle a communiqué avec un certain nombre d’associations, dont la Society of American Archivists (SAA), pour obtenir l’approbation des protocoles, mais a échoué en 2008 et en 2012 (Agarwal, par. 10).  Selon les auteurs du rapport sur la première tentative infructueuse d’obtenir l’approbation de la SAA, la position adoptée par les protocoles en matière de propriété intellectuelle et de droit d’auteur a été particulièrement critiquée par les membres de la SAA (Boles et coll., p. 10). Le groupe de travail de la SAA sur la propriété intellectuelle s’est particulièrement opposé à deux points relativement aux droits de propriété intellectuelle; ce groupe a écrit que « la SAA devrait se montrer prudente avant de soutenir la création de droits de tiers pour les documents d’archives lorsqu’il n’y en a pas actuellement », de même que « le droit d’auteur occidental est fondé sur l’idée de paternité individuelle plutôt que sur les traditions culturelles » (cité dans Boles et coll., p. 58). Ce n’est qu’en août 2018 que le conseil de la SAA a enfin approuvé officiellement le document, déclarant dans son annonce : « Bon nombre des critiques initiales des protocoles reposaient sur le langage de l’insensibilité culturelle et de la suprématie blanche…

Nous regrettons et nous nous excusons que la SAA n’ait pas pris de mesures pour avaliser les protocoles plus tôt et participer à une discussion plus appropriée » (SAA, par. 4-5).

Comparativement à l’Australie et aux États-Unis, le Canada a été beaucoup plus lent à produire un ensemble de lignes directrices collectives à l’intention des archivistes et des gestionnaires de documents travaillant avec des documents autochtones. La prise en compte des droits de propriété intellectuelle autochtones dans le domaine des archives a été intégrée au Code d’éthique et de conduite professionnelle de l’Association canadienne des archivistes (ACA) lors de sa révision en 2017.  La section 5 : « Souveraineté » énonce que « [l]es documents et les renseignements relatifs aux peuples autochtones doivent être administrés conformément aux directives fournies par les collectivités autochtones et en consultation avec elles. » Elle encourage les archivistes à consulter un certain nombre de documents externes, notamment l’Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Protocols for Libraries, Archives and Information Services (ACA, p. 3-4). La section 3 ne mentionne pas explicitement les peuples autochtones, mais le libellé a été rédigé de manière à inclure des considérations particulièrement pertinentes pour les peuples autochtones. Par exemple, la section 3a explique : « Nous respectons la vie privée des personnes qui ont créé des documents ou qui en sont l’objet, en particulier les personnes et les communautés qui n’avaient pas voix au chapitre dans la création, la transmission, l’élimination ou la préservation des documents » (p. 5). L’ajout des mots « communautés » et « création, transmission et préservation », absents de l’ancien code d’éthique de l’ACA, signifie que les rédacteurs de la nouvelle révision ont reconnu l’héritage colonial des documents sur les communautés autochtones qui ont été rédigés par les colonisateurs sans avoir obtenu l’assentiment de celles-ci, documents qui remplissent les dépôts d’archives des colonisateurs comme les archives nationales, provinciales et religieuses (Frogner, p. 127). Toutefois, il est important de noter que ce code d’éthique ne fournit pas des directives aussi détaillées ou complètes que celles présentées dans les documents américains et australiens. 

Plus récemment, le Comité directeur sur les archives canadiennes (CDAC), composé de représentants de l’Association des archivistes du Québec (AAQ), de l’Association des archivistes canadiens (ACA), de l’Association of Records Managers and Administrators – Région du Canada (ARMA Canada), du Conseil canadien des archives (CCA), du Conseil des archivistes provinciaux et territoriaux (CAPT) et de Bibliothèque et Archives Canada (BAC), a formé un groupe de travail en 2016 pour formuler une réponse au rapport de la Commission de vérité et réconciliation. Selon son site Web, la réponse du CDAC au rapport du groupe de travail de la Commission de vérité et réconciliation a pour mandat de « […] procéder à un examen des politiques et des pratiques exemplaires en matière d’archives qui existent partout au pays et de relever les obstacles potentiels aux efforts de réconciliation entre la communauté archivistique canadienne et les archivistes autochtones » (CDAC, par. 1). En juillet 2020, ce groupe de travail a publié une ébauche publique de son « Cadre de réconciliation pour les institutions d’archives canadiennes », le premier du genre destiné expressément à la communauté canadienne de gestion des archives et des documents. 

Défis de l’actuelle Loi sur le droit d’auteur du Canada

Malgré ces avancées positives au sein de la communauté archivistique au Canada et ailleurs, il existe encore des obstacles à la création d’un environnement qui respecte véritablement les droits de propriété intellectuelle des Autochtones dans les institutions d’archives canadiennes. Premièrement, il y a des archivistes et des gestionnaires de documents qui s’opposent ou sont indifférents aux lignes directrices en matière d’éthique fournies par la SAA et l’ACA concernant le savoir autochtone; de plus, ces lignes directrices en matière d’éthique sont inapplicables. Même pour ceux qui souhaitent se conformer aux lignes directrices de cadres comme celui récemment produit par le CDAC, des obstacles juridiques existent, notamment dans la Loi sur le droit d’auteur. Les PNAAM vont jusqu’à dire que « les lois occidentales sur le droit d’auteur sont fondées sur des principes diamétralement opposés aux approches juridiques autochtones en matière de savoir » (First Archivists Circle, p. 14). Andrea Bear Nicholas, professeure malécite de la Première Nation de Tobique, l’a exprimé encore plus vigoureusement lorsqu’elle a écrit : « Les lois canadiennes […] ont non seulement cherché à ignorer ou à nier expressément les droits des peuples autochtones de pratiquer et de conserver leur propriété culturelle et intellectuelle, mais aussi à légaliser le vol de celle-ci grâce à la Loi sur le droit d’auteur » (par. 4).

Il existe trois aspects problématiques de la Loi sur le droit d’auteur dans le domaine des archives et de la gestion des documents : 

  • sa définition du titulaire du droit d’auteur comme personne qui a créé l’œuvre (qui exclut le sujet de l’œuvre ou « tiers »); 
  • sa détermination de la durée de la protection du droit d’auteur fondée sur une conception individuelle de la propriété du droit d’auteur (qui exclut la propriété communautaire et intergénérationnelle); 
  • la section propre au Canada sur le droit d’auteur de la Couronne pour les documents gouvernementaux non publiés.

Qui détient le droit d’auteur?

La Loi sur le droit d’auteur du Canada stipule qu’en général, « l’auteur d’une œuvre est le premier titulaire du droit d’auteur […], on reconnaît généralement que l’auteur est la personne qui a créé l’œuvre et l’a exprimée sous une forme ou une autre » (Dryden, Demystifying, p. 15). Dans le cas de photographies prises le 7 novembre 2012 ou après cette date, l’auteur ou le titulaire du droit d’auteur est le photographe (p. 18). Dans le cas d’une entrevue d’histoire orale ou d’un enregistrement sonore, le titulaire du droit d’auteur est l’intervieweur et la « personne responsable des opérations nécessaires à la première fixation des sons, “personne” qui peut être un être humain ou une personne morale » (p. 18).

Cette formulation de la propriété du droit d’auteur pose deux problèmes connexes, mais distincts lorsqu’on aborde le savoir autochtone. Le premier est de savoir à qui la propriété des droits d’auteur est conférée. Comme on peut le constater dans l’énoncé de position de la FCAB, du point de vue occidental sur lequel repose la loi canadienne sur le droit d’auteur, le droit d’auteur appartient à la personne qui a été la première à « fixer » une œuvre. Toutefois, « les peuples autochtones considéreraient les propriétaires comme les personnes d’où proviennent les connaissances » (FCAB, p. 1). Dans sa déclaration devant le comité parlementaire permanent chargé de l’examen de la Loi sur le droit d’auteur, Lynn Lavallée, alors vice-rectrice, Mobilisation autochtone à l’Université du Manitoba, affirme : « La Loi sur le droit d’auteur permet non seulement de favoriser l’appropriation du savoir autochtone […], mais aussi d’ouvrir la porte au vol légalisé de ce savoir, car le droit d’auteur revient à la personne qui a recueilli les informations. Même si la propriété intellectuelle est définie comme des “créations de l’esprit”, lorsqu’un chercheur s’adresse à un Autochtone, qu’il s’agisse d’un Aîné ou d’un gardien du savoir traditionnel, les connaissances qui sont transmises sont au bout du compte la création de l’esprit de la personne qui transmet la connaissance, pourtant, le droit d’auteur va à celui qui collecte l’information » (Lavallée, 16:15).

Du point de vue de certains peuples autochtones, cet aspect de la loi canadienne sur le droit d’auteur peut être considéré comme problématique : non seulement il peut entrer en conflit avec la conception qu’ont les peuples autochtones de la propriété du savoir, mais aussi il doit être vu à travers le prisme des relations historiques entre les colonisateurs et les Autochtones au Canada. Comme nous l’avons vu plus en détail, il existe une « tradition » selon laquelle les personnalités de l’époque coloniale s’emparaient du savoir des Autochtones sans leur consentement. Selon les PNAAM, « […] une collecte originale antérieure aurait pu être effectuée en utilisant la tromperie, la contrainte, un subterfuge et d’autres moyens illicites ou contraires à l’éthique. […] Dans de telles circonstances, les questions liées au titre, au droit d’auteur et à la paternité d’une œuvre sont suspectes » (p. 15). Il n’y a donc aucun doute qu’il existe dans les dépôts d’archives canadiens des documents dont les droits d’auteur ont été transférés aux dépôts par des entités que les peuples autochtones ne considèrent pas comme les propriétaires légitimes des documents.

Qui peut exercer un contrôle sur la protection des droits d’auteur?

La question de la propriété des droits d’auteur est liée à celle de savoir qui a le pouvoir d’exercer un contrôle sur ces protections du droit d’auteur, entre autres le droit de transférer les droits d’auteur à des dépôts d’archives ou d’autoriser des dépôts d’archives à rendre les documents accessibles sous forme physique ou numérique, et les conditions dans lesquelles ces documents peuvent être consultés et utilisés. En outre, la division de la pensée occidentale et dans la théorie archivistique entre le créateur du document et le sujet du document (souvent appelé « tiers ») est au cœur de cet enjeu.  

Cependant Trish Luker élucide ce problème ainsi : « Cette division entre le créateur principal du document et le rôle subsidiaire de sujet du document reflète le paradigme essentialiste de la pensée occidentale selon lequel les sujets du savoir sont considérés comme des objets » (p. 113) et sont dépouillés de leur pouvoir de gérer leurs propres documents.

Naomi Andrew, directrice et avocate générale du Bureau des pratiques équitables et des affaires juridiques à l’Université du Manitoba, a exposé concrètement ce problème devant le Comité permanent :

« Le CNVR est hébergé à l’Université du Manitoba et abrite environ cinq millions de documents liés à l’histoire des pensionnats indiens. Comme la plupart des services d’archives, nous ne sommes pas propriétaires du droit d’auteur de la majorité des documents et des images d’archives. La Loi sur le droit d’auteur constitue un obstacle lorsque l’on communique avec le CNVR pour obtenir la permission d’utiliser des images d’archives à des fins qui appuient clairement la réconciliation. Seul le créateur initial d’une photo peut permettre sa réutilisation en l’absence d’exemption du droit d’auteur. En raison de l’histoire des pensionnats indiens, le fait d’exiger qu’une personne, comme un survivant, ait à communiquer avec un créateur pour obtenir sa permission est un réel obstacle à la vérité et à la réconciliation » .

(Andrew, 14:20)

Quelle est la durée de la protection du droit d’auteur?

Un autre enjeu de la Loi sur le droit d’auteur est la façon de déterminer la durée de protection du droit d’auteur en fonction de la paternité individuelle ou conjointe de l’œuvre avant qu’elle n’entre dans le domaine public. De façon générale, la durée du droit d’auteur au Canada correspond à la durée de la vie de l’auteur plus cinquante ans ou, dans le cas d’une paternité conjointe, à la durée de la vie de l’auteur qui vit le longtemps plus cinquante ans (Dryden, Demystifying, p. 16 et 20).

 Par la suite, l’œuvre est rendue publique et peut être utilisée gratuitement.

Cette formulation ne tient toutefois pas compte de la conception qu’ont certaines communautés autochtones de la propriété communautaire et intergénérationnelle. Comme l’a exprimé Lavallée, « Souvent, les connaissances sont transmises de génération en génération » (Lavallée, 2019). Lors de son témoignage devant le comité permanent chargé de l’examen de la Loi sur le droit d’auteur, Nancy Marelli a présenté les arguments suivants en faveur d’une réforme du droit d’auteur afin d’assurer une meilleure protection du savoir autochtone hébergé dans les dépôts d’archives canadiens : « Les principes fondateurs de la Loi sur le droit d’auteur veulent qu’il appartienne à un auteur jusqu’à sa mort. Dans l’approche autochtone, il existe une propriété communautaire et continue des créations. Les archivistes sont déterminés à travailler avec les collectivités autochtones afin d’offrir une protection appropriée du savoir autochtone et un accès adéquat à celui-ci dans nos fonds documentaires, tout en s’assurant de tenir compte des protocoles traditionnels, des préoccupations et des désirs des peuples autochtones. Nous prions le gouvernement fédéral d’entreprendre une collaboration rigoureuse, respectueuse et transparente avec les peuples autochtones du Canada afin de modifier la Loi sur le droit d’auteur et de reconnaître une approche fondée sur la collectivité » (16:00).

La durée limitée actuelle du droit d’auteur pose également problème. Selon la loi canadienne sur le droit d’auteur, le fait de revendiquer la protection du droit d’auteur pour la propriété intellectuelle force ironiquement les communautés à céder éventuellement le contrôle de leur savoir au domaine public, même si les descendants des créateurs de ce savoir sont toujours vivants. Cette situation est particulièrement problématique dans le cas de documents qui décrivent ce que les PNAAM désignent comme étant des « informations religieuses ou sensibles » (First Archivists Circle, p. 14).

 Comme l’écrit Gregory Younging, « le précepte selon lequel toute la propriété intellectuelle, y compris le savoir traditionnel, est destinée à entrer éventuellement dans le domaine public pose problème aux peuples autochtones parce que le droit coutumier stipule que certains aspects du savoir traditionnel ne sont pas destinés à un accès ou une utilisation externe sous quelque forme que ce soit » (p. 71). Younging précise en outre que « [l]es arguments en faveur de l’inclusion du savoir autochtone dans le domaine public réduisent encore une fois la capacité des peuples autochtones de contrôler leur savoir et de prendre des décisions à son égard […] » (p. 73). À son tour, cela « peut entraîner des risques d’abus ou de détournement […] étant donné que les expressions culturelles traditionnelles ne sont pas entièrement protégées par les régimes de propriété intellectuelle existants : elles font supposément partie du domaine public et sont libres d’utilisation » (Vezina, p. 95).

À qui revient le droit d’auteur de la Couronne?

Enfin, un autre article particulièrement problématique de la Loi sur le droit d’auteur du Canada est l’article 12, qui stipule que la durée du droit d’auteur des œuvres de la Couronne non publiées – essentiellement toute œuvre créée par un ministère et qui n’est pas publiée – n’expire jamais. Avant 2013, l’autorisation d’utiliser des œuvres de la Couronne était centralisée au Crown Copyright and Licensing Office, mais comme l’explique Dryden, le gouvernement a décidé de « transférer ses responsabilités à différents ministères » (Dryden, « Crown Copyright », par. 7), ce qui rend encore plus difficile d’obtenir l’autorisation d’utiliser ces œuvres. Cela pose problème pour les dépôts d’archives, car, comme l’explique Marelli, « les dépôts d’archives canadiens détiennent des millions d’œuvres de la Couronne non publiées qui sont d’intérêt historique, entre autres des correspondances, des rapports, des études, des photographies et des enquêtes – toutes sortes d’œuvres » (15:55).

Comme mentionné dans une section précédente, une grande partie de ce qui est considéré comme des connaissances autochtones conservées dans les archives sont en fait des œuvres de la Couronne. Les documents non publiés liés à l’administration courante des pensionnats indiens sont un exemple d’œuvres de la Couronne non publiées. Le droit d’auteur perpétuel de la Couronne pose des problèmes particulièrement pour le CNVR, ainsi que pour d’autres dépôts d’archives ayant pour mandat d’éduquer le public canadien qui souhaitent numériser leurs fonds. Cet article sur le droit d’auteur de la Couronne – qui accorde essentiellement la propriété communautaire et intergénérationnelle du droit d’auteur des œuvres de la Couronne au gouvernement canadien – est aussi particulièrement troublant à la lumière du refus de celui-ci de réformer la Loi sur le droit d’auteur pour reconnaître le droit des communautés autochtones à cette même propriété communautaire et intergénérationnelle du savoir.

Conclusion : Conséquences futures pour les archivistes et les gestionnaires de documents canadiens

Compte tenu de ces problèmes mis en évidence dans la formulation actuelle de la Loi sur le droit d’auteur du Canada, il ne suffit pas que les archivistes et les gestionnaires de documents et d’informations canadiens adhèrent à la Loi sur le droit d’auteur : en effet, elle ne tient pas compte de nombreuses formes de savoir autochtone et ne prévoit pas de dispositions adéquates pour protéger les droits de propriété intellectuelle des Autochtones. Tant que la Loi n’aura pas été modifiée pour corriger les problèmes susmentionnés, une approche éthique destinée aux dépôts d’archives canadiens doit aller au-delà de la Loi sur le droit d’auteur.

Je propose deux grandes orientations que les archivistes et les gestionnaires de documents canadiens peuvent adopter pour promouvoir et assurer la protection des droits de propriété intellectuelle des Autochtones au sein de leurs propres institutions canadiennes. Premièrement, les professionnels de la gestion des archives, des documents et de l’information peuvent prendre une part active au discours public entourant l’adoption de la DNUDPA par le gouvernement fédéral du Canada, ce qui sera à son tour essentiel pour faire progresser des réformes législatives concrètes de la Loi sur le droit d’auteur. Bien que le gouvernement canadien ait approuvé la DNUDPA après son refus initial de 2007, il n’a pas encore adopté une loi qui l’engagerait à mettre en œuvre et à intégrer les lignes directrices de la Déclaration aux instruments juridiques fédéraux existants comme la Loi sur le droit d’auteur (Gunn, par. 1).

 Les principales recommandations de la DNUDPA en matière de propriété intellectuelle autochtone comprennent, par exemple, l’article 11 qui stipule que « [l]es États doivent accorder réparation par le biais de mécanismes efficaces – qui peuvent comprendre la restitution – mis au point en concertation avec les peuples autochtones, en ce qui concerne les biens culturels, intellectuels, religieux et spirituels qui leur ont été pris sans leur consentement préalable, donné librement et en connaissance de cause, ou en violation de leurs lois, traditions et coutumes » (article 11).

Deuxièmement, jusqu’à la mise en œuvre de la DNUDPA et de ses principes dans le cadre de nos régimes canadiens de droits d’auteur et de propriété intellectuelle, les politiques et procédures internes peuvent être modifiées afin qu’elles reflètent non seulement les lois fédérales et provinciales, mais aussi d’autres normes et lignes directrices. L’Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Protocol for Libraries, Archives, and Information Services et les American Protocols for Native American Archival Materials susmentionnée sont des exemples de documents qui peuvent aider à façonner des politiques et des pratiques au sein de dépôts d’archives individuels qui protègent mieux les droits de propriété intellectuelle des Autochtones. Les principes de PCAP® des Premières Nations (Propriété, Contrôle, Accès et Possession) élaborés par le Comité de gouvernance de l’information des Premières nations constituent également un important « ensemble de normes qui établissent comment les données et les informations des Premières Nations doivent être collectées, protégées, utilisées ou partagées » (CGIPN, par. 1.).  Bien qu’ils aient à l’origine été élaborés en tant que normes de gestion des données de recherche, ces principes peuvent être appliqués à une vaste gamme d’informations, dont de nombreux types de documents.

À propos de l’auteur

Tomoko Shida est une canadien d’origine japonaise avec un baccalauréat en arts, histoire et études religieuses, un baccalauréat en enseignement de l’histoire, une maîtrise en études mondiales et, plus récemment, une Maîtrise en gestion des archives et des documents. Elle travaille actuellement comme archiviste à la bibliothèque de l’Université de Toronto à Mississauga.

Ouvrages cités

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Agarwal, Kritika. (1er octobre 2018). A Way Forward: The Society of American Archivists Endorses Protocols for Native American Archival Materials. Perspectives on History, 1er octobre 2018.

Andrew, Naomi. « Statutory Review of the Copyright Act ». Canada. Parlement. Chambre des communes. Comité permanent de l’industrie, des sciences et de la technologie. Preuve. 42e législature, 1re session, réunion no 112. Parlement du Canada, 10 mai 2018.

Boles, Frank et al. « Report: Task Force to Review Protocols for Native American Archival Materials ». Society of American Archivists Council, 2008,

Callison, Camille. « Statutory Review of the Copyright Act ». Canada. Parlement. Chambre des communes. Comité permanent de l’industrie, des sciences et de la technologie. Preuve. 42e législature, 1re session, réunion no 112. Parlement du Canada, 10 mai 2018.

Canada. Parlement. Chambre des communes. Comité permanent de l’industrie, des sciences et de la technologie. « Examen prévu par la loi de la loi sur le droit d’auteur : Rapport du comité permanent ». 42e législature, 1re session. Parlement du Canada, juin 2019.

Fédération canadienne des associations de bibliothèques. « Position Statement: Indigenous Knowledge in Canada’s Copyright Act ». FCAB, 27 août 2018,

Chapdelaine, Pascale et Myra Tawfik. « Five Critical Components of a Balanced, Modern Canadian Copyright System ». The Globe and Mail, 5 décembre 2018.

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Ministère de la Justice.

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—-. « What Canadian Archivists Know About Copyright and Where They Get Their Knowledge ». Archivaria, vol. 69, 2010, p. 77-116.

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Frogner, Raymond. « Lord, Save Us from the Et Cetera of the Notary’: Archival Appraisal, Local Custom, and Colonial Law ». Archivaria, vol. 79, 2015, p. 121-158.

Geist, Michael. « What’s Next, After the 2012 Copyright Overhaul? » Options politiques, 12 juin 2017.

Gunn, Brenda L. « The Senate Halts Recognition of Indigenous Rights on National Indigenous Peoples Day ». Centre for International Governance Innovation, 24 juin 2019.

Iacovino, Livia. « Rethinking Archival, Ethical and Legal Frameworks for Records of Indigenous Australian Communities: A Participant Relationship Model of Rights and Responsibilities ». Archival Science, vol. 10, 2010, p. 353-372. DOI : 10.1007/ s10502-010-9120-3

Jimerson, Raymond C. Archives Power: Memory, Accountability and Social Justice. Society of American Archivists, 2009.

Lavallée, Lynne. « Statutory Review of the Copyright Act ». Canada. Parlement. Chambre des communes. Comité permanent de l’industrie, des sciences et de la technologie. Preuve. 42e législature, 1re session, réunion no 112. Parlement du Canada, 10 mai 2018.

Luker, Trish. « Decolonizing Archives: Indigenous Challenges to Record Keeping in ‘Reconciling’ Settler Colonial States ». Australian Feminist Studies, vol. 32, nos  91-92, 2017, p. 108-125.

Marelli, Nancy. « Statutory Review of the Copyright Act ». Canada. Parlement. Chambre des communes. Comité permanent de l’industrie, des sciences et de la technologie. Preuve. 42e législature, 1re session, réunion no 119. Parlement du Canada, 31 mai 2018.

Nicholas, Andrea Bear. « Canada’s Laws Have Ignored the Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and even Legalised the Theft of Their Property ». Options politiques, 27 juin 2017.

O’Neal, Jennifer. R. (2014). « Respect, Recognition, and Reciprocity: The Protocols for Native American Archival Materials ». Identity Palimpsests: Archiving Ethnic Identity in the U.S. and Canada, edited by Dominique Daniel & Amalia Levi, Litwin Books, 2014, p. 125-142.

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–.  « Response to the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Taskforce ». Comité directeur sur les archives canadiennes.

Underhill, Karen. J. « Protocols for Native American Archival Materials ». RBM, vol. 7, no 2, 2006, p. 134-145.

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Vezina, Brigitte. « Cultural Institutions and Documentation of Indigenous Cultural Heritage ». Dans Indigenous Notions of Ownership in Libraries, Archives, and Museums, édité par Camille Callison, Lorien Roy et Gretchen Alice LeCheminant, IFLA, 2011, p. 89-106.

Younging, Greg. « The Traditional Knowledge—Intellectual Property Interface ». Dans Indigenous Notions of Ownership in Libraries, Archives, and Museums, éd. par Camille Callison, Lorien Roy et Gretchen Alice LeCheminant, IFLA, 2011, p. 67-73.



Copyright Law and Indigenous Intellectual Property Rights for Canadian Archivists and Records Managers

Sagesse Winter 2021 – An ARMA Canada Publication

By Tomoko Shida

Back to Sagesse 2021


This paper highlights barriers within Canada’s Copyright Act to respecting Indigenous notions of ownership and control over intellectual property in relation to records destined for or held in archives.  It first provides an overview of developments regarding Indigenous knowledge and intellectual property rights in the archival sphere, before turning to the Canadian legal context to examine specific issues within the Copyright Act.

Introduction: Canadian Copyright Context

Copyright law, according to Jean Dryden, is a legal framework that “…attempts to balance a complex array of competing private and societal interests, including those of creators, rights holders, users, and institutions that preserve protected material in order to make it available for use” (“What Canadian Archivists Know,” 78). Archivists and records managers, therefore, can be seen as important stakeholders in discussions concerning copyright, for as Dryden further argues, copyright is a part of all archival functions—from acquisition, description and preservation to access and dissemination. For example, the acquisition of a collection of records sometimes also means the transfer of copyright to the repository, and finding aids include copyright information (78-79). She also highlights the especially thorny issue of providing access to archival records digitally. Dryden writes, “…copyright is widely perceived to be a problem in making cultural heritage materials available online due to difficulties in ascertaining whether or not the copyright has expired, identifying and locating rights holders in order to obtain appropriate permissions, and general uncertainty about the application of copyright in the digital environment” (79). It is clear, therefore, that copyright law is something that many archivists and records managers encounter in their work.

Canada’s own Copyright Act was substantially updated in 2012. A statutory review of the legislations took place between February to December of 2018, and members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science, and Technology met and heard from 209 witnesses from across the country. One of the many issues at play was whether and how the Canadian Copyright Act could be amended to respect Indigenous knowledge and intellectual property rights. The issue was overlooked by some experts of Canadian copyright at the time, including Michael Geist in his 2017 piece, “What’s next, after the 2012 overhaul?”.  Others like Pascale Chapdelaine and Myra Tawfik of the University of Windsor’s Faculty of Law argued in a Globe and Mail article that “consultation with Indigenous peoples” is one of five critical components of a modern copyright system. And that “Canada must initiate a long overdue process of consultation toward the recognition and protection of Indigenous traditional cultural expressions consistent with Canada’s obligations under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, specifically Article 31” (Chapdelaine and Tawfik para 5). Representatives from Canadian library and archival associations like Nancy Marelli for the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA), Camille Callison and Victoria Owen for the Canadian Federation of Library Associations (CFLA), and Naomi Andrew for the University of Manitoba and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) were among the witnesses who advocated for amendments to the Copyright Act to better respect Indigenous knowledge and intellectual property rights.

In June 2019, the Standing Committee chaired by Liberal MP Dan Ruimy produced its final report. It included, among its 36 recommendations, one recommendation related to the “protection of traditional arts and cultural expressions in the context of Reconciliation” (Recommendation 5, Canada 3-4), and a section titled ‘Indigenous Matters’ (26-31). In this section, the Committee acknowledges that “in many cases, the Act fails to meet the expectations of Indigenous peoples with respect to the protection, preservation, and dissemination of their cultural expressions” (30).

However, the report also admits that more concrete amendments to the Act would require “a more focused and extensive consultation process than this statutory review” and that future policy formulations would need to “draw inspiration outside of copyright and intellectual property law and carefully consider how different legal traditions, including Indigenous legal traditions, interact with each other” (30).

In the wake of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the Indian Residential School System, future changes to Canada’s Copyright Act will no doubt have implications for Canadian archivists and records managers. This is especially true for those that deal with records pertaining to Indigenous peoples—whether as creators or subjects of those records. After all, archivists often work within cultural institutions that “lie at the tensed junction of various stakeholder’s needs and interests: on the one hand, creators, researchers, scholars and the broader public wish to access, study, share, re-use and re-create traditional cultural heritage held within the rich and varied collections of cultural institutions. On the other hand, indigenous peoples wish to prevent the misappropriation of their cultures” (Vezina 100).Likewise, potential changes to notions of ownership and control over intellectual property will require records managers to re-examine many aspects of their practice, including in the classification, retention, disposition, and access to records in their safekeeping that pertain to Indigenous peoples. 

The aim of this paper, therefore, is to examine aspects of the Canadian Copyright Act that has been flagged as being problematic from the perspective of Indigenous stakeholders in relation to records destined for or already held in archival repositories. It will do so by first defining ‘Indigenous knowledge’ in the context of archives, then providing an overview of the developments in the archival sphere regarding Indigenous knowledge and intellectual property rights, before turning to the Canadian legal context to examine specific issues within the current Copyright Act.

Indigenous Knowledge in Archives and Other Cultural Heritage Institutions

Indigenous knowledge encompasses both traditional knowledge defined as “Indigenous cultural expressions and manifestations (TK) that are passed on by Indigenous ancestors through successive generations” as well as “contemporary Indigenous knowledge and knowledge developed from a combination of traditional   and contemporary knowledge” (Younging 67). Article 31 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) outlines in more detail some categories of Indigenous knowledge when it states, “Indigenous peoples have the   right to maintain, control, protect, and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts” (UNDRIP, Article 31).

In a statement spearheaded by Indigenous librarian and archivist, Camille Callison, the CFLA’s Position Statement on Indigenous Knowledge in Canada’s  Copyright Act defines Indigenous knowledge and cultural expressions as including “… tangible and intangible expressions including oral traditions, songs, dance, storytelling, anecdotes, place names, and hereditary names” (CFLA para 2). Livia Iacovino further breaks down Indigenous knowledge that is considered to be archival into the following four categories:

  1. “oral memory and associated traditions”
  2. “oral memory which has been captured using various Western technologies”
  3. “records created by Indigenous people and organisations using the structures and forms of Western knowledge and communication systems”
  4. “records created by non-Indigenous people and Indigenous people” (355-356)

Traditional Western archival theory has tended not to recognize Iacovino’s first category, oral memory, as being an archival record, but this is beginning to change. For example, in addition to Iacovino, Canadian archivist Raymond Frogner urges public archives to explore ways that “unwritten Aboriginal culture and tradition” can be acquired in order to “safeguard a meaningful representation of the social  constituencies of our constitutional democracy” (Frogner 126). Similarly, Rachel Buchanan “argues that in order to decolonize…the definition of what qualifies as archival must be broadened” (cited in Luker 112). Iacovino’s second category of Indigenous knowledge includes words, stories and songs that have been documented in some tangible form using Western technologies such as pen and paper, computers, tape recorders, etc. The third category refers to, for example, textual, audio and digital records created by Indigenous people living and creating now in a variety of forms like letters, novels, CDs, blogs, etc.

Lastly, it is especially important to note that Iacovino includes records created by non-Indigenous people as also being considered Indigenous knowledge, as this category makes up a bulk of the Indigenous knowledge contained in Canadian archival repositories—primarily government, church and university archives. Though she is writing in the American context, Jennifer O’Neal’s description of how and why these records ended up in archives applies to Canada as well. O’Neal writes, “…the bulk of the historical documentation derives from anthropologists, ethnographers, and historians, who often believed that Native American communities were disappearing. The resulting collections, which included items such as field notes, manuscripts, and recordings, were often donated to universities, local and state historical societies, museums, and religious organisations that were frequently far from the source community they originated from […and…] most likely without the knowledge of the tribal community” (O’Neal 129-130). In the Canadian context Frogner explains, “[o]ur public archival memory is overflowing with the settler communities’ documentation of the Indigenous colonial experience: Indian agency reports, missionary records, trap-line records, land reserve commissions, and anthropological studies” (128). Library and Archives Canada  alone holds close to 20 kilometres of textual records that document the Canadian settler-colonial state’s relationship with Indigenous peoples.

The Archival Community’s Responses to Indigenous Knowledge

The archives and records management profession in North American can be seen as being somewhat behind in addressing Indigenous peoples’ concerns regarding their culture and knowledge, but has been taking important steps forward more recently. In 1990, the Native American Graves Protection Act (NAGPRA) was passed in the United States, which required all institutions receiving federal funding to return any “cultural items” they held belonging to Native American tribes. However, according to Randall Jimerson, “[t]his significant change in museum practices set a precedent that archives have been slow to follow, despite scattered appeals to apply the concepts of NAGPRA to archival materials” (354). The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Protocol for Libraries, Archives, and Information Services was produced not long after in 1995 in Australia (135), but it took more than a decade for a similar American document to be produced, and then another decade for it to be officially endorsed by the influential national archival association, the Society of American Archivists.

The First Archivist Circle drafted the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials (hereafter referred to as PNAAM or the Protocols) in 2006. This group of “19 archivists, librarians, museum professionals and scholars,” most of whom were Native American or First Nations, was convened in Arizona by Karen J. Underhill, then the head of Special Collections and Archives at the Northern Arizona University Cline Library (Agarwal para 2). Borrowing heavily from the Australian Protocols, the purpose of the PNAAM was to provide guidelines on best practices “for the management and care of Native American archival materials held at non-tribal repositories” (para 2).

The First Archivist Circle approached a number of associations including the Society of American Archivists (SAA) to seek endorsement for the Protocols but failed in both 2008 and 2012 (Agarwal para 10).  According to the authors of the report on the first failed attempt to get SAA endorsement, the Protocols’ stance on intellectual property and copyright was especially targeted for criticism by SAA members (Boles, et al. 10). The SAA’s working group on intellectual property was especially adamant about its opposition to two points relating to intellectual property rights, writing that “SAA should be wary of endorsing the creation of third party rights in archival materials where none currently exist” and “Western copyright is based on the idea of individual authorship, rather than cultural traditions” (cited in Boles, et al. 58). It was only in August 2018 that the SAA Council finally officially endorsed the document, making the following statement in its announcement: “Many of the original criticisms of the Protocols were based in the language of cultural insensitivity and white supremacy…

We regret and apologize that SAA did not take action to endorse the Protocols sooner and engage in more appropriate discussion” (SAA para 4-5).

In comparison to Australia and the United States, Canada was much slower in producing a collective set of guidelines for archivists and records managers working with Indigenous materials. Consideration for Indigenous intellectual property rights in archives was embedded within the Association of Canadian Archivist’s (ACA) Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct when it was revised in 2017.  ‘Section 5: Sovereignty’ states, “Records and information relating to Indigenous Peoples is administered in a way that is consistent with guidance provided by and in consultation with Indigenous communities.” It cites a number of outside documents including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Protocols for Libraries, Archives and Information Services as documents they encourage archivists to consult (ACA 3-4). Section 3 does not explicitly mention Indigenous peoples, but the wording has been crafted to include considerations specifically relevant to Indigenous peoples. For example, Section 3a explains, “We respect the privacy of the individuals who created or are the subjects of records, especially persons and communities who had no voice in the creation, transmission, disposition, or preservation of the records” (5). The addition of the words “communities” as well as “creation, transmission, and preservation” in comparison to the old ACA Code of Ethics signifies that the drafters of the new revision recognized the colonial legacy of settler documentation and collection of records about Indigenous communities without consent that fill settler archival repositories like national, provincial, and church archives (Frogner 127). However, it is important to note that this Code of Ethics does not provide the level of detailed or comprehensive guidance as provided in the American and Australian documents. 

Most recently, the Steering Committee on Canada’s Archives (SCCA), made up of representatives from the Association des archivistes du Québec (AAQ), Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA), Association of Records Managers and Administrators Canada Region (ARMA Canada), the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA), Council of Provincial and Territorial Archivists (CPTA), and Library and Archives Canada (LAC), formed a taskforce in 2016 to formulate a response to the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. According to its website, the SCCA’s Response to the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Taskforce’s mandate is to “… conduct a review of archival policies and best practices existent across the country and identify potential barriers to reconciliation efforts between the Canadian archival community and Indigenous record keepers” (SCCA para 1). In July 2020, this taskforce released a public draft of its “A Reconciliation Framework for Canadian Archives,” the first of its kind specifically for the Canadian archives and records management community. 

Challenges within the Current Canadian Copyright Act

Despite these positive developments within the archival community in Canada and beyond, there are still barriers that exist in the creation of an environment that truly respects Indigenous intellectual property rights in Canadian archives. For one, there are archivists and records managers that are opposed or indifferent to the ethical guidelines provided by the SAA and the ACA regarding Indigenous knowledge, and as ethical guidelines, they are unenforceable. Even for those who wish to adhere to the guidelines provide by frameworks such as that recently produced by the SCCA, legal barriers exist, including in the Copyright Act. The PNAAM goes as far as to say, “Western copyright laws are based on principles which are diametrically opposite to Indigenous legal approaches to knowledge” (First Archivists Circle 14). Andrea Bear Nicholas, a Maliseet professor from the Tobique First Nation put it even more strongly when she wrote, “Canada’s laws…have worked not only to ignore and/or specifically deny the rights of Indigenous peoples to practice and maintain their cultural and intellectual property but also to legalise the theft of Indigenous cultural and intellectual property through the Copyright Act” (para 4).

Three specific problematic areas of the Canadian Copyright Act in the realm of archives and records management are 

  • its formulation of the owner of copyright as the individual that created the work (excluding the subject of the work or the ‘third-party’); 
  • its determination of the duration of copyright protection based on the understanding of individual copyright ownership (excluding communal, intergenerational ownership); 
  • and the Canada-specific section on Crown copyright for unpublished government records.

Who owns the copyright?

Canada’s Copyright Act stipulates that in general, “[t]he author of a work is the first owner of copyright….the general understanding is that the author is the person who created the work and expressed it in some form” (Dryden, Demystifying, 15). In the case of photographs taken on or after November 7, 2012, the author or owner of copyright is the photographer (18). In the case of an oral history interview or a sound recording, the owner of copyright is the interviewer and the “the person who made the arrangements for the first fixation of the sounds […where…] the ‘person’ can be a human being or corporation” (18).

This formulation of copyright ownership poses two related but distinct problems for dealing with Indigenous knowledge. First is the issue of who ownership of copyright is conferred onto. As we can see from CFLA’s position statement, from the Western perspective on which Canadian copyright law is based, copyright belongs to the   person who first “fixed” a work. However, “Indigenous peoples would see the owners  as the people from where the knowledge originated” (CFLA 1). In her statement before the parliamentary standing committee conducting the statutory review of the Copyright Act, Lynn Lavallée, then Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement at the University of Manitoba states, “The Copyright Act not only allows for the appropriation of   Indigenous knowledge but… it also opens the door for the legalized theft of   Indigenous knowledge, because copyright gives copyright to the person who has collected the information. Even though intellectual property is defined as “creations of

the mind,” when a researcher speaks to Indigenous people, whether they’re elders or traditional knowledge holders, the knowledge that is shared is ultimately the creation of the mind of the person sharing the knowledge, yet copyright goes to the collector of the information” (Lavallée 16:15).

From the perspective of some Indigenous peoples, this aspect of Canadian copyright law can be considered problematic not only because it can come into conflict with Indigenous peoples’ understandings of knowledge ownership, but also in light of historical settler-Indigenous relations in Canada. As previously discussed in more detail, there is a longstanding “tradition” of colonial figures taking Indigenous knowledge without consent. According to the PNAAM, “… previous original collecting that may have been carried out with deception, duress, subterfuge, and other unethical or illicit means….Under any of these circumstances, issues of title, copyright, and authorship are suspect” (15). Thus, there are no doubt records in Canadian archival repositories where copyright has been transferred to the archives by entities which Indigenous peoples do not view as being the rightful owners.

Who can exercise control over copyright protections?

Related to this issue of who ownership of copyright is conferred onto, is the issue of who has the authority to exercise control over these copyright protections and rights, including the right to transfer copyright to an archives or the right to give permission to an archives to make records available, either in physical or digital form, and/or the conditions under which these records may be accessed and used. At the heart of this problem is the division within Western thought as well as in archival theory between the records creator and record subject (often referred to as a third-party). Trish Luker elucidates this problem when she writes, “This division between the primary record creator and the subsidiary role of record subject reflects the essentializing paradigm of Western intellectual thought in which subjects of knowledge are objectified” (113) and stripped of their power to manage their own records.

A concrete example where this has been an issue was provided by Naomi Andrew, Director and General Counsel of Fair Practice and Legal Affairs at the University of Manitoba during her presentation before the Standing Committee. In it, she stated:

“The NCTR is hosted at the University of Manitoba and is home to approximately five million documents relating to the history of Indian residential schools. As with most archives, we do not own the copyright of the majority of archival documents and images. “The Copyright Act” serves as a barrier when NCTR is contacted for permission to use archival images for purposes that clearly support reconciliation. Only the original creator of the photograph can permit its reuse if a copyright exemption does not apply. Because of the history of Indian residential schools, the requirement for an individual, such as a survivor, to have to contact a creator for permission is a very real barrier to truth and reconciliation”

(Andrew 14:20)

What is the duration of copyright protection?

Another problematic part of the Canadian Copyright Act is its way of determining duration of copyright protection based on individual or joint authorship before being released into the public domain. Generally speaking, the duration of copyright in Canada is the life of the author plus fifty years or in the case of joint

authorship, the life of the author who lives longest plus fifty (Dryden, Demystifying, 16 and 20). After this, the work is then released to the public domain and is free for anyone to use.

This formulation, however, does not take into account some Indigenous communities’ understanding of communal and intergenerational ownership. As Lavallée expressed, “Oftentimes, the knowledge is passed down through the generations” (Lavallée 2019). During her testimony before the standing committee reviewing the Copyright Act, Nancy Marelli made the following case for copyright reform in order to ensure stronger protection for Indigenous knowledge housed in Canadian archives: “The foundational principles of copyright legislation are that copyright is owned by an author for a term based on the author’s life. In the Indigenous approach, there is ongoing community ownership of creations. Archivists are committed to working with Indigenous communities to provide appropriate protection and access to the Indigenous knowledge in our holdings, while at the same time ensuring the traditional protocols, concerns, and wishes of Indigenous peoples are addressed. We urge the federal government to engage in a rigorous, respectful, and transparent collaboration with Canada’s Indigenous peoples to amend the Copyright Act to recognize a community-based approach” (16:00).

The current formulation of copyright protections as being of limited duration, is itself problematic as well. According to Canadian copyright law, claiming copyright protection over intellectual property ironically forces communities to then eventually relinquish their control over their knowledge into the public domain, even if descendants of this knowledge are still living. This is especially problematic in cases of records that depict what the PNAAM formulates as “religious or sensitive information” (First Archivists Circle 14). As Gregory Younging writes, the “precept that all intellectual property, including TK [traditional knowledge], is intended to eventually enter the public domain is a problem for indigenous peoples because customary law dictates that certain aspects of TK are not intended for external access and use in any form” (71). Younging further explains, “[arguments for a public domain of indigenous knowledge again reduce the capacity for indigenous peoples’ control and decision making over their knowledge…” (73). This in turn “may bring about risks of misuse or misappropriation… in view of the fact that traditional cultural expressions are not fully protected by existing intellectual property systems: they are allegedly in the public domain, free for anyone to use” (Vezina 95).

Whither Crown copyright?

Lastly, another particularly problematic section of the Canadian Copyright Act is section 12 on Crown copyright, which stipulates that the copyright term of unpublished Crown works –essentially any work created by a government department that is not published–never expires. Prior to 2013, permission to use Crown works was centralised in the Crown Copyright and Licensing Office, but as Dryden explains, the government decided to “devolve its responsibilities to individual departments” (Dryden, “Crown Copyright,” para 7), making it even more difficult to get permission to use these works. This is problematic for archives, for as Marelli explains, “Canadian archives hold millions of unpublished Crown works of historical interest, including correspondence, reports, studies, photographs, and surveys—all kinds of works” (15:55).

As mentioned in a previous section, a large portion of what is considered Indigenous knowledge held in archives are in fact Crown works. Unpublished records related to the day-to-day administration of Indian residential schools, are an example of unpublished Crown works. Perpetual Crown copyright poses problems especially for the NCTR, as well as other archives with mandates to educate the Canadian public and who wish to digitize their holdings. This section on Crown copyright—which essentially grants communal, intergenerational ownership of copyright of Crown works to the Canadian government—is also especially troubling in light of the government’s refusal to reform copyright legislation to recognize Indigenous communities’ right to this same communal, intergenerational ownership of knowledge.

Conclusion: Future Implications for Canadian Archivists and Records Managers

In light of these problems highlighted in the current formulation of Canada’s Copyright Act, it is not enough for Canadian archivists and records and information managers to simply adhere to copyright legislation—it does not take into account many forms of Indigenous knowledge, and it does not provide adequate provisions for protecting Indigenous intellectual property rights. Until the Act has been amended to rectify the issues mentioned above, an ethical approach within Canadian archival repositories must look beyond the Copyright Act.

I would suggest two broad directions that Canadian archivists and records managers can take in order to promote and ensure the protection of Indigenous intellectual property rights within their own Canadian institutions. First, archives and  records and information management professionals can take an active interest and role in the public discourse surrounding the adoption of UNDRIP by the Canadian federal government, which in turn will be key to pushing forward concrete legislative reforms to the Copyright Act. While the Canadian government has endorsed UNDRIP after its initial refusal in 2007, it has stopped short of passing legislation that would commit it to implementing and integrating UNDRIP’s guidelines into existing federal legal instruments like the Copyright Act (Gunn para 1). Key recommendations within UNDRIP related to Indigenous intellectual property include, for example, Article 11 which states that “States shall provide redress through effective mechanisms, which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples, with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs” (Article 11).

Second, until the implementation UNDRIP and its principles within our Canadian copyright and intellectual property rights regimes, in-house policies and procedures can be amended so that they reflect not only federal and provincial legislation, but also other standards and guidelines. The aforementioned Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Protocol for Libraries, Archives, and Information Services and the American Protocols for Native American Archival Materials are examples of documents that can help shape policies and practices within individual archival repositories that better protect Indigenous intellectual property rights. The First Nations Principles of OCAP® (Ownership, Control, Access and Possession) developed by the First Nations Information Governance Committee are also an important “set of standards that establish how First Nations data should be collected, protected, used or shared” (FNIGC para 1). Although originally developed as standards for managing research data, its principles can be applied to a broad range information, including records of many types.

About the Author

Tomoko Shida is a Japanese Canadian settler with a BA in history & religious studies, B.Ed in teaching history, MA in global studies, and most recently an MI in archives & records management. She currently works as an archivist at the University of Toronto Mississauga Library. 

Works Cited

Association of Canadian Archivists. “Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.” Association of Canadian Archivists, 2017.

Agarwal, Kritika. (2018, Oct. 1). A Way Forward: The Society of American Archivists Endorses Protocols for Native American Archival Materials. Perspectives on History, 1 Oct. 2018.

Andrew, Naomi. “Statutory Review of the Copyright Act.” Canada. Parliament. House of Commons. Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. Evidence. 42nd Parliament, 1st session, Meeting No. 112. Parliament of Canada, 10 May 2018.

Boles, Frank, et al. “Report: Task Force to Review Protocols for Native American Archival Materials.” Society of American Archivists Council, 2008, governance/taskforces/0208-NativeAmProtocols-IIIA.pdf.

Callison, Camille. “Statutory Review of the Copyright Act.” Canada. Parliament. House of Commons. Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. Evidence. 42nd Parliament, 1st session, Meeting No. 112. Parliament of Canada, 10 May 2018.

Canada. Parliament. House of Commons. Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. “Statutory Review of the Copyright Act: Report of the Standing Committee.” 42nd Parliament, 1st session. Parliament of Canada, June 2019.

Canadian Federation of Library Associations. “Position Statement: Indigenous Knowledge in Canada’s Copyright Act. CFLA, 27 Aug. 2018, uploads/2018/12/CFLA-FCAB_Indigenous_knowledge_statement.pdf.

Chapdelaine, Pascale and Myra Tawfik. “Five Critical Components of a Balanced, Modern Canadian Copyright System.” The Globe and Mail, 5 Dec. 2018.

Copyright Act. Revised Statutes of Canada, c.42. Canada. Department of Justice. 1985.

Department of Justice.

Dryden, Jean. (2017, September 22). “Crown Copyright Law is Outdated and Requires Comprehensive Reform.” Policy Options, 22 Sept. 2017.

—-. Demystifying Copyright: A Researcher’s Guide to Copyright in Canadian Libraries and Archives, 2nd ed., Canadian Library Association, 2014.

—-. “What Canadian Archivists Know About Copyright and Where They Get Their Knowledge.” Archivaria, vol. 69, 2010, pp. 77-116.

First Nations Information Governance Centre. “The First Nations Principles of OCAP®.” First National Information Governance Centre,

Frogner, Raymond. “‘Lord, Save Us from the Et Cetera of the Notary’: Archival Appraisal, Local Custom, and Colonial Law.” Archivaria, vol. 79, 2015, pp. 121-158.

Geist, Michael. “What’s Next, After the 2012 Copyright Overhaul?” Policy Options, 12 June 2017.

Gunn, Brenda L. “The Senate Halts Recognition of Indigenous Rights on National Indigenous Peoples Day.” Centre for International Governance Innovation, 24 June 2019.

Iacovino, Livia. “Rethinking Archival, Ethical and Legal Frameworks for Records of Indigenous Australian Communities: A Participant Relationship Model of Rights and Responsibilities.” Archival Science, vol. 10, 2010, pp. 353-372. DOI: 10.1007/ s10502-010-9120-3

Jimerson, Raymond C. Archives Power: Memory, Accountability and Social Justice. Society of American Archivists, 2009.

Lavallée, Lynne. “Statutory Review of the Copyright Act.” Canada. Parliament. House of Commons. Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. Evidence. 42nd Parliament, 1st session, Meeting No. 112. Parliament of Canada, 10 May 2018.

Luker, Trish. “Decolonizing Archives: Indigenous Challenges to Record Keeping in ‘Reconciling’ Settler Colonial States.” Australian Feminist Studies, vol. 32, nos. 91-92, 2017, pp. 108-125.

Marelli, Nancy. “Statutory Review of the Copyright Act.” Canada. Parliament. House of Commons. Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. Evidence. 42nd Parliament, 1st session, Meeting No. 119. Parliament of Canada, 31 May 2018.

Nicholas, Andrea Bear. “Canada’s Laws Have Ignored the Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and even Legalised the Theft of Their Property. Policy Option, 27 June 2017.

O’Neal, Jennifer. R. (2014). “Respect, Recognition, and Reciprocity: The Protocols for Native American Archival Materials.” Identity Palimpsests: Archiving Ethnic Identity in the U.S. and Canada, edited by Dominique Daniel & Amalia Levi, Litwin Books, 2014, pp. 125-142.

Society of American Archivists (SAA). “SAA Council Endorsement of Protocols for Native American Archival Materials.” Society of American Archivists, 14 Sept. 2018,

Steering Committee on Canada’s Archives. “A Reconciliation Framework for Canadian Archives: Draft for Public Review.” Steering Committee on Canada’s Archives website, Jul. 2020. 

–.  “Response to the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Taskforce.” Steering Committee on Canada’s Archives website.

Underhill, Karen. J. “Protocols for Native American Archival Materials.” RBM, vol. 7, no. 2, 2006, pp. 134-145.

United Nations. “United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” 13 September 2007.

Vezina, Brigitte. “Cultural Institutions and Documentation of Indigenous Cultural Heritage.” In Indigenous Notions of Ownership in Libraries, Archives, and Museums, edited by Camille Callison, Lorien Roy & Gretchen Alice LeCheminant, IFLA, 201, pp. 89-106.

Younging, Greg. “The Traditional Knowledge—Intellectual Property Interface.” In Indigenous Notions of Ownership in Libraries, Archives, and Museums, edited by Camille Callison, Lorien Roy & Gretchen Alice LeCheminant, IFLA, 2011, pp. 67-73.


Sagesse: Journal of Canadian Records and Information Management

an ARMA Canada Publication

Winter, 2021 | Volume VI, Issue I

Back to Sagesse 2021

Welcome to ARMA Canada’s sixth issue of Sagesse: Journal of Canadian Records and Information Management, an ARMA Canada publication.

Sagesse Editorial Team

Sagesse’s Editorial Board wishes to thank Uta Fox, CRM, FAI, for publishing five World Class issues of Sagesse.  Uta is one of the founding members of Sagesse as well as the original ARMA Canada, Canadian Content Director.  One of Uta’s many accomplishments include the Britt Literary Award for her article titled “Migrating Legacy Records – a Case Study”.  This award is presented to the author of the best “feature” article appearing in the Information Management magazineThe Board is pleased to inform you that Uta will be remaining as part of the Editorial team.

We are also excited about the addition of Heather McAra-Tinkler to the Editorial board. Heather is the Information Management and Printing Service Team Lead at FortisAlberta.  She also has experience as a Web designer and Newsletter editor for the ARMA Calgary Chapter from 2006 to 2008.  Heather enjoys spending time outdoors with her family. Please join me in welcoming Heather. 

We hope you attended and benefited from the first Sagesse Live webinar held in May of 2020.  Lori Ashley from Preservica presented “Integrate Digital Preservation into Your Information Governance Program”. We were also lucky to have Christy Walters and Crystal Walters who shared their experiences with “The Transformational Impacts of Big Data and Analytics”. The next Sagesse Live is currently in the planning stages. Stay tuned!

University Essay Contest

ARMA Canada held its third essay contest for graduate students enrolled in graduate information management programs at Canadian universities in 2020.  We are pleased to announce that Tomoko Shida from the University of Toronto was the $1,000 recipient with the article “Copyright Law and Indigenous Intellectual Property Rights for Canadian Archivists and Records Managers”. This article focuses on the barriers within Canada’s Copyright Act to respecting Indigenous notions of ownership and control over intellectual property in relation to records destined for or held in archives.  It provides an overview of developments regarding Indigenous knowledge and intellectual property rights in the archival sphere, before turning to the Canadian legal context to examine specific issues within the Copyright Act. 

Tomoko Shida’s article has also been translated into French, “La Loi sur le droit d’auteur et les droits de propriété intellectuelle autochtones pour les archivistes et les gestionnaires de documents canadiens”.

The recipients of the $600 award are Nicole D’Angela and Madeleine Krucker, both from the University of Toronto, for their article, The Current State of Privacy in Canadian Archives”.  This article explores the situation of privacy in Canadian archives, focusing on personal records within non-government institutions.  It provides a review of Canadian privacy legislation and past discussions in the information management community that have addressed the relationship between archives and privacy.  Through investigating the roles held by archivists, researchers, and governments, this paper considers ethics, access, and the utilization of personal information in archival holdings.  It is evident that a gap exists within archival conversations pertaining to privacy.  This oversight must be addressed by the resurgence of discussion, advocating for updated legislation, and an inclusion of forward-thinking concepts.  This paper encourages archivists to reintroduce themselves as privacy protectors.

Congratulations to our students! 

2021 Sagesse Articles

Many of the articles in this edition address the issues, challenges and changes that RIM managers and consultants are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sandra Bates and Amitabh Srivastav show that Digital Transformation (DT) is a key driver and a critical factor for organizational success in the current digital business environment in their article Starting the Digital Transformation Journey in a Pandemic:  Understanding Concepts and Enablers to Achieve Success. The reality of the world-wide pandemic significantly affected normal business and social activities and has vaulted DT to the forefront of management’s priorities.  DT has forced management in businesses and governments alike to digitally transform in order to continue functioning and providing products and services. 

Bruce Miller examines a fresh approach to the retention schedule in his article Re-Envisioning the Retention Schedule”. This approach uses electronic recordkeeping software to provide new capabilities and techniques for managing digital records that were not previously possible with physical records.

Bruce Miller’s article has been translated into French, “Repenser le calendrier de conservation: Comment élaborer un calendrier de conservation adapté aux logiciels”. 

There were many challenges posed by the shutdown and people working from home was one of them. In this article How Projects, Technology and Solutions were Impacted by Covid-19: The Issues and Solutions We Faced.  Troy Sawyer discusses his firsthand participation in three projects; how some things changed to adjust to the pandemic and what stayed the same.  

Have you found yourself trying to recall pieces of your medical history?  Alexandra Bradley’s (Sandie) article Medical Information Management for Covid 19 or Other Medical Emergency/Procedures examines why one’s personal medical information is a critical record, why record keeping techniques are necessary to access and preserve this information, and how this information assists with successful medical treatment.  Observations are based on the author’s personal journey through the Canadian health care environment.  Beyond treatment, a person should also consider what information to have immediately available in case of a sudden emergency.  These records should be maintained for immediate access in case a person is stricken or must evacuate their home quickly.

The use of a digital student record is transforming recordkeeping practices for the creation, management, and disposition of records in Alberta.  Donna Molloy’s article Leveraging Digital Transformation to Benefit Student Learning – Creating a Digital Student Record in Alberta explains what school divisions are doing to create and maintain digital records.  It identifies strategies for Alberta school divisions preparing to upload digital student records into the provincial Department of Education’s digital record repository.  Successful implementation of a digital student record project requires collaboration, resource sharing and engaging staff. 

Jay Jorgensen’s article “Extraordinary and Pragmatic: Targeted Information Management in Higher Education” describes how a large Canadian University responded to both the COVID-19 pandemic and a significant multi-year reduction to its operating budget and government funding model.  He introduces three case studies that highlight the different responses taken to change or enhance organizational information management practice in response to environmental factors. 

Please note the disclaimer at the end of this Introduction stating the opinions expressed by the authors in this publication are not the opinions of ARMA Canada or the editorial committee.  We are interested in hearing whether you agree or not with this content or have other thoughts or recommendations about the publication. Please forward to:

If you are interested in providing an article for Sagesse or wish to obtain more information on writing for Sagesse, visit the ARMA Canada’s website – – see Sagesse


ARMA Canada’s Sagesse’s Editorial Review Committee: 

Christine Ardern, CRM, FAI, IGP; Barbara Bellamy, CRM, ARMA Canada Director of Canadian Content; Alexandra (Sandie) Bradley, CRM, FAI; Pat Burns, CRM; Sandra Dunkin, MLIS, CRM, IGP; Heather McAra-Tinkler; Stuart Rennie, JD, MLIS, BA (Hons.), FAI; and Uta Fox, CRM, FAI.


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While ARMA Canada has made reasonable efforts to ensure that the contents of this publication are accurate, ARMA Canada does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, currency or completeness of the contents of this publication.  Opinions of authors of material published on the ARMA Canada website are not an endorsement by ARMA Canada or ARMA International and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policy of ARMA Canada or ARMA International.

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