How Projects, Technology and Solutions Were Impacted By COVID-19: The Issues and Solutions We Faced


by Troy Sawyer


Back to Sagesse 2021



This article looks at the impact of COVID-19 on various consulting projects in which I was involved and looks at the challenges posed by the shutdown and clients working from home.


As records and information management professionals, we have always worked well offsite with our clients, using tools such as conference calls and remote desktop sharing to develop, implement, execute and deliver everything from policy development to system architecture, in order to support custom development.

2020 started off with a number of great projects.  Looking back at project timesheets, I started my research for this article to see where my time was actually spent in the first few months of the year. To preface this, my role varies significantly throughout the projects we will look at. This article provides a view that is not specific to my application developer role, records consulting role or software implementer and trainer role including an in-depth look at some specific projects. The following is a breakdown of the categories of tasks undertaken within each project from the review of those early timesheets.

  • Records Management and Software Implementation
    • Content classification
  • Training, Webinars and Documentation
    • We did a multi part webinar series on one of our software tools
  • Legacy Database Migration
    • A few projects regarding legacy databases from old Microsoft Access, spreadsheets and servers.
  • Reporting
    • This mainly included security and auditing.

When COVID-19 first appeared we had to look at all the projects to see what was involved, the focus on what we could do and next steps. The world (or offices) was our oyster and things were moving along. 

Pre-COVID-19 PROJECT Management Process

Before diving into some specific projects, the issues and ultimately how they were handled, let’s look at the good and bad of managing projects pre COVID-19. 


The approach to managing the projects pre COVID-19 was very structured. Projects had been done for years and followed a set process/template, which varied depending on the project type and client industries. Each one required the creation of a Request for Information/Request for Proposal (RFI/RFP); receiving a Purchase order and preparing a contract with the client, signing a non-disclosure agreement (NDA); creating the necessary reports and documentation and following a series of predefined steps to incorporate project planning, set up and completion with client sign-off.  Given that the processes were well defined, project documentation and planning steps were created quickly with amendments made according to client needs.


Pre COVID-19 times, while being structured has a positive side, it also has a negative side – it can lead to rigid processes that can sometimes slow projects down and create obstacles. Strict and rigid processes around creating and gathering required project paperwork, and scheduled meetings can also slow up progress. For example, there is a need for certain paperwork to be completed between the company and the client before a project can start, NDAs , Statements of Work (SOW) , Purchase Orders (POs)) or contracts in general. Often clients require a non-disclosure agreement prior to starting a project and in order for us to bill a client, we need a purchase order.  I am always the worst when it comes to doing work on the project before the NDA or even a PO is complete because I want to get started on the project.  The “legal” paperwork as discussed above, does not impact my role directly. 

In the following sections, we’ll outline our experiences and show how different methods of approaching projects have worked out during this time of COVID-19. 

COVID-19 and mid project adjustments

As projects moved along from the beginning of the year, little did we know what was coming or how much it would affect existing projects that were at many different stages of implementation. Many steps in the process were slowed down because people were working from home, which affected such activities as paperwork being signed. In general, access to resources required for projects was the main factor in slowing projects down. 

There were many projects where there was an increase in urgency, created because people were working from home.  Working from home created issues around data security and accessing both physical and electronic information. 

Hindsight is always 20/20; if we knew now what we did then things may have been different. For the remainder of this article, let us look at what did happen, and what the issues were.

What Didn’t Change

As a Records Management Consultant and Developer, my day to day didn’t change. With our office setup, I continued to work from the office while following the “new normal” guidelines and restrictions. Days were filled with data analytics, software feature development, documentation creation and other aspects of the projects in which we were involved. Many of our clients are outside of our immediate vicinity and to reduce project costs most of our work has been completed remotely for years, so our day to day activities continued. Given our use of desktop and screen sharing tools such as ZOOM and Microsoft Teams, we were able to continue to move work forward using the technology available to us without having to be onsite 

While some things changed, others did not – meeting deadlines, applying Microsoft patches and licensing continued. Current projects had a number of time bombs with the timers ticking. 

Through the next sections I will break down some of the mid project adjustments required, focusing on three project types:

  1. Legacy Database Conversion 
  2. Electronic Document Management Software Upgrade
  3. Corporate Strategy for Records Management

Using each of these projects, I will look at the time bombs, how they were impacted by the global pandemic and how we handled them. Section 1 describes the challenges of each scenario.  

1. Legacy Database Conversion – Resource and Deadline Challenges

For this project, a client had many home-grown Access Databases that were being migrated to a cloud implementation of WesternIM’s Records and Information Management Tool – WISPIR (WesternIM’s Information System for Physical Inventory Recording). This project had been approved for about a month but the actual project work was in the early stages. With only a half a dozen people involved, we will look at how mid project resources were cutback, limited, transitioned to new jobs or given other priorities. How did we succeed where other projects were in jeopardy of failing? 

In terms of the Legacy Database Conversions, the perfect storm happened. Not only did we have a transition to client personnel working from home because of COVID-19, there was a personal leave coming for the individual with the required corporate knowledge,   compounded by which, the project that had to be finished by the end of the fiscal year!

2. Electronic Document Management Software Upgrade- Agility 

Let’s look at a large Electronic Document Management Software (EDRMS) upgrade. Here we had a brewing pot of issues that could only have been handled with an Agile approach. The Agile methodology is something we use in the IT development world to break down a process that involves more back and forth consultation in terms of client acceptance for our implementations and allows for work to be done, reviewed and adjusted quickly as the project moves from start to finish. This is a skill set that has allowed us to adapt our projects and accommodate large changes to scope and timelines. 

The existing situation with the EDRMS upgrade was a recipe for disaster:

  1. Old browser technology support for user functionality was being discontinued
  2. There were requirements to move to a newer browser. 
  3. Microsoft was rolling out the requirement for Active Directory to have secure connections.
  4. Security implementation was not adequate in previous implementation.
  5. Unstructured content was filed through a very stringent strainer.

To focus on a couple of ingredients here, between project management, IT and WesternIM as the consultant, we had to be very agile in order to make sure the brewing pot didn’t sit on the fire for too long and that the result was palatable on both sides.

3. Corporate Strategy – Access to information 

Remote access was not something widely available to support all of the organization’s activities. Security, control and even physical information were limiting factors on accessing content. With our corporate strategy for the Records Management project, it was very clear that accessing information was the number one issue for staff working from home. The lack of remote access to both the physical and electronic information created a roadblock for the RM team to support the organization’s need to access information. 

A new data map was required and processes for requests for information needed to be developed. How do you get from point A to point B without the data map that identifies corporate vital records? As a result of COVID-19, new records were being created around personal or financial information.

A couple of years ago, a software system was installed that the client was having some difficulties with. Collaboration was already an issue; the tools were not easy to use for the work being done in various departments. Compounded by that, licensing was coming due, data centres were being moved and software was out of maintenance.

In this case, we’ll see how it was a reason to accelerate a strategy.


Before the arrival of COVID-19, the physical work space was a great asset for allowing people to collaborate. Conference rooms, the water cooler or just peeking over a cubical made working with others easy. Onsite work was great to get a better understanding of what really happens. RFPs, requirements documents and contract arrangements are a great start but real-time collaboration, from our experience, always increases your success rate as well as the end product.

Over the past few months since the COVID-19 pandemic began, projects have been managed on the fly and ad hoc virtual meetings have become the new norm. As a result, we have seen more success with projects becoming easier to manage allowing more work to get done.

In the pre COVID-19 days it was normal to schedule a meeting for every Tuesday but working during the pandemic has shown me the light. In the new work environment, it has become a great habit to respond to emails promptly. We are all sitting in fewer meetings, but we should be talking (emailing, text, video calling) more. 

COVID-19 Impacted Project Solutions

With what did happen, let’s revisit the three main projects touched on in the previous section – Mid Project Adjustments. What were the solutions and how did we keep projects on the rails and ultimately get to successful conclusions? 

  1. Legacy Database Conversion 

The success in this one was relatively easy.  We were working with great clients. First, we did miss the window for working with the main corporate knowledge holder before they went on leave. The leave was coming and we all knew it. Early into the project and COVID-19, we brought in the reinforcements. Working with the client project lead, we needed an internal resource, which resulted in being beneficial since the new resource was going to be the main corporate knowledge on the next project. Bringing the person up to speed meant a little more work on this project up front but put us well ahead in the next.

Yes, we missed the deadline of the end of fiscal year by weeks. Arrangements were made that the work could continue after the deadline, but the project was “officially” completed on paper for it to fall into last year’s fiscal year. Again, even though the deadline was missed for full system rollout, with the next project already in line with the new reinforcements, the projects worked well running into each other. As we worked through the second project, we were able to take lessons learned from things like naming conventions and data maps on the first project directly into the next. This also worked the other way, as lessons were learned in the second project, we were able to go back to the first and apply improvements since the project work was able to continue after the official wrap up.

  1. Electronic Document Management Software Upgrade

Like most projects, User Acceptance Testing (UAT) played a big part in getting through successfully. We discovered that the software didn’t have all the functionality the user wanted.  With the initial recipe not quite getting us the end meal that was going to be filling, adjustments to the ingredients were necessary to avoid the disaster we referred to in the recipe earlier. 

While working through UAT with the client, issues of user functionality being unsupported and not available were identified so other methods were brought in. As the consultants, we looked at work arounds and brought a few options to the table that assisted the client in getting what they needed. The client had a number of tools they could leverage to fill in any gaps found. By using other software they already had, undertaking some custom work to make their software work the way they wanted and even designing a simple manual process, the upgraded system fulfilled their requirements.

In the end, what ended up solving one of the main issues was a patch made available from the software vendor! Apparently, we weren’t the only ones missing the deprecated functionality which was only available on the old browser.

  1. Corporate Strategy for Records Management

For this, success was migrating the data with the risk high that records and documents were going to be unavailable and potentially lost due to licensing, cost and time to process paper work, something had to be done, and quickly.

Given the risk, we managed to get some pre-approved support time, worked many late nights and with the use of our WISPIR tool, a full migration of the records and documents to the new solution was successfully completed. All content was backed up and migrated into the new environment which was more familiar to the internal IT staff of the client.

Even with all the project red tape because of working in the COVID-19 environment and with strict and rigid processes around required paperwork, sometimes all it comes down to is just hard work.

Present COVID-19 situation 

Getting through the projects during COVID-19 was both difficult and rewarding. Not only did we succeed, we developed new and better project management strategies we otherwise would never have needed. Even if everything goes back to normal tomorrow, we can take the lessons learned and apply them. How we handle deadlines and resources, apply our agile methodology, access and secure information remotely and finally collaborate with our clients have all changed as a result of personnel working from home. 

With remote work as an option going forward, technology tools have become more valuable. Access, stability and security have come to the forefront. Things we often took for granted have now become our essential tools.

This is new territory for us, which can lend itself to allow the implementation of bigger and better solutions. As things change, we are seeing the introduction of new ways of working, from new routines and processes to setting up home work spaces, new tools being introduced like the online conferencing applications and even just adapting to, working and communicating with each other without the physical cues that make up a large part of getting your message across.

Just like history, we learned from this and made the future of our projects better. With more flexibility, better collaboration with clients and within our team and increased and secure access to information, at the end of the day, success came from a lot of simple hard work. When the going got tough, we got smarter.

New Projects

With most of the projects we started at the beginning of COVID-19 wrapping up, what is next for new projects? The key points that I believe contributed to our success are:

  • Communication and hard work. 
  • Staying connected by whatever way makes sense for you and your organizations, whether it is using better email communication, or webcams during online conference calls.
  • Replying to that email today, or just making the call If you need an immediate response
  • Lastly, the more work done, the more that is completed, however you work today. 

As we settle in to the new normal, we found that you should not hesitate to start new projects even during a pandemic. For a while there, anything new was unlikely to get traction until priorities were re-evaluated against the impact of the pandemic. Even during periods of uncertainty, the deficiencies in our processes and procedures came into focus. Based on the various situations we found ourselves up against there are several positive outcomes: we’ve learned from what we’ve run into and now understand how such factors as agility, access to information and collaboration helped us succeed during such interesting times.

About the Author

Partner and Lead Developer of Western Information Management. Troy has a diverse background in and out of the Information and Records Management world. Troy is the architect and lead developer for WesternIM’s software applications including WISPIR – WesternIM’s Records and Information Management Tool and WesternIM’s Connector for Outlook, as well as many custom solutions for integration and software customization.

Troy’s background spans physics and technology, chemistry, system development, programming for many platforms and industries, data and system analysis, education and teaching, energy and environmental air emissions. With project experience ranging from independent contractors to large international shipping companies in both the private and public sectors.

Extraordinary and Pragmatic: Targeted Information Management in Higher Education


by Jay Jorgensen, MLIS CRM


Back to Sagesse 2021



Higher education institutions are a birthplace for innovation and creativity through teaching, learning and research. Building and implementing pragmatic administrative processes can augment innovation and capabilities by enabling effective and efficient resource allocation and decision-making.

This article highlights technology selection, process and information management considerations through case studies that were rapidly implemented at the University of Alberta at various levels – operational, compliance, and strategic – to rapidly respond to environmental factors that would reshape the work environment and expectations, both short-term and long-term.


Access to reliable information assets – records, information, data, and processes – is critical for effective decision-making. This applies at all levels in an organization, from strategic goals to maintaining and improving business operations. Disruptions from an external environment, financial constraints, and changes to workplace location can be exploited to introduce new or enhanced business processes, strategy, and technology that introduce workplace efficiencies relating to information management. Material improvements to information access and use, sharing and preservation can take place with little to no financial “budget-line” investments, instead leveraging existing subject matter expertise and applying an information management lens to it.

A large Canadian university had to respond quickly and methodically to two simultaneous, extraordinary change factors: a global pandemic, and a significant multi-year reduction to its operating budget and government funding model. The University of Alberta had to increase its capacity to deliver more student and research services and shift its operational and service delivery model from an on-campus to entirely remote environment, while reducing administrative costs in doing so. Employees would have to do things differently, leveraging new tools, processes and technologies to meet operational objectives.

In this article, three case studies highlight the different responses taken to change or enhance organizational information management practice in response to environmental factors. The development of immediate, incremental and pragmatic solutions to achieve business outcomes is described, along with challenges faced in implementation and user adoption. Context is also provided around how a change initiative could, or rather had to come to fruition out of necessity.

Provincial Post-Secondary Landscape

The Institution

In the Province of Alberta, there are 26 publicly funded post-secondary institutions. These institutions receive government funding to offset operating costs and offer most of Alberta’s post-secondary programs. The University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada is the largest institution in this category.

The University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta has a student and employment community of over 50,000 people; and five physical campuses, four located throughout Edmonton city limits with one additional campus located in the municipality of Camrose. It offers a diverse range of graduate and undergraduate degree programs; between it and the University of Calgary, these two institutions account for most of the province’s university research capabilities.

The University of Alberta is one of Canada’s top teaching and research universities. It holds an international reputation for excellence across the humanities, sciences, creative arts, business, engineering and health sciences. Times Higher Education, a London (UK)-based magazine and provider of higher education data for research-led institutions worldwide, publishes annually its World University Rankings, and the University of Alberta placed sixth overall in Canada (131st worldwide) on performance indicators in four key areas: teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.Current State, Challenges and Constraints

Provincial Budget

In March 2020, the University of Alberta was tasked with reducing overall operating expenses by more than $120 million CAD (approximately 11%) over a three-year period (2020-2023). In order to achieve both in-flight and planned budget cuts, significant financial changes had to take place, including closing buildings, increasing instructional and non-instructional fees, and raising tuition. 

Additionally, a larger restructuring effort was put into place, to improve efficiencies and reduce administrative costs, including the potential reduction or elimination of 1,000 staff positions. This budget reduction was on top of a previous in-flight budget reduction that took place in October 2019 of 6.9% (approximately $44 million CAD) for all university campuses and units.

Worldwide Pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) was informed on December 31, 2019 of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan City, China. A new strain of coronavirus, subsequently named “COVID-19 virus” was identified as the cause; this strain had not yet been previously identified in humans.

On March 11, 2020, the rapid increase in the number of cases outside China led the WHO to announce that the outbreak could be characterized as a pandemic. By then more than 118,000 cases had been reported in 114 countries, and over 4200 deaths had already been recorded.

On March 13, 2020 the University of Alberta suspended all in-person classes and exams, eight days after the province had confirmed its first presumptive case of COVID-19, and only 2 days after the WHO declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a global pandemic. The Government of Alberta cancelled all in-person classes, remote learning began March 14, 2020, and by March 22, all possible research and operations were also moved to remote work, with restrictions and full closure applied to nearly all administrative and office-based functions.

The University’s Response

A perfect storm of financial, operational and environmental health factors came together at the same time to severely impact the University’s day to day administration and service delivery. In addition to producing an operational plan in response to the budget, the full institutional Crisis Management Team was activated to handle and coordinate pandemic-related activities.

Several factors immediately came into play:

  • Loss of expertise and knowledge through forthcoming staff layoffs and attrition;
  • Fundamental change in location and way of conducting operational activities; and
  • Tremendous upcoming changes to both administrative structure and service delivery at the University as part of the budget response and restructuring.

The global pandemic and provincial budget had to be simultaneously addressed by the institution. These issues could not be deferred or ignored; they had to be acted upon presently across the institution and at individual operating unit levels. The budget and pandemic also took on a highly personal effect, where individual employees would directly experience the fallout from both environmental conditions: job losses or reclassifications; changes to reporting structures; and working remotely with less or different resources available to continue to provide similar levels of service.

Institutional Obligations

The 2019 Harvard Business Review article 6 Reasons why Higher Education Needs to be Disrupted stated:

“the reality in today’s digital-first world is that we need to teach every generation how to learn, unlearn, and relearn – quickly – so they can transform the future of work, rather than be transformed by it”. 

Harvard Business Review

This statement rings true in this circumstance and applies to both students adapting to online learning and a virtual community; and staff working remotely and accessing and creating information and records virtually. University students and staff had to react and adapt to the given circumstances quickly and repeatedly, with little time, or tolerance for indecisiveness.

Business as Usual

Immediately following the suspension of in-person teaching, learning and administration, the institution still had to carry on with administering programs and services and delivering instruction to students, remotely instead of on campus.  Employees of the University were required to work remotely. This meant challenges and changes would take place to existing business processes as well as expectations:

  • University administration had to be fiscally responsible in enabling these services; and
  • Students also had to adapt to the new, virtual instructional model to obtain credits.

Addressing Information Risk

From an administrative perspective, the same information management challenges remained:

  • Responding to increasingly complex information access requests;
  • Preventing and minimizing the frequency and severity of privacy and security breaches;
  • Assigning and mitigating information risk within areas of responsibility;
  • Implementing meaningful information management improvements quickly; and
  • Identifying and reducing duplicate or overlapping efforts in managing records.

The University also had continuing obligations to create and capture records; to be able to respond to information access requests; and namely, to continue to provide services within and across broad portfolios including human resources management, fundraising and alumni engagement, procurement, facility operations and management, governance, faculties, research, and others.

It was up to the institution to find ways to continue to deliver services, to meet expectations and service requirements, relying heavily on individual units that made up the University to adjust and adapt first, while still finding ways to maintain services and operations.

Institutional Response

Business Transformation

Creativity and innovation would be key elements to address, out of necessity, the new challenges to service delivery, communications, sharing of information, and making decisions. Conflating organizational transformation requirements with pandemic response mechanisms meant the timeline for change, adoption and implementation would be accelerated.

U of A For Tomorrow

In 2019, the Government of Alberta announced it would decrease available funding provided to all higher education institutions in the province. In response to this forecasted budget reduction, the University of Alberta created U of A for Tomorrow, a five-year institutional plan to address short and long-term fiscal restraints relating to continued research, teaching and community engagement efforts by the institution. 

The U of A for Tomorrow plan had two major, short-term initiatives for 2020 focused on academic restructuring and service excellence (administrative) transformation:

  • Implementing process improvements and in-flight corrections to operating models;
  • Development and approval of a new operating model that would enable institutional savings of over $120 million dollars in the near term. 

Longer-term goals of the plan included increased self-sufficiency (less reliance on government funding), and an increase in global reputational rankings. This was a time where new capabilities would have to be built; new expectations would have to be set; and priorities would have to be drawn on what services had to continue and in what capacity. 


In March 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic was announced, and the University of Alberta had to respond and shift from a connected physical campus to a digital remote work and study environment. This meant a change in expectation for conducting and performing work activities – many activities that were already anticipated in the U of A for Tomorrow proposal. The pandemic accelerated and enabled many of the University of Alberta’s change efforts out of necessity.

Do More with Less, or Do Differently

The University of Alberta is an enormous, billion-dollar higher education operation. Higher education is also an industry that encourages innovation. The University could not ignore the budget, nor the global pandemic. Now was a time in which changes needed to be implemented, and fast. An institutional strategy to reform both administrative and academic structures was being developed at the highest level, and individual units would have to anticipate, react and respond to that mandate.

Unit-based adjustments are often small in nature, involving processes or personnel, and on the surface may not register individually as part of institutional business transformation. When counted together, or aggregated as part of a larger strategy, similar changes become much more noticeable and can demonstrate evidence of change, conformance, and the ability to demonstrate compliance.

Case Study 1: Demonstrating Compliance Capabilities

In terms of risks to information, department leaders did not have a clear understanding of risks to information within their area of responsibility, or how these risks came about or were measured. Additionally, the institutional mandate on what records management requirements were necessary to protect or preserve information assets was not easily applied across such a federated operating and information infrastructure at the University of Alberta.

The University needed to build a top-down approach to information management, an approach that could be measured and quantified from the bottom up. The proposed solution was an Integrated Information Strategy (Information Strategy) and Information Maturity Framework built off the principles of the institutional Records Management Policy. 

Integrated Information Strategy

In an environment of financial austerity and business transformation, the University Records Office had to find a way to do more, with less. This involved looking at information as a business asset, or an organizational resource. How could this asset be leveraged to allow stakeholders (the Unit) to be able to effectively access, trust and protect its information?

Instead of focusing on creating more standalone or idealistic records management procedures, the University Records Office took a pragmatic approach to identify and assess information management capabilities in Administrative Units at the University of Alberta. 

The Integrated Information Strategy (Information Strategy) incorporated and addressed intersectional information management issues that allowed University Units to identify, accept and mitigate the risks in managing University information. The Information Strategy created a partnership among multiple information management disciplines with shared accountability. The solution was simple, scalable and repeatable, and included consistent messaging.

Information Maturity Framework

The four points below comprise the University of Alberta Information Maturity Framework, produced by the University Records Office:

  • Access to available information and records;
  • Effective management and organization of University information and records;
  • Preservation of information and records; and
  • Mitigation or elimination of information risk.

Combined, the integrated strategy and framework brought together experts from privacy, information security, records, and archives, to collaboratively address the inconsistent application of records management practices across the institution. For instance, it can be difficult to answer a records management question around personal information if not considering privacy; or difficult to answer a system-related privacy issue without also engaging both information security and information technology.


As part of the Integrated Information Strategy, an objective picture of information risk within departments needed to be painted across at individual unit, portfolio, and institutional levels. To do so, the University Records Office created an engagement and assessment framework (the Information Maturity framework) that identified and compared Unit-based current information management practices to both Integrated Strategy and Records Management Policy expectations and requirements.

The Information Maturity framework contained three sequential phases that were implemented in every engagement between a Unit and the University Records Office:  pre-engagement, support and assessment, and post-engagement. In each phase there were unique activities that contribute to and enable the overall implementation, while also demonstrating progress or progression through an initiative.

The pre-engagement phase of the Information Maturity Framework was critical to a successful implementation of the Integrated Information Strategy. This is where Unit leadership was consulted and engaged to “open the door” for a records management capability assessment. This involved identifying who in the unit should be involved, and for how long, and what kind of work effort would be required to complete the assessment. We also document and approve a charter for engagement, outlining scope, schedule and anticipated outcomes.

In the support and assessment phase, this is where the University Records Office really gets involved with the business unit, to build and enhance information management capabilities. Some tactics included delivering a capability assessment workshop; acquiring and reviewing process documentation; and identifying gaps and working to close deficits.

In the closure and post-engagement phase, evidence was gathered, and guidance was provided to the Unit through training. The completed reporting scorecard, along with an assessment report was provided to each group, with suggestions for next steps. The Unit was also provided with a scorecard representing the Unit’s capability to comply with the Records Management Policy using the Framework as an assessment tool. The scorecard and assessment templates were the same for any unit; the complexity of information within is unit-specific.

By following a playbook or common engagement approach, it allowed the strategy to be measured across different groups for the same criteria, and also allowed for a relatively similar effort to be placed on determining records management capabilities. 


The information strategy applied across the institution, and the framework could be adapted for implementation in any circumstance, organizational structure, for any level of complexity of managing information. Implementing the integrated information strategy validated that unit information and records could be ‘good enough’ to enable compliance with rules, implementation of technology, trustworthy sharing of information, and a variety of other business requirements that involve information and records.

The duration of time spent with a unit often had an inverse relationship with records management effectiveness. The longer time spent engaging a unit, the more likely they were to procrastinate, or not address key issues. Some groups were so keen to come up with their information management rules, that they were able to do so in one-hour working sessions. This speaks to the point of ‘failing fast’ and achieving quick wins that demonstrated success and built reputation while establishing unit-based accountability for information risk.

The strategy and framework addressed information management pain points that were commonly experienced by multiple units (e.g., access, protection, security, duplication) and produced technology-agnostic, process-based rules to alleviate those pain points. In most cases, bringing a Unit together to achieve a common understanding of basic records management practices was enough to create consistency and predictability in creating Unit information. Units were able to answer, for themselves, common questions such as:

  • Where are our Unit’s official records?
  • How do we name and organize our committee meeting minutes?
  • What information do we provide in response to an information request?
  • Who can provide me with access to the Google Shared Drive?
  • Is the Unit in another faculty doing this the same way we are?

As records management capabilities continue to grow, the University is already exploring what to do next to bring about efficiencies and effectiveness in managing information and records. The ability now exists to compare results across units and observe how effective and pragmatic records management lends itself to technology implementation as a next step or enhancement.

Case Study 2: AI-Enhanced IM Capabilities

McKinsey & Company, an international management consulting firm stated in a 2018 Executive Briefing that businesses need technology improvements to provide value for businesses, contribute to economic growth, and make once unimaginable progress on some of our most difficult societal challenges. The article goes on to suggest that workflows and workspaces also need to adapt, to create an opportunity where people work more closely with machines. Instead of viewing automation as a replacement for people, automation needs to be a tool or resource that workers can leverage to increase their productivity and capabilities in the workplace. 

In this example, automation opportunities focused on user driven change, designing what was wanted and needed by an operational unit to satisfy external and internal demands for information and customer service. 

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the technology that enables the configuration of computer software, or “robots” to emulate human interactions with and within technology systems to execute business processes. RPA robots interpret and trigger responses and communications between systems to perform repetitive tasks quickly, frequently, and accurately. 

Within Advancement Services at the University of Alberta, the Office of Recording Secretary (ORS) – the unit responsible for donation and gift processing, endowment fund establishment and reporting – was a high-volume transaction processing unit with stable processes, operating procedures, and clear lines of accountability.

Challenges and Constraints

Primary objectives of this RPA implementation were to enhance and bring additional efficiencies to already-established processes and procedures for intake, storage, and management of charitable donations and related records within ORS; and to enable cross-platform, automated capture and retention management of records and information spanning creation, use, and preservation.

ORS needed to maintain, or potentially increase throughput of processing donation related records and information, such as balance sheets, tax receipts and journal entries. The opportunity for enhancement was there: 

  • Many transactions within the unit still had some paper-based component to them, whether it be signing or approving documents, issuing and filing receipts, and performing transaction audits or reconciliations;
  • Batch processing was repetitive in nature and volume-dependent; processing was limited to the capacity of staff available to handle and process the batches during normal operating hours.

Another challenge was up-front versus over-time costs for technology or staffing. Could a department justify a budget line-item for technology investment in a time of fiscal constraint? This was a case where solution implementation could be quick, and noticeable, and the financial cost was significantly less than the salary equivalent for additional staff.

Multiple brainstorming sessions were held with Unit stakeholders, along with representatives from Information Services & Technology, the University Records Office, and Advancement Records. At the beginning, it was unclear what was wanted from an automation perspective, but through successive brainstorming sessions and conversations, several key requirements were identified:

  • Create an entirely electronic tax receipting process for charitable donations, and replace the current paper-based process. This would leverage technology integration between systems (including the use of Application Programming Interfaces (API) to enable automatic filing and retention management of final records. Numerous other charities were already issuing electronic tax receipts for online donations, this was becoming an operational expectation as well as an expectation from donors;|
  • Enable more efficient processing of final records for access and preservation in the Unit EDRMS (Electronic Documents and Records Management System) quickly and efficiently, when individual documents could take up to 10 minutes each to manually prepare and upload to the EDRMS (receive the file, rename the file, upload to EDRMS, add departmental metadata, perform quality assurance, link EDRMS file to Unit Customer Relationship Management database);
  • Establish a common understanding of what records would be available and for how long (how long to retain departmental records, and what department would be responsible).

Following the brainstorming sessions, the Unit was able to clearly articulate where the bottlenecks or challenges were present in operational processes, and that became the focus for potential automation opportunities.

The initiative was quick to get to technology design, building off the records management fundamentals already confirmed using the Information Maturity Framework. ORS was able to describe its information management processes, including naming conventions, filing structures, and metadata, access considerations, and final/official records and repositories.


In this scenario, could an up-front investment in technology automation for predictable business transactions serve to free staff time and increase responsiveness? This initiative was a culmination of several institutional tools and resources, as well as a shift in philosophy by the Unit. Now was the time to consider ways to improve business processes, in light of budget cuts and a global pandemic that fundamentally changed the way information and records were being handled.

Jumping to automation is not easy, however. There had to be subject matter expertise available to represent current processes, to suggest and test new solutions, and to manage the change. This was a unique situation that took advantage of that expertise on the sides of the Unit, Information Services & Technology, and from an information management perspective.


A coordinated work effort between multiple stakeholders (Information Technology Business Transformation, Advancement Records, the University Records Office, and the Office of the Recording Secretary (ORS) achieved the following outcomes:

  • Explore additional functionality was realized when the Office of Advancement and Central Information Technology came together to explore the possibility of creating additional technology functionality to address an information management (and resource) challenge;
  • Automate key processes described as part of this initiative, though some of the end results were achieved in a manner not expected at the time of project initiation. In their product development and build cycle, they were able to identify additional system capabilities that could be leveraged from within to meet the unique needs of the Unit;
  • Determine its capability and risk tolerance for investing in automation. This spoke to their understanding of processes and technologies, as well as their appetite for additional technology change. ORS was able to decide whether to pursue more technology projects, and whether their current or projected workload (and budget) would allow them to pursue additional improvement or continuous improvement opportunities involving technology and records.

Case Study 3: Process and Technology Efficiencies

Many business processes were disrupted when the University of Alberta mandated a remote work environment in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Units themselves had to adapt quickly to survive in an entirely remote digital work environment, significantly different from the in-person, location-based work environment that was previously the norm:

  • Congregation and in-person collaboration was halted;
  • Printing forms or other materials virtually eliminated;
  • Interoffice mail was no longer an option for sharing information and documents.

Units needed to implement and establish new expectations and technology solutions that would get them through the “current situation”, and have some staying power to make things better both short and long term. 

This is not to say that there were no electronic transactions or approvals in place before the pandemic shutdown; rather it was a piecemeal, unit-based approach towards acceptance and implementation of signatures technology and processes for performing electronic transactions. In many cases, electronic forms did exist but instead of existing as digital workflows, they were simply electronic copies of paper-based forms (that would still often require printing at one or more stages).

Approvals and workflows at the University were largely disconnected and paper-based: many internal forms required printing, physical completion and signing, and routing to intended recipients. This was a slow process in an in-person working environment that was tolerated by many groups, in spite of technology advancements and increased client expectations to leverage electronic transactions and workflows.

When the working environment was forced to become a remote work environment, fortunately, both parties to an approval – the originator or signatory as well as the receiver – were stakeholders sharing a common goal. As such, each side had something to gain by enabling, understanding and supporting electronic approvals.

The pandemic unlocked an opportunity for improvement when it came to electronic transactions – all business units were impacted, though the urgency impacted equitably, in that conducting approvals and transactions electronically became a requirement, not just a desired state. The risks and urgency for changing processes still remained focused within Units.

Unit Necessity

As an example, the Office of Advancement realized quickly that there would be many benefits to using electronic approvals signatures compared to the existing paper-based processes, including:

  • Cost savings, for less printing technology and materials;
  • Time savings, with the ability to route approvals electronically to recipients;
  • Ability to continue business operations in a remote working environment.

Electronic signatures were not entirely new to Advancement, though they were never officially endorsed – a common theme amongst other University administrative departments as well. There were instances where individuals were already using electronic signatures technology to approve or sign documents, and signatures were being generated using a variety of technology tools. These “one-off” or personalized solutions were identified and analyzed for appropriateness, usability, and authenticity: were the transactions valid, complete and acceptable? In many cases, yes – and this would be the building block for developing an internal procedure.

The Office of Advancement was able to establish its own unit-based operational governance model for electronic approvals and signatures. A standard operating practice was published, including the following scope:

  • How electronic approvals would be performed (e.g.- applying scanned images of signatures for embedding in electronic forms or documents, or typing names in acknowledgement boxes, or where available, using existing electronic signatures technology);
  • What unit transactions would the electronic approval process apply to;
  • What unit transactions would still have to be conducted using physical signatures; and
  • Who within the Unit would support and be responsible for implementation.

As an accountability measure, the Unit also consulted with the University Records Office for guidance around institutional and legislative requirements or constraints for using electronic signatures. It was agreed that the internal operating practice aligned with known requirements and measures put in place met the minimum requirements for implementing electronic signatures, and for maintaining the records and information associated with those approvals.

A quick, focused standardization of process and expectation within the Unit enabled a rapid implementation of electronic approvals. This approach met most, if not all operational requirements and was a welcome change and improvement for many individuals.

Additionally, this exercise to identify and validate internal processes for electronic approvals proved useful when the University also began to explore the same challenges (and opportunities) at an institutional level.

Institutional Interest

Central Information Services & Technology (IST) was also aware and impacted by the need for electronic approvals to varying degrees across the institution. IST saw this operational shift as an opportunity for change, and brought together an electronic signatures technology selection pilot project. IST chose specific stakeholders to participate in the electronic signatures pilot. Participant groups were selected based on their familiarity with technology solutions; business need for electronic signatures; and variety of potential situations to apply the technology:

  • Office of Advancement, as an operational unit with clear business needs to continue to approve and handle transactions, approvals and signatures involving donors and charitable donations in support of University programs.
  • Central Human Resources, as an operational unit with a high number of transactions requiring signatures or approvals, especially relating to personnel, time coding and payroll operations, and hiring and managing approvals.
  • Supply Management Services, as an operational unit with high-volume, financial transactions for purchasing equipment, supplies and services on behalf of the University.
  • Central Information Services & Technology; the University Records Office; and the Information & Privacy Office as governance groups with information management requirements.

A diverse and technology savvy pilot group that had both common and unique business needs for an electronic approvals solution would be critical to initiative success. Departments needed to be able to make decisions and approvals electronically: especially within their own units, and often across multiple units. Information and processes had to be reliable and trusted. To achieve this, coordination and confirmation at policy, technology and operational levels had to be established and communicated. Common requirements of selecting and implementing an institutionally-endorsed electronic signatures technology included:

  • Development of an information strategy for electronic signatures including cost-benefit analysis;
  • Agreement on information risk and impacts of electronic signatures technology on business records within and across units, for using or not using electronic signatures technology;
  • Development and implementation of an operational model governing technology procurement, administration, and evaluation.

Once the scope of the transactions was determined, IST coordinated the definition of 13 different use cases that could be categorized by risk or complexity of transaction:

CategoryExample Use Cases within the Category
Lower RiskInternal approvals or authorizations, such as vacation requests or timesheet approvals within one department or unit
Medium RiskSingle signature approvals, such as a donor’s intention to make a pledge to the University, or the authorization to hire an employee; approvals spanning two units.
Higher RiskMultiple signature and/or “one-over” approvals, such as performance appraisals; appointment letters; funding authorization for professional development; establishment of new funds or endowments on behalf of a donor to the University of Alberta; approvals spanning more than two units or levels of approvals; approvals requiring external signatures. 
Information Risk Categorization by Transaction

The use cases were cross-referenced across the participating pilot groups to identify specific transactions to test against two proposed electronic signature technologies. It was found that most use cases and transactions would be able to be tested in all pilot groups; some remaining transactions were unique to one pilot group based on business function.

By no means were the definitions and use cases set in stone; they were defined and created to represent known or likely operational situations requiring approvals with an urgent business need. These use cases were able to be assessed for ability to integrate with the technology, to see how the proposed signature technology solution(s) could achieve the expected outcomes of the use cases, instead of focusing on replicating existing processes step by step.

Implementing a standardized electronic signatures technology required bringing together operational requirements, information governance, subject matter expertise, and technology governance. Each brought a unique perspective to the table, dependent on the other perspectives in achieving what would be an institutional success. 


Each of the three case studies presented were ideas, in-the-moment solutions to environmental and financial challenges that were faced by operational units. Common elements to each case study included:

  1. Leveraging a situation or to force change or improvement. Changes had to happen, and instead of asking why now, the question changed to why not now? To let an opportunity for improvement pass would be poor judgement and detrimental to future change possibilities;
  2. Enabling change through incremental approaches. Smaller, successive changes and improvements increase a unit’s knowledge of the situation and builds confidence in achieving success;
  3. Leading from the business perspective, rather than the Information management perspective as effective business solutions have information management practices integrated into them, and often the same business solutions exist in different subject areas with common information management principles that aren’t immediately recognized as such;
  4. Recognizing that solutions are not perpetual. Continuous improvement should be a business objective, including considering whether the status quo is ‘good enough’. Environment, technology, and expectations are always evolving, and units must be able to evolve and adapt when developing solutions for creating, managing and protecting information and records.

About the Author

Jay Jorgensen, MLIS CRM provides information management consulting, advisory and assessment services at the University of Alberta. Jay has over 15 years of diverse experience spanning healthcare, energy, fundraising and higher education sectors. Jay is the current Marketing & Communications Director for ARMA Canada Region. 


1 Publicly funded post secondary institutions, Government of Alberta retrieved October 10, 2020

2 About the University of Alberta. retrieved September 28, 2020

3 World University Rankings 2021. Times Higher Education. retrieved October 13, 2020

4 The University Budget. April 1, 2020. retrieved September 19, 2020

5 Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. retrieved September 2, 2020

6  About COVID-19. University of Alberta. retrieved October 10, 2020

7  6 Reasons why Higher Education Needs to be Disrupted. Harvard Business Review. November 19, 2019. retrieved October 3, 2020.

8 University of Alberta for Tomorrow Vision, Principles and Goals. University of Alberta retrieved October 1, 2020.

9 Records Management Policy. University of Alberta. March 14, 2014. retrieved August 22, 2020.

10 Information Management Maturity Framework. University Records Office, University of Alberta retrieved October 13, 2020.

11 AI, automation, and the future of work: Ten things to solve for. McKinsey Executive Briefing by James Manyika and Kevin Sneader. June 1, 2018. retrieved September 19, 2020.

12 Robotic Process Automation (RPA). UiPath. retrieved September 10, 2020.

Leveraging Digital Transformation to Benefit Student Learning – Creating a Digital Student Record in Alberta


by Donna Molloy




The use of a digital student record is transforming recordkeeping practices for the creation, management, and disposition of student records in Alberta. Student records document decisions that support student learning and their creation is mandated through provincial government legislation.  This article identifies what organizations need to consider for digital transformation projects. Specifically, 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 digital student records requires collaboration, resource sharing and staff engagement.




For schools in Alberta, uploading student records into an electronic repository is a transformational change creating both challenges and opportunities. Many school divisions have a long-standing practice of keeping hard copy student records.  A student record is made up of content mandated by the provincial government through the Education Act, and specifically, through the Student Record Regulation  and therefore identified through legislation.  A student record is created when a student enters school and includes decisions made about the education of the student collected or maintained by a school division, regardless of the manner in which it is maintained or stored. It is a vital record documenting decisions for and about student learning and is usually generated over a 13-year period with information gathered from more than one location (i.e. primary or elementary school, junior high, then high school).   Some examples of content include the student’s registration, a birth certificate, and report cards. Adding to the complexity of managing student records, some students take programs in more than one location and multiple people add content to the student record. Many school divisions administer student records using paper files.   Over the last decade an increasing amount of content has become digital and is stored outside of a printed record, creating multiple information repositories. The way the student record is maintained varies across the province, and sometimes, even within school divisions.   The retention period for a student record is specified in the Student Record Regulation for a period of time after a student either graduates or leaves the school division.




More than a decade ago, the provincial Department of Education (The Department) began development of a digital record repository for student records, known as the Provincial Approach to Student Information (PASI). From the outset, PASI was identified as a solution for addressing the lengthy time it takes for transitioning a student record from one school division to another for transferring students. PASI is now the endorsed repository for storage of digital student records. By 2018, the Department had communicated that beginning in the fall of 2020 divisions must manage transferring student records by uploading content into PASI.


Prior to PASI


For school divisions, the prior process to manage transferring student records involved physically moving hard copy files from one site to another. Historically, when a student was about to leave a school (e.g. primary or elementary school), the process for many school staff was to identify and transfer hard copy files onto the next school (e.g. junior high or high school).  School staff sent individual student records through Canada Post when the student moved away, or boxed and delivered files for a particular grade to the new school, for example when all grade six students were leaving Elementary School and transferring to a Junior High School. Throughout a school year, a varying percentage of students transfer to other schools, some within the same city but another division, within Alberta, and others out of province. For some students, particularly students in foster care, their transition from one school to another is often poorly handled because these students move more frequently than others. For students with complex needs, special reports and assessments are sometimes difficult to locate and do not make it to a new school in a timely manner to be used by educators who need to support these transferring students into a new school setting.


Over the last decade, Alberta communities experienced forest fires and floods, which affected student records; water and fire, are a severe hazard for school buildings and resulted in the destruction of paper records!


The COVID-19 pandemic also highlights the need for a digital record that can be accessed outside a school building. In the spring of 2020, school buildings closed, preventing easy access to hard copy files. Layoffs and funding uncertainty created resourcing challenges for staff to perform administrative tasks. Throughout the summer of 2020, schools focused on developing and implementing school re-entry plans for ensuring student safety.


Digital records introduce a change in the ways staff work. Some school divisions have a greater capacity for a digitization project than others based on available resources and the volume of content already digital. .There is limited records management capacity at schools since school administrative staff have numerous tasks to accomplish on a daily basis. Managing records is mixed in with a long list of other priorities. The move to digitize records creates challenges and the perception of more work for staff who have a primary role in serving the front line needs of students. Additional funds to secure resources for digitizing records are not available.


Opportunities from PASI


When PASI was initially developed, the Department of Education shared the benefit of how the process for transferring student records will be easier for schools. The focus of communications was “Katie’s story”, which showed how PASI would help a young girl in the foster care system to be welcomed when she moved to a new school. PASI was supported and endorsed within the province by the College of Alberta School Superintendents and by the Association of School Business Officials of Alberta.


The Department of Education built the digital repository, identified document types to be uploaded, implemented information security provisions, and created a tool for uploading content into PASI.  Ultimately, PASI brings digital transformation to one of the most critical records produced by schools, the student record, and it supports the transition of these records from one school to another.


Some initial communication from the PASI team identified Service Bureaus as a solution to scan records for the schools. Some schools proceeded to have files scanned. Experienced and professional imaging service providers initiated scanning. Digitization standards from the province within The Government of Alberta’s Digitization Guideline, which mirror the Canadian Standard, Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) 72.34-2017, Electronic Records as Documentary Evidence, are followed. While outsourcing scanning works well for clearing out file cabinets, this transformational change requires that new content is continuously uploaded when new information is received. Staff need to understand the process and upload what is required when records are created. An example of an important record to be added to the student record is a guardianship document, typically provided as a hard copy Court Order from parents. A guardianship document specifies who has access to, and information about, a student, and is needed by school staff, particularly Administrators. As documents are received, school staff need to upload new content to the digital student record.


PASI requires everyone to work collaboratively, province-wide, to adopt a change that fundamentally alters the way that a critically important record to support student learning is managed in Alberta.


PASI provides an opportunity for school divisions to embrace the value of digital records management functionality. PASI also allows for electronic records disposition.  With the transition from paper to digital records it will no longer be necessary for schools to inventory, box, or shred paper files. Without access to school buildings during the pandemic, parents are submitting records electronically more often than pre-COVID. This content needs to be verified and then uploaded into a secure repository, which makes the process more efficient.


PASI supports the transition of students transparently from one division to another. When a new student arrives from an Alberta school division, the new school will access the student’s record electronically in PASI through a change in access permissions. The student is then assigned to the new school. The old process, where schools contacted the student’s prior school to request the transfer of a record that required a hard copy file to be mailed through Canada Post, ends.


A digital student record provides an opportunity to strengthen information security measures with login and security features (e.g. password protection). Paper records often presented security challenges for schools where they were to be kept locked in cabinets and accessed in a centralized office location. There was inconsistency across most school divisions. The future is controlled access to student records through role permissions built into the system. PASI has built-in requirements to authenticate records and an audit trail that allows for monitoring who has accessed and viewed documents. This was not possible with paper records.


PASI also provides almost real time updating of content. Changes occur without a delay for batch uploading. The Department of Education is also granting limited, read only access to students who can look up their marks and get access to generate their own transcripts. This ability is managed by the Department and removes the administrative burden currently on school divisions to disseminate routine information to former students, while supporting students transitioning to post-secondary institutions.


Successful implementation of PASI occurs when school divisions work collaboratively to create quality records. Consistent processes are required for good quality student records. Identifying what is to be specifically uploaded, how this can best be achieved, and using standards for quality are all crucial for success.


Technology is Transforming Business Processes


Before the COVID-19 pandemic, tools to support videoconferencing and online meetings were already in place; with the pandemic the use of these tools became critical. Schools were closed to students in the Spring of 2020. Access to facilities was limited for staff and student safety. Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom and other platforms were used to communicate between teachers, students, and support staff.  Implementation of new processes during the pandemic required pivoting to these tools immediately. Working from home and the use of technology has helped many to see the value and necessity of digital records management.


In the world of the COVID-19 pandemic, school staff and specialized service providers (Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, etc.) cannot readily access paper files in file cabinets. PASI provides access to a student record through the use of technology. Staff have no access to a paper file in a cabinet in the schools when they are restricted to working from home. When the COVID-19 pandemic will be over is unknown, but access to digital documents supports student learning when educators can review prior assessments, analyze reports on student progress, and determine if interventions being used to support student learning are showing results. In a digital age we are responsive to the needs of staff serving students at multiple sites spread geographically throughout a school division. Ultimately there will be more support for student support and learning.


The transformation to digital records has been occurring within school divisions over a number of years as each division invests in its systems. PASI leverages the investments made in Student Information Systems in Alberta, provided by several vendors (e.g. PowerSchool, Maplewood).  Vendors are working with school divisions and developing solutions for uploading content to PASI from these systems. Digital data was often stored separately from paper records in multiple repositories and work is well underway to find a way to upload information from the multiple repositories into PASI.  PASI is now the “source of truth” for the province-mandated content of a student record.


Good Information Governance and Leadership


Important to the successful implementation of a digital student record program is good leadership, with a vision identifying the goals and what is required. Within each school, the Principal has always had an important role in implementing change. Successful projects at schools include Administrators who lead staff. Success requires they be involved in projects of this nature.


In March 2020, at a Digital Student Records Symposium, a smaller school division, with extremely limited capacity, shared how they successfully scanned and uploaded student records to PASI once everyone in the school division knew the plan and expectations. With leadership and planning, their division completed the transformation to digital student records.


An important part of digitizing student records for many school divisions is to create clarity regarding the specific content to be included in the mandated student record. This includes information such as registration records, birth certificates, report cards or progress reports, psychological assessments, court orders related to custody and access, and Individualized Program Plans as required by the Student Record Regulation.  Initial project documentation from the Department of Education consisted of a growing list of document types to guide schools on content and categories to be captured.


An important first step is to analyze existing record-keeping practices and ensure mandated content is only being uploaded and stored digitally.  In many schools, hard copy student records included content that was not required (such as samples of student work, consent forms, anecdotal notes, etc.) and records were often duplicated in more than one location. School divisions then need to identify where other content, not part of the mandated student record will be stored, content that is supplemental student information.


Some larger school divisions were early innovators as they uploaded their records into PASI. They served as pilot organizations, and their work assisted others. Their questions to the Department of Education project group provided clarity about required documents, and their experiences improved processes. These divisions led the way and smoothed out some of the issues. Their insights and lessons learned were shared with others, proving that good information governance and leadership is critical to success.


Project Management Essential


To add their content to PASI, schools are able to use the PASIprep tool provided by the Department of Education.  It is up to each school division to identify how to upload student record content creating a strategy that makes sense to it.  School divisions need to determine how to sort and prepare the files for scanning, scan the hard copy records, upload to PASI, perform quality assurance, and put in place a process for secure disposition of the original source documents.   School divisions need to purchase scanners and identify who will perform the work.


In a perfect world, one strategy would work for all; however schools and school divisions do not operate that way. Maturity levels for records management differ across the divisions. Resources are not equal across the province, and each school division operates by identifying its own priorities.   Even within a school division, there are often inconsistencies in how student records are managed.  Involving staff in planning supports engagement in the project and ensures that the needs of the school division and school Administrators are addressed.


Each school division needs to identify an implementation strategy by identifying the current state and planning for what is required. This means determining resource requirements and how much can be achieved at each school within the school year. A customized plan is the outcome that identifies the phases of the project


The approach for getting into PASI is not a “paint by numbers” template, but requires thoughtful analysis. Multiple approaches will be used by school divisions in Alberta.


Incremental Change


For school divisions challenged by existing priorities, limited resources, and budgets, the need to figure out how to implement the required digital transformation project is challenging. One way to achieve the goal of uploading all student records into PASI is a phased approach. The first priority is to focus on the current requirement to upload transferring student records.


The next priority is to identify an approach to upload the remaining student records. Depending on the particular division and school practices different solutions may provide a bigger benefit.  Some strategies and considerations include:


  • Digitizing and uploading content beginning with the kindergarten and grade 1 students, the earliest grades, and creating a plan to have only a digital student record; essentially a day forward approach.  This is a quick win as you start from the beginning of a student’s school career and introduce a digital student record from the onset.
  • Implementing digital student records for students in early childhood learning programs.   These students often have a significant amount of reports and assessments.
  • Seeking out opportunities to support digital transformation for “mobile” students, such as children in the foster care system, or students attending school at more than one site.   Electronic records that are easily accessible support efforts for a smooth transition by multiple individuals working with these students.
  • Creating digital student records to support students learning from home.  A portion of students are now learning at home. These students are great candidates for a digital student record. This is often a diverse group of students covering multiple grades.
  • Digitizing student records for the students transitioning to the next grade at another school within the school division, the internal transferring process. For example, schools may digitize student records for students at the highest grade in an elementary school which avoids shipping physical files to the junior high when they transfer for the next year.
  • Digitizing and uploading content for high value records such as program planning and assessment records and ensuring that records for interventions such as Individualized Program Plans are uploaded.
  • Ensuring that the needs of Administrators at the schools are addressed to support implementation. Their endorsement and leadership are critical to implementing transformative change at schools. It is helpful to determine if there is consistency across the Division and if there are early innovators that the school can work with as a pilot project.
  • Breaking the project into phases to introduce incremental change. This keeps staff focused on what is required which reduces change fatigue and the burden of asking too much of staff who already have enough to do.
  • When outsourcing to a Service Bureau, clearly define your requirements so that you achieve a quality outcome. Ensure you know how the work of outsourcing will support your overall goal.  Once existing student records have been digitized, the process for adding new content needs to be determined.
  • Digitizing and uploading content from specialized service providers (e.g. Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, etc.) so it is accessible to staff who need the information (e.g. Teachers, Counsellors, Administrators). These staff provide their expertise to multiple schools sites and students who are now learning at home. Many of their records were created electronically so they only need to be uploaded.  Some of this work is performed collaboratively with specialized expertise of individuals who seek to share information with a multi-disciplinary collaborative approach.
  • Seeking out quick wins such as uploading existing digital content. Some schools already have digital records such as online registration. This is an opportunity to upload born-digital content.
  • Finally, acknowledging that some student records will remain as paper. For example, student records for 2021 graduates don’t really need to be scanned as their school careers are ending. School divisions can continue to use existing processes in parallel with digital student records. Digitizing all student record content is not a requirement.   While this creates different approaches to managing records, some school divisions lack the resources (staff and financing) to fully implement digital student records at this time.


Changing Lives


Supporting student learning, and identifying the value of interventions, such as the Individualized Program Plans (IPP) and other customized learning plans for accommodating a student’s needs, is only possible when the information is in the hands of the educator working with the student.   Teachers change from one year to the next for a particular student, and multiple teachers are teaching students at the higher grades. Administrators, Counsellors, Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, and other service providers all need access to student records to support student learning. Information needs to be available to staff and remain accessible as the student progresses through the school system, from one site to the next, and from one grade to the next.


Resource Sharing and Collaboration


In order to make transformation to digital student records successful, several school divisions participated in stakeholder consultations with the Department of Education.  Successful school divisions that have implemented digital student records described the collaboration required.


These projects are most successful when individuals such as Information Technology, Information Management, Registrars in Schools, Counsellors, and Administrators work together to identify requirements and strategies.


Resources to support school divisions implementing digital student records, along with case studies, have been created and shared by the Records Management Committee of the Association of School Business Officials of Alberta (ASBOA). The Committee, representing several school divisions, has a history of resource sharing starting with the creation of a model records retention schedule guideline. The Department of Education continues to engage Committee members for the benefit of all school divisions.


Training and Change Management


Critical to the success of this project is the change management process. Many schools have other initiatives underway and the sudden closing of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. It is important for staff to see the importance of this project to create a digital student record in the midst of all the other changes they are facing, and to understand the value of a digital record to support student learning. School staff have close relationships with students they see every day; the COVID-19 pandemic altered relationships and challenged teachers to connect with students remotely. Now it is necessary to make student records accessible to staff when they need them, from wherever they are, while ensuring personal information is protected.




Digital student records, accessible in an electronic records repository, support student learning when timely access to critical documents is made available to educators who support the student’s learning.  The electronic records repository contributes to information sharing among schools and educators and ensures that the investments being made in interventions for students are showing results. Digital student records reduce inefficiency and risks from boxing, shipping or mailing paper records. They allow for electronic records disposition when retention requirements have been met.  They improve information sharing and provide staff access to information that supports student learning where they are learning, particularly when many are learning at home.


PASI was a decade in the making and creates the opportunity to share crucial information that supports the transitions that occur for students. It supports the transition of students coming into new school environments. It benefits students with Individualized Program Plans and assessments that need to be available in a timely manner. It also supports the student’s transition into post-secondary education.


Alberta has created a digital student record repository, PASI, which demonstrates the value of digital student records for all Canadian jurisdictions. Alberta and the PASI implementation could be used as an invaluable case study for other provinces who may be struggling to manage paper student records, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Technology has transformed how we work and connect. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the schools and emptied buildings. The future of sharing information is digital and the creation of this repository for Alberta school divisions is transforming information sharing. When information provided by specialized service providers (e.g. Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists,  etc.) is made accessible to educators who need it for student learning (e.g. Teachers, Administrators) better outcomes are likely. Students are supported in their learning wherever they are receiving instruction when educators are able to access their student record.


About the Author


Donna Molloy is the Principal Consultant for Dynamic Leadership, a company that has supported Alberta school divisions to successfully implement improved Information Governance through creation and implementation of records retention schedules, establishing records management programs, development of policy documents, tools and training.    Work to support student recordkeeping is an opportunity to find ways to improve the management of one of the most critical records generated by school divisions.   In an era of fires, floods, and a pandemic, this work is essential to protecting these vital records.




Information about PASI :


High school transcript information :


ASBOA toolkit :



Repenser le calendrier de conservation : Comment élaborer un calendrier de conservation adapté aux logiciels


par Bruce Miller, MBA, IGP


view PDF 09-Sagesse-2021 Re-Envisioning the Retention Schedule FR

Back to Sagesse 2021





Les logiciels modernes de tenue de documents électroniques offrent de nouvelles capacités et techniques de gestion qui n’étaient pas possibles avec les documents physiques. Ces capacités comprennent notamment les multiples règles de conservation par catégorie, l’attribution de la conservation en fonction de la valeur du document, les multiples déclencheurs et types de conservation, l’annulation de la conservation, la déclaration automatique des documents, etc. Bon nombre de ces nouvelles capacités sont rendues possibles grâce à l’attribution de champs de métadonnées aux documents numériques. Pour profiter pleinement de ces nouvelles capacités, le calendrier de conservation doit tirer parti de ces métadonnées connues et disponibles, et exiger de nouvelles métadonnées à l’appui de la conservation. Le calendrier doit tenir pleinement compte des nouvelles capacités et les utiliser s’il y a lieu. Un calendrier de conservation qui tire pleinement parti de ces nouvelles capacités est appelé calendrier de conservation adapté aux logiciels.  Structuré différemment d’un calendrier de conservation traditionnel, il utilise de multiples règles de conservation par catégorie, tire parti des métadonnées des documents, utilise de multiples types de déclencheurs de conservation propres aux documents numériques, précise explicitement comment les dossiers particuliers sont traités, et possède plusieurs autres capacités fonctionnelles.


La nécessité d’un nouveau calendrier de conservation


De nombreuses organisations ont décidé de déployer un SGEDD (système de gestion électronique des documents et des dossiers) moderne. Les administrateurs de documents de ces projets apprendront bientôt que le calendrier de conservation est la pierre angulaire d’un SGEDD efficace.


Le SGEDD résulte du mélange de deux technologies. La première est une plateforme de GCE moderne (gestion de contenu d’entreprise), auparavant connu sous le nom de gestion de documents. Cette plateforme constitue un dépôt numérique pour tous les documents électroniques et permet la recherche avancée par contenu et par métadonnées, le contrôle de sécurité, la gestion des versions, l’automatisation des flux de travail et les tâches collaboratives comme la révision de documents rédigés par plusieurs auteurs, et bien plus encore. La deuxième technologie est la capacité de tenue de documents, souvent fournie sous forme d’un ensemble de caractéristiques au sein de la plateforme de GCE elle-même ou comme produit tiers ajouté à celle-ci.


En réalité, le calendrier de conservation est à la base des deux technologies. Le calendrier de conservation ne se limite pas à intégrer les règles de conservation à la plateforme de GCE; il influe grandement sur la plateforme elle-même. Cela est nécessaire pour que la composante de tenue de documents fonctionne correctement.


Tous les SGEDD modernes intègrent dans une certaine mesure la tenue de documents fondée sur des règles (Rules-Based Recordkeeping, ou RBR). La RBR est une approche en matière de tenue de documents électroniques qui automatise les fonctions que l’utilisateur final doit normalement exécuter. Ces fonctions comprennent la détermination des documents à conserver et à quel moment les déclarer comme tels, et du mode de classement par rapport au calendrier de conservation. Un déploiement complet et approprié de SGEDD qui utilise pleinement la capacité de RBR automatise toutes ces fonctions de tenue de documents pour l’utilisateur final. Les utilisateurs finaux n’ont absolument aucun rôle à jouer dans la déclaration ou la classification des documents. Ils utilisent simplement le système comme une plateforme de GCE ordinaire, sans avoir à penser à la gestion des documents. Toutefois, grâce à la RBR, les documents de référence sont déclarés et classés correctement par rapport au calendrier de conservation, même si l’utilisateur n’en est absolument pas conscient.


Les logiciels modernes de tenue de documents électroniques peuvent effectuer les opérations de conservation et d’élimination en employant des moyens dont la plupart des professionnels des documents n’ont peut-être même jamais entendu parler. Étant donné que les documents sont numériques, les administrateurs disposent d’un plus grand nombre de renseignements au niveau des documents et peuvent tirer parti de ces renseignements pour assurer une conservation et une élimination plus précises, sophistiquées et souples. Par exemple, ils peuvent appliquer la conservation en fonction de la valeur des documents; ils peuvent aussi appliquer plusieurs règles de conservation à une seule catégorie, et même intégrer différents types de règles de conservation au sein d’une même catégorie. Le logiciel possède ces incroyables capacités de conservation et d’élimination; toutefois, l’administrateur des documents doit lui dire ce qu’il veut qu’il fasse. Et ce rôle revient au calendrier de conservation. Si nous savons ce que le logiciel de tenue de documents est capable d’accomplir en matière de conservation et d’élimination, nous pouvons alors dresser un calendrier de conservation de manière à tirer pleinement parti de ces capacités nouvelles et puissantes. Un calendrier de conservation qui tire parti de ces capacités de conservation et d’élimination est appelé calendrier de conservation « adapté aux logiciels ».


Les calendriers de conservation traditionnels ont été établis sans aucune connaissance des capacités des logiciels modernes de tenue de documents. Si l’on utilise un calendrier traditionnel dans un SGEDD moderne, le logiciel ne pourra utiliser aucune de ses capacités avancées de conservation et d’élimination. En outre, ce type de calendrier limitera grandement la capacité d’utiliser pleinement les techniques modernes d’automatisation de la RBR. Un calendrier de conservation adapté est cependant établi en présumant qu’il sera utilisé dans un SGEDD et qu’il tirera pleinement parti des capacités avancées de conservation et d’élimination du logiciel. Tout calendrier de conservation adapté aux logiciels qui est bien rédigé peut être utilisé avec n’importe quel logiciel moderne de tenue de documents, quelle que soit la marque.


La figure 1 montre un extrait d’un calendrier de conservation clairement désuet. Ce calendrier indique le titre, la description et une règle de conservation très simpliste pour chaque catégorie. Il s’agit cependant d’un vrai calendrier qui est utilisé en ce moment.


Figure 1 – Calendrier de conservation traditionnel


La figure 2 ci-dessous montre à quel point un calendrier de conservation moderne adapté aux logiciels diffère d’un calendrier de conservation traditionnel. Un calendrier traditionnel n’est généralement qu’une longue liste d’activités, de règles de conservation et de citations. Un calendrier de conservation moderne, comme celui illustré à la figure 2, comporte toutefois trois composantes différentes, mais interreliées. Nous y reviendrons plus loin.


Figure 2 – Calendrier de conservation adapté aux logiciels


Dans le présent article, nous expliquerons comment le calendrier de conservation joue un rôle crucial dans la configuration globale d’un SGEDD moderne, et nous soulignerons les caractéristiques d’un calendrier de conservation adapté aux logiciels.


Le rôle du calendrier de conservation


La figure 3 montre à quoi ressemble un SGEDD moderne sur le plan conceptuel. Un SGEDD comporte trois « couches » :


Le calendrier de conservation Il s’agit du calendrier de conservation adapté aux logiciels. Les données seront divisées en catégories de cas et en catégories administratives. À gauche se trouvent deux catégories administratives (rondes des opérateurs et accueil et intégration des employés). À droite se trouvent deux catégories de cas (griefs syndicaux et audits de sécurité).


Structure de GCE Souvent appelée « architecture de l’information », la structure de GCE comprend toutes les « bibliothèques » ou les endroits où les documents peuvent être stockés. Les divers produits de GCE emploient des termes différents pour nommer les emplacements de stockage. Les emplacements de stockage peuvent être appelés bibliothèques, dossiers, armoires, etc. La structure de GCE comprend également les métadonnées et les champs d’information stockés de façon permanente, chaque document étant placé dans chaque emplacement de stockage. La structure de GCE ne se limite pas aux bibliothèques et aux métadonnées, elle englobe aussi le contrôle des versions, la sécurité et la collaboration, etc. Mais pour l’instant, nous ne nous préoccuperons que des bibliothèques et des métadonnées.


Règles de la RBR Les règles de la RBR renvoient aux règles créées dans le logiciel de tenue de documents pour en automatiser les processus, à savoir la déclaration (quels documents sont déclarés et à quel moment) et quelles règles de conservation du calendrier de conservation sont appliquées à quels emplacements dans la structure de GCE.


S’il est bien réalisé, le calendrier de conservation a une incidence profonde sur la structure de GCE. Chaque catégorie du calendrier de conservation se traduit par une bibliothèque dans la structure de GCE. Cette bibliothèque est l’endroit où les utilisateurs stockent les documents de cette catégorie particulière. Chaque catégorie du calendrier de conservation prend la forme d’une bibliothèque dans la structure de GCE. La catégorie et la bibliothèque portent le même nom. Les catégories de cas exigent que la bibliothèque soit subdivisée en « cas » (ou contenants). Ces subdivisions permettent de regrouper les documents d’un cas en les maintenant séparés et indépendants de ceux de tous les autres cas.


Au sommet de la pyramide trônent le logiciel de tenue de documents et ses règles de RBR. C’est ici que l’on définit des règles de déclaration comme « si bibliothèque = “rondes d’opérateur” et approuvé = “oui”, alors déclarer ». Les règles de conservation sont également définies ici, par exemple « si bibliothèque = “rondes d’opérateur”, la conservation est égale à la date réelle du document + 5 ans ». Les règles doivent savoir quels sont les noms des bibliothèques et quelles métadonnées elles peuvent utiliser.


Comme il est possible de le constater, le calendrier de conservation constitue la base sur laquelle la GCE est structurée. Cela permet aux règles de RBR de s’exécuter en fonction de cette structure, comme le montre la figure 3.


Figure 3 – Un SGEDD moderne


Documents de cas


Le calendrier de conservation doit faire la distinction entre une catégorie de cas et une catégorie que l’on appelle « administrative ». Chaque catégorie du calendrier de conservation est donc soit une catégorie de cas soit une catégorie administrative. Aujourd’hui, dans la plupart des organisations, environ 60 % de tous les documents appartiennent à des catégories de cas. La meilleure façon de comprendre la structure des documents de cas est d’utiliser un exemple. Supposons qu’il existe 1 000 contrats en vigueur à un moment donné. Chaque contrat comporte notamment un nom d’entrepreneur, une valeur, une date d’expiration et un type de contrat. Ces données ne changeront pas dans tous les documents d’un cas donné. En théorie, la date d’expiration de chaque contrat pourrait être différente de celle de tous les autres contrats. Tous les contrats auraient une seule règle de conservation qui ressemblerait à « conserver cinq ans après la date de fin du contrat, puis détruire ». Bien qu’il n’y ait qu’une seule règle qui s’applique aux 1 000 contrats, cette règle unique comporte 1 000 dates de déclenchement différentes, c’est-à-dire 1 000 dates d’expiration différentes. Le logiciel de tenue de documents doit donc effectuer le suivi de chacune de ces 1 000 dates.

Examinons cette question du point de vue d’un utilisateur final du SGEDD. Un utilisateur a en sa possession un document lié à un contrat particulier. Le document peut être un courriel suggérant plusieurs modifications à l’ébauche du contrat. L’utilisateur doit préciser auquel des 1 000 contrats le document est lié. Quelle est la procédure à suivre? L’utilisateur doit avoir un moyen d’effectuer un choix parmi les 1 000 contrats. La façon de procéder peut varier d’un système de GCE à l’autre, mais le moyen le plus courant serait une simple liste déroulante contenant les 1 000 contrats, comme le montre la figure 4. Chaque contrat porte un nom unique, et l’utilisateur doit sélectionner l’un des 1 000 contrats. Le système de GCE comportera une bibliothèque appelée « contrats ». Cette bibliothèque sera subdivisée en 1 000 contenants à cas portant chacun un nom unique faisant référence à l’un des 1 000 contrats. Voilà un bon exemple de la façon dont le calendrier de conservation façonne la structure de GCE. Les deux doivent fonctionner de concert et ce n’est qu’à ce moment que les règles de RBR peuvent être appliquées aux documents contenus dans ces bibliothèques.


Figure 4 – Sélection d’un contrat


Structure du calendrier de conservation


Un calendrier de conservation moderne adapté aux logiciels est enregistré dans une feuille de calcul. Il y a deux raisons à cela :


  1. Il est lisible par machine. Tous les éléments du calendrier de conservation, y compris toutes les catégories et les règles de conservation de la RBR, peuvent être lus par un logiciel moderne de tenue de documents électroniques et importés directement dans la plateforme de GCE ou le logiciel de tenue de documents électroniques lui-même.
  2. Il offre une meilleure présentation. Dans une feuille de calcul, nous pouvons regrouper les éléments par unité fonctionnelle ou par ministère. Nous pouvons appliquer des filtres à diverses colonnes pour examiner des sous-ensembles du calendrier. Nous pouvons utiliser la numérotation automatique des catégories. Comparativement à un document écrit, il s’agit d’un meilleur environnement pour élaborer le calendrier, le réviser et le présenter tant aux machines qu’aux personnes.


Le format propriétaire des feuilles de calcul que vous utilisez importe peu (Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, etc.). Les exemples que nous présenterons dans le présent rapport utilisent Microsoft Excel. Le calendrier de conservation est un classeur composé de plusieurs feuilles de calcul.

Le calendrier de conservation comprend trois composantes importantes :


Catégories Feuille de calcul contenant toutes les catégories de chaque unité fonctionnelle de l’organisation. Chaque catégorie est nommée, numérotée et comporte une règle de conservation. Lorsqu’il y a plus d’une règle de conservation pour une catégorie, une seule règle de conservation est affichée et toutes les règles de conservation de la catégorie sont énumérées dans la feuille de calcul MRR (multiple rétention roules ou règles de conservation multiples).


Cas Feuille de calcul contenant des détails comme la nomenclature d’appellation de chaque cas pour toutes les unités fonctionnelles.


MRR Feuille de calcul contenant les règles de conservation pour chaque catégorie qui comporte plus d’une règle de conservation.


La première feuille de calcul résume les principales fonctions opérationnelles, comme le montre la figure 5 ci-dessous.


Figure 5 – Principales fonctions


Dans cette feuille de calcul, le titre de la colonne code est un court acronyme pour chacune des fonctions opérationnelles. La fonction (fonction) fait référence au nom de la fonction. Le numéro (numéro)fait référence au numéro séquentiel attribué à chacune des principales fonctions opérationnelles. La description est une description détaillée de la fonction. Chaque ligne de cette feuille de calcul constitue un groupe d’unités fonctionnelles différent au sein de l’organisation, souvent appelé service ou section. Chaque ligne de cette feuille de calcul correspond à une feuille de calcul du même nom.




La figure 6 montre une feuille de calcul pour l’une des fonctions opérationnelles, dans ce cas-ci le service du greffier (Clerk’s Office).


Figure 6 – Catégories d’unités fonctionnelles


Chaque rangée de la feuille de calcul correspond à une seule catégorie. Les lignes blanches sont des catégories administratives, habituellement assorties de règles simples de conservation fondées sur le temps, et les lignes vertes indiquent les catégories de cas qui sont subdivisées en cas. Comme le présent rapport ne permet pas de traiter tous les titres de colonne de façon exhaustive, nous ne mettrons en évidence que les titres clés de la figure 6. Les principaux titres sont les suivants :


Secondaire (secundary) Titre abrégé de la catégorie.


No. Numéro séquentiel unique de la catégorie.


Description Description détaillée de la catégorie.


Numéro MRR (MRR number) Indique qu’il existe plusieurs règles de conservation pour cette catégorie. Les règles apparaissent dans la feuille de calcul MRR. Chaque lot de règles propres à cette catégorie est numéroté de façon unique.


BR Conservation de l’entreprise (business retention). Conservation exigée par l’entreprise, et non pas la période de conservation prévue par la loi.


Déclencheur (trigger) Il s’agit soit du champ de métadonnées du document, soit le champ de métadonnées du cas utilisé pour déclencher la période de conservation.


Type Un des cinq types de conservation (expliqué plus loin dans ce rapport).


Unité (unit) Mesure de l’unité de temps, généralement les années.


Mesure d’élimination (disp. action) Mesure d’élimination. Qu’adviendra-t-il des documents à la fin de leur cycle de vie? Habituellement, ils seront supprimés, conservés de façon permanente, examinés ou transférés.




La figure 7 ci-dessous montre la feuille de calcul utilisée pour définir les détails (structure) de tous les cas.


Figure 7 – Structure des cas


L’objectif de cette feuille de calcul est de préciser la convention d’appellation pour chaque cas de chaque catégorie désignée comme une catégorie de cas. Chaque cas appartenant à une catégorie doit porter un nom différent de tous les autres cas de la même catégorie. Certains systèmes de GCE sont fortement limités en ce qui concerne la longueur du nom des contenants. Un contenant est ce que le système de GCE utilise pour regrouper les documents liés entre eux. Dans certains systèmes de GCE, il s’agit d’un dossier, d’une armoire, d’un ensemble de documents, etc. Nous le désignerons par le terme générique de « contenant ». Nous définirons une convention d’appellation des cas en trois parties. Chaque partie indiquera un nom, si le cas est obligatoire ou facultatif (O/F) et un nombre maximal de caractères permis pour cette partie du nom. Les titres de colonne sont les suivants :


Nom de la catégorie (category name) Nom (titre) de la catégorie.


Exemples de cas (case examples) Exemples fictifs de la façon dont le nom apparaîtrait pour chaque cas.


PRI Principale fonction opérationnelle (primary business function) dont relève la catégorie.


Nom (name) Nom de la partie. L’administrateur du système attribue au contenant un nom approprié qui correspond au cas particulier, mais cette colonne indique en quoi consiste le nom.


O/F (M/O) Soit obligatoire (O) ou facultatif (F).


MAX Nombre maximal autorisé de caractères.


Conservations à règles multiples


Cette feuille de calcul contient une ligne pour chaque composant d’une règle de conservation dans chaque catégorie qui spécifie plus d’une règle de conservation. Ces règles peuvent être directement lues par machine dans la plupart des logiciels modernes de tenue de documents. Cette feuille de calcul peut également être facilement manipulée de sorte que les titres et l’ordre des colonnes apparaissent dans l’ordre particulier requis par le logiciel de tenue de documents. Les titres de colonne sont les suivants :


MRR Numéro séquentiel unique qui identifie le lot de règles propres à une catégorie donnée. Chaque ligne portera le même numéro pour toutes les composantes de règles d’une catégorie donnée.


PRI Principale fonction opérationnelle dont relève la catégorie.


Champ de document Champ de métadonnées de document qui déclenche la règle de conservation.


Valeur, document Valeur du champ de métadonnées du document qui est nécessaire pour déclencher la règle.


Champ de cas Champ de métadonnées de cas qui déclenche la règle de conservation.


Valeur, cas Valeur du champ de métadonnées de cas nécessaire pour déclencher la règle.


Nom Nom du déclencheur externe qui active la règle de conservation. Habituellement à partir d’une source externe comme une base de données d’entreprise.


Valeur Valeur du déclencheur externe nécessaire pour déclencher la règle.


REL Relié. Un opérateur booléen qui relie cette composante de règle à la composante de règle suivante. Par exemple : ET, OU, SAUF (AND, OR, NOT).


Type Type de règle de conservation. Les types de règles de conservation sont énumérés plus loin dans ce rapport.


Période Période de conservation.


Unité Unité de temps, habituellement en années.


Élimination Mesure effectuée à la fin du cycle de vie, p. ex. transfert, permanent, etc.


Caractéristiques du calendrier de conservation


Nous examinerons ici les cinq caractéristiques structurelles de base d’un calendrier de conservation adapté aux logiciels. Ces caractéristiques sont les suivantes :


Règles de conservation multiples Capacité d’avoir plusieurs règles de conservation, et plusieurs types de règles de conservation, pour une catégorie donnée du calendrier.


Conservation fondée sur la valeur Capacité de fonder les périodes de conservation sur la valeur de certains documents précis au sein de la catégorie.


Documents publiés Méthode de traitement des documents ayant une période de conservation indéterminée.


Dérogation aux règles de conservation (Retention Over-Ride, ou ROR) Capacité d’un utilisateur final d’outrepasser une règle de conservation assignée.


Modification continue Moyen de traiter les documents qui sont constamment révisés et mis à jour.


Règles de conservation multiples


Dans l’ensemble, les calendriers de conservation traditionnels ne permettent qu’un seul traitement de conservation pour chaque catégorie. Ce traitement de conservation, ou règle, peut être fondé sur le temps, comme dans « supprimer après cinq ans », ou sur le cas, comme dans « supprimer deux ans après la fin de l’enquête ». Selon la première règle, chaque document peut être détruit lorsqu’il atteint l’âge de cinq ans. L’élimination est effectuée document par document. Dans la deuxième règle, tous les documents d’un cas donné sont admissibles à l’élimination deux ans après la fin du cas, c’est-à-dire lorsque l’enquête est terminée. Dans ces deux cas, une seule règle de conservation s’applique à tous les documents de cette catégorie particulière.


Un logiciel moderne de tenue de documents électroniques nous permet toutefois d’appliquer non seulement plusieurs règles de conservation pour une catégorie donnée, mais aussi différents types de règles au sein d’une même catégorie. Chaque type de règle de conservation renvoie à une approche différente utilisée pour calculer l’admissibilité à l’élimination. À l’intérieur du logiciel, le type de conservation fait appel à un algorithme différent qui détermine comment la conservation est calculée. D’autres logiciels offrent une sélection différente de types de conservation. Certains offrent plus de types de conservation que d’autres. De plus, un type de conservation donné dans un produit peut avoir une fonction similaire à celle d’un autre produit, mais son nom sera différent. Le tableau suivant montre les cinq types de conservation les plus courants que l’on retrouve dans la plupart des logiciels :


Type Utilisation
T Fondé sur le temps (fondé sur l’âge du document)
D Fondé sur le document (fondé sur la propriété « champ de métadonnées » d’un document)
E Fondé sur les événements (pour les documents de cas ou les événements définis externes)
R Basé sur les relations (pour Remplacement)
O Modification (écraser). Document auquel on apporte continuellement des ajouts, écrasant ainsi les modifications antérieures, p. ex. une liste de suivi ou une base de données. Ne doit jamais être immuable; ne sera jamais supprimé.


Il existe de nombreuses situations réelles qui exigent de multiples règles de conservation dans une catégorie donnée. Voici quelques exemples courants :


  1. Les copies signées d’une entente doivent être conservées beaucoup plus longtemps que les ébauches et les documents justificatifs ou accessoires liés à l’entente.
  2. La loi précise qu’une période de conservation différente s’applique si un document se rapporte à une personne en deçà d’un certain âge.
  3. Dans le cadre de projets d’ingénierie, chaque type de document du projet a une durée de vie et une valeur différente aux fins de conservation.
  4. Les documents approuvés doivent être conservés plus longtemps que ceux qui n’ont pas été approuvés.
  5. Les procès-verbaux et les ordres du jour des réunions officielles sont habituellement conservés de façon permanente, tandis que les autres documents liés à ces réunions peuvent être éliminés.
  6. La période de conservation de certains documents peut varier selon le résultat du processus opérationnel. Par exemple, les documents relatifs à l’acquisition d’une entreprise précisent que certains documents relatifs à la diligence raisonnable doivent être détruits immédiatement si l’acquisition échoue, mais si l’acquisition est réalisée avec succès, ils doivent être conservés pendant un nombre déterminé d’années.
  7. Politique. Les documents relatifs à la politique peuvent être éliminés après quelques années, alors que la politique officielle « publiée » reste en vigueur indéfiniment jusqu’à ce qu’elle soit remplacée.


Dans tout calendrier de conservation moderne adapté aux logiciels, il arrive fréquemment que des règles de conservation multiples s’appliquent jusqu’à 80 % de toutes les catégories du calendrier. Examinons un exemple réel d’une catégorie du calendrier de conservation qui exige plusieurs règles de conservation. Sous la rubrique « Ressources humaines », nous trouvons une activité (catégorie) appelée « Titres de compétence, employé et apprenti ». Cette activité est utilisée pour stocker tous les documents liés aux titres de compétence dont ont besoin les employés et les apprentis, par exemple pour la conduite de véhicules munis de freins à air, la manipulation de matières dangereuses, la lutte contre les incendies ou les services médicaux d’urgence. Il existe trois règles de conservation pour ces titres de compétence, fondées sur les diverses lois applicables suivantes :


  1. Si matières dangereuses = oui, conservation = date d’expiration du titre de compétence + 50 ans, puis détruire
  2. Si unité fonctionnelle = lutte contre les incendies (fire) ou services médicaux d’urgence (EMS), conservation = date d’expiration du titre de compétence + 8 ans, puis éliminer
  3. Si matières dangereuses = non .et. unité fonctionnelle .sauf =. lutte contre les incendies ou services médicaux d’urgence, conservation = 5 ans


Examinons ce que ces trois règles signifient vraiment. La première règle stipule que si le titre de compétence a trait à des matières dangereuses, les documents qui le concernent doivent être conservés pendant 50 ans, puis détruits. La deuxième règle stipule que si le document appartient à l’unité fonctionnelle lutte contre les incendies ou à l’unité fonctionnelle services médicaux d’urgence, les documents qui y sont liés doivent être conservés pendant huit ans après l’expiration du titre de compétence puis détruits, et ce, et, quel que soit le type de titre de compétence. La troisième règle semble assez compliquée et, techniquement, elle l’est quelque peu, mais sa signification est fondamentalement simple. La troisième règle énonce simplement que tous les autres titres de compétences doivent être conservés pendant cinq ans, puis détruits. Cette règle s’appliquerait à tous les titres de compétence qui ne sont pas liés aux matières dangereuses et qui ne font pas partie des unités fonctionnelles lutte contre les incendies ou services médicaux d’urgence.


Le logiciel de tenue de documents doit disposer d’un moyen de savoir quelle règle s’applique aux documents de cette catégorie. Elle s’appuiera sur les métadonnées pour apprendre ce qu’elle doit savoir. Nous avons besoin d’un champ de métadonnées de document appelé « matières dangereuses ». La valeur par défaut sera NON. Toutefois, si l’utilisateur inscrit OUI dans ce champ, cela déclenche la règle 1 pour ce document. Nous avons besoin d’un deuxième champ de métadonnées appelé « unité fonctionnelle ». Si ce champ contient soit « lutte contre les incendies » ou « services médicaux d’urgence », la règle 2 s’appliquera à ce document. La règle 3 s’appliquera à tous les documents restants de cette catégorie.


Il s’agit d’un excellent exemple de la façon dont le calendrier de conservation oriente la structure de GCE. Le calendrier de conservation précise les trois variantes des traitements de conservation nécessaires pour cette catégorie. Il précise explicitement les champs de métadonnées nécessaires dans la structure de GCE. Tant que ces champs de métadonnées existent et que les utilisateurs les utilisent, les règles de conservation seront appliquées correctement. Évidemment, ces trois champs doivent être obligatoires, car les règles de conservation de la RBR dépendent des valeurs de ces champs pour fonctionner.


La figure 8 montre comment ces trois règles de conservation sont exprimées dans le calendrier de conservation. Le calendrier de conservation est une feuille de calcul composée de plusieurs colonnes de gauche à droite.


Figure 8 de conservation dans une seule catégorie


La colonne « secondaire » (secondary) indique le titre de la catégorie. La colonne « numéro MRR » (MRR number) indique que cette catégorie comporte plusieurs règles de conservation. Le numéro MRR 100.1 indiquera les détails des règles. Pendant ce temps, la colonne BR, ou conservation de l’entreprise, indique 5 (ans). Il s’agit de la règle par défaut de cinq ans suivi de la destruction, comme l’exige la règle 3. Toutefois, le titre de la colonne MRR indique la règle numéro 100.1, qui renvoie à l’ensemble complet des règles pour cette catégorie. Examinons les détails des règles de conservation pour cette catégorie. Voir la figure 9 ci-dessous.


Figure 9 – Détails des règles


Cette feuille de calcul peut contenir des centaines, voire des milliers de règles. Toutefois, dans cette catégorie, il y a exactement huit rangées qui forment les trois règles de conservation uniques pour cette catégorie, soit les rangées 79 à 86 inclusivement. Chaque logiciel de tenue de documents électroniques possède des capacités et des limites différentes en matière de règles de conservation multiples. De plus, chaque produit a une approche et une nomenclature légèrement différentes quant à la façon dont les règles sont exprimées et documentées. L’exemple que nous voyons à la figure 9 est une expression neutre des trois règles qui devraient s’appliquer à la plupart des logiciels modernes de tenue de documents. Il faudrait probablement les modifier pour les adapter à un logiciel particulier.


À la ligne 79, nous définissons la première règle. La règle est déclenchée par le champ de document « matières dangereuses » (hazardous materials) et la valeur doit être « oui » (yes). Le type de règle de conservation est T (basé sur le temps), la période de conservation est de 50 ans et la mesure d’élimination est « supprimer » (delete). La règle 2 est un peu plus compliquée. Les lignes 80 et 81 sont consacrées aux situations dans lesquelles l’unité fonctionnelle est « lutte contre les incendies ». Les lignes 82 et 83 sont consacrées aux mêmes situations, mais dans lesquelles l’unité fonctionnelle est « services médicaux d’urgence ». À la ligne 80, sous le titre de colonne REL (Relié), nous entrons l’opérateur booléen ET (AND). Cela signifie simplement que la condition à la ligne 80 et la condition à la ligne 81 doivent toutes deux être satisfaites pour que cette mesure soit exécutée. À la ligne 81, nous précisons qu’il doit y avoir une date dans le champ de métadonnées « date d’expiration du titre de compétence » (credential expiration date). Par conséquent, si l’unité fonctionnelle est « lutte contre les incendies » et qu’il y a une date d’expiration, le document sera conservé pendant huit ans après la date indiquée dans le champ « date d’expiration du titre de compétence ». Veuillez noter que le type de conservation est D, ce qui indique au logiciel de déclencher la période de conservation à partir de la date indiquée dans le champ de date intitulé « date d’expiration du titre de compétence ». Les rangées 82 et 83 remplissent la même fonction, mais pour l’unité fonctionnelle appelée « services médicaux d’urgence » (EMS). Les rangées 80 à 83 sont toutes trois nécessaires pour la règle de conservation 2.


Les rangées 84 à 86 constituent la règle de conservation 3. La ligne 84 précise que le champ « unité fonctionnelle » (business unit) ne doit pas contenir l’expression « lutte contre les incendies » (fire). À la ligne 85, nous précisons que le champ « unité fonctionnelle » ne doit pas contenir l’expression « services médicaux d’urgence ». À la ligne 86, nous précisons que le champ « matières dangereuses » (hazardous materials) doit contenir la valeur « NON » (NO). Une fois ces trois critères satisfaits, le document sera conservé pendant cinq ans, puis supprimé.


Cet exemple était délibérément compliqué, mais il montre comment nous pouvons établir des règles de conservation très sophistiquées et complexes. Les logiciels modernes de tenue de documents électroniques sont plus que capables de traiter ces règles complexes; toutefois, il faut indiquer de manière explicite au logiciel exactement ce qu’il doit faire. Cela nécessitera l’utilisation de métadonnées dans les règles, et il est impératif que le calendrier de conservation précise les métadonnées nécessaires pour appliquer les règles. Ces métadonnées doivent ensuite être intégrées au système de GCE. Ce n’est que lorsque les métadonnées ont été construites que la règle peut fonctionner. Au cours de la vie du système de GCE, il est impératif que ces champs de métadonnées ne soient pas perturbés, renommés, supprimés ou modifiés de quelque façon que ce soit. Si des changements sont apportés à ces métadonnées à n’importe quel moment, ils doivent être communiqués au professionnel de la GDI afin que la règle de conservation puisse être modifiée en conséquence, sinon la règle cessera tout simplement de fonctionner.


Conservation fondée sur la valeur


Avec les logiciels de tenue de documents d’aujourd’hui, nous pouvons attribuer des périodes de conservation fondées sur la valeur des documents au sein d’une catégorie. Nous pouvons attribuer des périodes de conservation plus longues aux documents de plus grande valeur, et des périodes de conservation plus courtes aux documents de moindre valeur. Pour ce faire, nous nous appuyons encore une fois sur les métadonnées des documents au sein de la structure de GCE. Nous aurons besoin d’un champ de métadonnées pour différencier les documents de grande valeur de ceux de moindre valeur. Il existe de nombreuses façons d’y parvenir en utilisant un seul ou plusieurs champs de métadonnées, en fonction de l’activité en question. Toutefois, pour le moment, nous utiliserons une technique très répandue dans un certain nombre d’organisations. Supposons que nous avons une activité (catégorie) pour « projets d’immobilisations » (capital projects). Il s’agit de grands projets d’ingénierie à forte intensité de capital, comme la construction de routes, de ponts ou de bâtiments. Chaque projet est un cas au sein de la catégorie. Chaque cas conservera tous les documents liés à ce projet particulier jusqu’à la fin de sa durée de vie (soit la date de fin du projet). Il va sans dire qu’il pourrait y avoir des milliers, voire des dizaines de milliers de documents pour chaque projet. Nous pouvons définir un champ de métadonnées qui nous indiquera la nature de chaque document. La nature ou le sujet du document peut nous indiquer sa valeur propre aux fins de l’attribution d’une période de conservation. Un bon exemple serait un champ de métadonnées nommé « Type de document, projets d’immobilisations » (Document Type, Capital Projects). Ce champ serait obligatoire dans la bibliothèque du système de GCE afin que chaque document contienne une valeur dans ce champ. Il y aurait une liste déroulante des types de documents semblable à celle illustrée ci-dessous :


Types de documents, projets d’immobilisations
Type de document Déclencheur Délai de conservation (années)
Gestion de projet TDD 5
Contractuel/juridique EOL 5
Planification et logistique EOP 5
Rapports, ébauches TDD 2
Rapports finaux S.O. P
Charte/autorisation S.O. P
Procès-verbal/ordre du jour de la réunion S.O. P
Fiche technique EOL 5
Dessins, ébauche EOP 5
Dessins conformes à l’exécution S.O. P
Réglementation et conformité EOP 5
Permis et licences EOP 10
Lié aux entrepreneurs EOP 2
Lié aux approbations TDD 25
Lié au budget EOP 5
Autre EOP 2

Les déclencheurs de conservation sont les suivants :

TDD Date réelle du document (true document date)

EOL Fin de vie utile de l’actif (end of life)

EOP Fin du projet (end of project)


Les utilisateurs finaux sont obligés de choisir l’une des 16 valeurs possibles pour ce champ obligatoire. Normalement, les utilisateurs ne verront pas le déclencheur ou le délai de conservation lorsqu’ils sélectionnent le type de document. Ils le pourraient, mais la plupart des utilisateurs ne s’intéressent simplement pas aux périodes de conservation. Voici quelques exemples de la façon dont la règle de conservation a été dérivée de la sélection du type de document :


Spécifications techniques Ces documents seront conservés cinq ans après la fin de la durée de vie utile de l’actif en construction. S’il s’agit d’un pont, les spécifications techniques doivent être conservées à portée de main pendant toute la durée de vie utile.


Gestion de projet Ces documents comprennent des éléments tels que les calendriers, les graphiques de Gantt et d’autres documents liés à la gestion du projet. La valeur diminue rapidement après leur utilisation, de sorte que la période de conservation est la date du document (date réelle du document) +5 ans, puis le document est détruit.


Lié au budget Les documents liés au budget doivent être conservés pendant cinq ans après la fin du projet. Il n’est pas nécessaire que ces documents soient conservés pendant toute la durée de vie utile de l’actif en construction.


Tous les types de documents n’ont pas nécessairement besoin d’un traitement de conservation différent des autres types de documents. Veuillez noter que les deux types de documents « lié à l’entrepreneur » et « rapports, ébauches » ont chacun le même traitement de conservation. Dans de nombreux SGEDD modernes, le type de document est utilisé pour aider les utilisateurs finaux à chercher et à extraire des documents selon leur type. Cela est particulièrement utile lorsque le volume de documents est élevé, c.-à-d. des milliers ou même des dizaines de milliers de documents. Le champ du type de document facilite la recherche du document auquel on s’intéresse. Nous pouvons en profiter pour attribuer des périodes de conservation appropriées à chaque type de document.


La figure 10 montre comment ces règles de conservation seront saisies dans le calendrier de conservation lui-même, dans la feuille de calcul MRR.


Figure 10 – Règles de conservation selon le type de document


Veuillez noter qu’il existe deux types de conservation différents parmi les 16 règles de conservation. Les règles des rangées 101, 104, 114 et 116 de la feuille de calcul utilisent chacune un type de conservation T (conservation fondée sur le temps). Les autres règles utilisent le type de conservation E (conservation fondée sur les événements), sauf pour les trois règles des rangées 105, 106 et 107, qui exigent une conservation permanente. Le type de conservation E précise que la date de déclenchement est une date d’événement quelconque. À la rangée 108 de la feuille de calcul, la date d’événement correspond à la fin de vie utile (EOL) de l’actif. Toutefois, à la rangée 109, la date de l’événement correspond à la fin du projet.


Cette approche de conservation fondée sur la valeur est généralement utile lorsqu’on dispose d’un très grand nombre de documents dans une activité (catégorie) donnée. Cette approche offre deux avantages distincts :


  1. Meilleure récupération des documents. Les utilisateurs peuvent chercher des documents en fonction du type.
  2. Meilleure granularité de la conservation. Les documents présentant une faible valeur permanente sont détruits tôt, et les documents de valeur plus élevée et plus permanente sont conservés plus longtemps.


Encore une fois, il est important de souligner l’importance des métadonnées dans le SGEDD. Cette technique ne serait pas possible sans des métadonnées bien définies, en l’occurrence le champ « type de document ». Des métadonnées bien définies et soigneusement examinées sont essentielles à la réussite de tout projet de GCE, et elles sont tout aussi importantes pour l’automatisation de la tenue de documents.


Documents publiés


La période de conservation de certains types de documents est « indéfinie ». Cela signifie habituellement que le document doit être conservé jusqu’à ce qu’il ait été remplacé par une nouvelle version. Le document est conservé pendant une période indéterminée jusqu’à ce qu’il soit remplacé par cette nouvelle version. Voici quelques exemples :


Politiques Une politique, comme une politique sur l’utilisation des courriels, est en vigueur jusqu’à ce qu’elle soit remplacée par une nouvelle version.


Procédures opérationnelles normalisées Les procédures opérationnelles normalisées sont souvent documentées pour des éléments comme les exercices d’alarme incendie, les entrées dans des espaces clos, les processus d’essai diagnostique, les procédures d’exploitation et d’essai d’une usine, etc. Ces procédures demeurent en vigueur et doivent être suivies jusqu’à ce qu’elles soient remplacées par une nouvelle version.


Matériel de formation Du matériel de formation a été élaboré pour un cours de formation particulier. Ce matériel est utilisé pour donner le cours aussi souvent que nécessaire. Éventuellement, ce matériel de formation sera remplacé par une nouvelle version. La période de conservation du matériel de formation original est indéterminée, c’est-à-dire jusqu’à ce qu’il soit remplacé par une version plus récente.


Plans De nombreux plans sont en vigueur jusqu’à ce qu’ils soient remplacés par des versions plus récentes, comme les plans opérationnels annuels, les plans d’urgence, les stratégies d’entreprise, etc. Les plans sont parfois remplacés selon un cycle prévu, par exemple tous les ans ou tous les cinq ans. Toutefois, dans bien des cas, un plan est en vigueur jusqu’à ce qu’il soit remplacé par une nouvelle version, et il est impossible de prévoir à quel moment cette nouvelle version entera à son tour en vigueur.


Nous qualifions ces documents de « documents publiés ». Un document publié est simplement un document qui est « en vigueur » jusqu’à ce qu’il soit remplacé. Le document est « en application ». Nous ne devons pas détruire ces documents tant qu’ils sont en vigueur. Une fois qu’ils auront été remplacés, nous pourrons appliquer la conservation. Après la date de leur remplacement, nous pourrons les supprimer. Le terme « publié » est simplement un terme pratique; il n’est pas nécessaire d’utiliser ce mot en particulier. Dans une catégorie donnée où un document publié est en cours d’élaboration, il y aura beaucoup d’autres documents en plus du document publié lui-même. Supposons que le document publié sur lequel on travaille est une politique. On retrouvera de nombreuses ébauches de la politique. Il y aura aussi de nombreux courriels contenant des directives, des instructions et des commentaires concernant l’élaboration de la politique. Il y aura de nombreux documents de référence, entre autres des documents financiers, des séances d’information juridiques et des documents justificatifs ou auxiliaires. Parmi tous les documents de cette catégorie, il n’y a qu’à la politique proprement dite (qui a été mise en application) que nous devons appliquer le processus de remplacement. Nous pouvons appliquer une règle de conservation différente aux documents restants. Les documents restants ne seront pas conservés indéfiniment. Ils peuvent être éliminés à une période fixe ou un certain temps après l’entrée en vigueur du document publié. Quoi qu’il en soit, nous devons trouver une façon de distinguer les documents publiés de ceux qui ne le sont pas. Pour ce faire, nous utilisons un champ de métadonnées appelé PUBLIÉ (O/N).


Pour traiter le remplacement dans un SGEDD moderne, nous utilisons une combinaison des quatre champs de métadonnées suivants :


Version Version du document en question. Les versions peuvent prendre plusieurs formes, comme un numéro séquentiel, une date ou même une saison (été, automne, etc.).


Date de remplacement Date à laquelle un document a été remplacé par une nouvelle version.


Date d’entrée en vigueur Date à laquelle une nouvelle version d’un document remplacé est entrée en vigueur.


Publié Document dont la période de conservation est indéterminée (jusqu’à ce qu’il soit remplacé). Cette caractéristique permet de distinguer un document appartenant à la catégorie des documents qui nécessitent un remplacement de ceux qui ne requièrent pas ce traitement de conservation (ébauches, commentaires, documents justificatifs et accessoires).


Le processus de remplacement est illustré à la figure 8.


Figure 11 – Processus de remplacement


La version 1 a été publiée ou est entrée en vigueur le 10 janvier 2018. Le 11 juin 2018, cependant, la version 2 a été approuvée et est entrée en vigueur. Par conséquent, la date remplacée de la version 1 est devenue le 11 juin 2018, et la date d’entrée en vigueur de la version 2 était également le 11 juin 2018. Le 10 décembre 2018, la version 2 a été remplacée par la version 3, qui est entrée en vigueur le 10 décembre 2018; la version 3 n’a pas de date de remplacement, car elle n’a pas encore été remplacée par une nouvelle version. Chacun de ces trois documents comporterait la valeur OUI (YES) dans le champ de métadonnées PUBLIÉ (PUBLISHED). Tous les autres documents justificatifs et accessoires liés au document publié comporteraient la valeur NON (NO) dans le champ de métadonnées PUBLIÉ (PUBLISHED).


Supposons que nous ayons une catégorie appelée « Politiques, entreprise » qui présente les règles de conservation suivantes :


Si publié = oui, conservation = date remplacée + 5 ans


Si publié = non, conservation = 2 ans


La figure 12 montre comment nous saisirions ces deux règles dans le calendrier de conservation de la feuille de calcul MRR.


Figure 12 – Détails des règles de conservation


À la ligne 147 de la feuille de calcul, nous indiquons que la valeur OUI doit être dans le champ « publié ». Nous entrons « AND » dans la colonne REL (RELATED) pour indiquer qu’une 2e condition doit être remplie. À la ligne 148 de la feuille de calcul, nous spécifions qu’il doit y avoir une date dans le champ « date remplacée ». Le document sera détruit cinq ans après la date inscrite dans le champ « date remplacée ». Veuillez noter que le type de conservation est D (déclencheur de conservation dans un champ de métadonnées « date » du document). À la ligne 149 de la feuille de calcul, nous traitons tous les documents restants, c.-à-d. ceux qui ne sont pas publiés. Ici, nous conservons simplement ces documents pendant deux ans, puis nous les détruisons. Le type de conservation T indique au logiciel de détruire les documents deux ans après la date réelle du document.


Dérogation aux règles de conservation


De temps à autre, dans certaines catégories, le responsable opérationnel demandera de modifier le calendrier de conservation et de conserver le document pendant une plus longue période. Nous désignons cette prolongation comme un « remplacement » du calendrier de conservation. La raison pour laquelle un utilisateur professionnel appuie cette mesure varie considérablement, mais voici quelques exemples courants des raisons pour lesquelles il pourrait vouloir remplacer le calendrier de conservation.


  1. Valeur de référence. Un document particulier peut avoir une valeur inhabituellement longue (persistante) pour référence future. Il peut s’agir d’un rare précédent jurisprudentiel. Il peut s’agir d’une spécification technique ou d’une photographie d’une pièce d’équipement extrêmement rare qui est désuète depuis longtemps, mais toujours en service, et le document peut devoir être conservé tant que l’équipement sera encore en service.
  2. Valeur de protection. Un document peut consigner quelque chose qui pourrait être utilisé à l’avenir pour protéger l’organisation contre des poursuites judiciaires ou servir à la défendre en cas de contestation judiciaire ou réglementaire à l’avenir. Ce document peut servir de preuve que le responsable de l’entreprise estime devoir être conservé bien au-delà de la période normale de conservation, « juste au cas où ».
  3. Valeur juridique. Certaines lois obligent une organisation à conserver les documents pertinents s’il existe un « risque raisonnablement prévisible » de poursuites judiciaires. Vous pourriez penser que ce ou ces documents pourraient être importants en cas de poursuite judiciaire future contre votre organisation.
  4. Valeur historique. Les documents d’une catégorie donnée ne contiennent habituellement aucun document ayant une valeur historique. Mais pour quelque raison que ce soit, il arrive de temps à autre qu’un document soit considéré comme ayant une importance historique, même si cela n’était pas prévu. Par exemple, une photographie de la cérémonie d’inauguration des travaux d’une nouvelle installation peut être incluse dans les documents du projet de construction; toutefois, la photo peut être déclarée historique. Par conséquent, vous pourriez souhaiter conserver cette photo particulière en permanence.


Pour permettre à un utilisateur final de modifier une période de conservation, vous avez besoin d’un mécanisme lui permettant de désigner un document qui possède une valeur de conservation plus élevée. Il s’agirait d’un autre champ de métadonnées. Le champ utilisé pour cette modification serait communément appelé CRITIQUE (O/N) ou quelque chose de semblable. Le nom du champ n’a pas d’importance; il peut s’appeler de la façon dont vous le souhaitez, pourvu que l’utilisateur comprenne son utilité. Nous définissons ensuite deux règles de conservation distinctes pour cette catégorie : l’une où CRITIQUE = NON et l’autre où CRITIQUE = OUI, comme indiqué ci-dessous :


Si critique = oui, conservation = 25 ans


Si critique = non, conservation = 5 ans


La figure 13 montre comment nous inscririons ces règles dans le calendrier de conservation.


Figure 13 – Dérogation aux règles de conservation


Dans la rangée 162 de la feuille de calcul, nous avons une règle de conservation simple fondée sur le temps où la valeur du champ « critique » = OUI. Les documents qui satisfont à cette règle seront détruits 25 ans après la date réelle du document. Dans la rangée 163 de la feuille de calcul, nous spécifions une règle de conservation de cinq ans où « critique » = NON.


Voici quelques éléments importants à prendre en considération lors de la mise en œuvre des dérogations aux règles de conservation :


  1. Chaque catégorie peut avoir une période de conservation différente pour la dérogation. Par exemple, une catégorie « audits financiers » peut présenter une dérogation de 25 ans, tandis qu’une catégorie « collections muséales » peut comporter une dérogation de permanent.
  2. Cette capacité peut faire l’objet d’abus. Certains utilisateurs peuvent avoir tendance à trop l’utiliser, et ce, sur trop de documents. Le seul moyen d’éviter cette situation est d’éduquer vos utilisateurs et de surveiller l’utilisation de la dérogation. Nous recommandons de produire régulièrement, par exemple mensuellement, un rapport sur l’ensemble du SGEDD afin de déterminer à quelle fréquence, dans quelles catégories et quels utilisateurs ont appliqué la dérogation. Surveillez-la fréquemment pour vous assurer qu’elle est utilisée de façon raisonnable, et non pas de façon abusive.
  3. Cette dérogation peut être combinée à d’autres règles de conservation dans une catégorie donnée. L’exemple ci-dessous montre comment la dérogation peut être appliquée à une catégorie comportant des règles de remplacement :


  1. Si publié = oui, conservation = date remplacée + 5 ans
  2. Si publié = non, conservation = 2 ans
  3. Si critique = oui, conservation = 25 ans


 Modification continue


Contrairement aux documents physiques traditionnels, les documents électroniques peuvent être modifiés de façon continue au fil du temps. Il existe trois méthodes distinctes pour modifier un document numérique :


Sauvegarde sous un nom de fichier différent Chaque fois que l’on modifie le document, on le sauvegarde sous un nom de fichier différent. Cela crée un document distinct chaque fois que l’on modifie le document. Chaque document est différent et porte un nom de fichier propre. Techniquement et légalement, chaque modification constitue un document différent. Chacun de ces documents peut être déclaré et géré indépendamment des autres.


Sauvegarde sous le même nom de fichier On modifie le document et le sauvegarde sans changer son nom. Cette opération remplace la version précédente du document par une nouvelle version qui contient les modifications. Il n’y a pas de suivi des modifications. Aucune version n’indique à quelle fréquence le document a été modifié ni quelles sont les différences entre les versions. Sur les plans juridique et technique, il s’agit d’un seul et même document dont le contenu a changé au fil du temps. C’est ce que nous appelons un document en « modification continue ». Il est continuellement modifié. La fréquence à laquelle il est modifié n’a aucune importance; il ne faut donc pas être rebuté par le qualificatif « continu ». Les modifications sont effectuées en continu dans la mesure où les données sont constamment écrasées pendant toute la durée de vie du document.


Sauvegarder et incrémenter la version Dans tout système de GCE moderne, il existe une option pour activer la gestion des versions. Chaque fois qu’on sauvegarde le document, le système incrémente automatiquement le numéro de version par un. Lorsqu’on sauvegarde un document pour la première fois, il se voit automatiquement attribuer le numéro de version « 1 ». Lors de la prochaine sauvegarde, il se verra attribuer le numéro de version « 2 », et ainsi de suite. Cela permet de revenir en arrière et de voir toutes les modifications apportées au document. Sur les plans juridique et technique, chaque version constitue un document qui peut être géré indépendamment des autres versions. Selon certains, la série de versions constitue un seul document. Quoi qu’il en soit, dans la tenue de documents moderne, les versions et les modifications apportées à ces versions devraient être conservées conformément au principe de conservation des documents.


Ici, nous ne tenons compte que de la deuxième des trois méthodes susmentionnées, c’est-à-dire la sauvegarde sous le même nom de fichier. Nous appelons cette opération la « modification continue ». Voici quelques exemples :


  1. Registre de suivi. Feuille de calcul utilisée pour faire le suivi des présences des étudiants, des appels téléphoniques, des changements apportés aux projets, etc. La feuille de calcul est mise à jour périodiquement (chaque jour, chaque semaine, chaque mois) ou au besoin. Chaque fois que la feuille de calcul est mise à jour, elle est sauvegardée sans que son nom soit changé.
  2. Bases de données. Il est possible d’utiliser une base de données pour faire le suivi des actifs, des congés des employés ou d’autres informations. Ces bases de données peuvent inclure Microsoft Access, Oracle ou même un document Microsoft Notepad. La base de données est mise à jour périodiquement et toutes les données sont stockées dans une « base de données ». Cette base de données peut être constituée d’un seul fichier ou d’un ensemble de fichiers connexes considéré comme un document. Le nom du ou des fichiers de la base de données ne change jamais, et le contenu est constamment écrasé à mesure que de nouvelles données sont ajoutées ou modifiées.
  3. Bloc-notes. Un bloc-notes peut être un document ordinaire, comme un document en format Microsoft Word utilisé pour consigner les notes d’opérateurs, les notes de police ou tout autre document mis à jour périodiquement et continuellement. Microsoft propose une application logicielle novatrice appelée OneNote spécialement conçue pour consigner des notes en continu dans un seul document. En fait, OneNote est une base de données de documents non structurés.


Ces documents sont souvent importants. Cependant, étant donné qu’ils sont continuellement modifiés et sauvegardés (c.-à-d. que les données sont continuellement écrasées), nous ne pouvons ni les rendre immuables (les verrouiller et empêcher leur suppression ou leur modification) ni les supprimer. Alors, comment pouvons-nous les gérer au sein d’un calendrier de conservation? N’importe quelle catégorie donnée peut compter un ou plusieurs documents de ce type. Par exemple, une catégorie comme « rendement et suivi des ventes » peut contenir des documents liés aux quotas et aux objectifs de vente d’une équipe. Ces documents peuvent comprendre un registre de suivi, c’est-à-dire une feuille de calcul qui enregistre et suit les données agrégées de toute l’équipe des ventes au fil du temps. Comme ce journal de suivi est continuellement modifié, nous ne pouvons ni le rendre immuable ni le supprimer. Essentiellement, nous devons l’ignorer et ne pas y toucher. Dans cet exemple, nous définissons deux règles de conservation comme suit :


Si modification continue = oui, conservation = ignorer


Si modification continue = non, conservation = 5 ans


Dans le système de GCE, chaque document de cette catégorie doit posséder un champ de métadonnées obligatoire nommé « modification continue » (continuous overwrite). La valeur par défaut serait NON. Pour chaque registre de suivi stocké dans cette bibliothèque de GCE (catégorie), l’utilisateur doit indiquer « modification continue » = OUI. Lorsque « modification continue » = OUI, le logiciel ne tient pas compte du document, ne le verrouille pas et n’y applique aucune suppression. Pour tous les documents où « modification continue » = NON, le document sera conservé pendant cinq ans, puis détruit.


La figure 14 montre comment saisir ces informations dans la feuille de calcul.


Figure 14 – Modification continue


Dans la rangée 194 de la feuille de calcul, nous spécifions que pour tous les documents dont le champ de métadonnées « modification continue » = OUI, nous utiliserons le type de conservation O (ignorer, aucune suppression). Dans la rangée 195 de la feuille de calcul, nous spécifions que pour tous les documents dont le champ de métadonnées « modification continue » = NON, nous utilisons le type de conservation T (fondé sur le temps) et nous supprimons ces documents cinq ans après leur date réelle.


Dans certains cas, les registres de suivi et les bases de données similaires sont « transférés » périodiquement. Supposons qu’un registre de suivi est utilisé pour suivre le rendement des ventes au cours d’une année civile donnée. Une feuille de calcul est mise à jour de façon continue tout au long de l’année. À la fin de l’année, la feuille de calcul de l’année en question est abandonnée, et une copie portant un nom différent est produite pour l’année suivante. Cette nouvelle feuille de calcul est ensuite mise à jour continuellement tout au long de la deuxième année. Cela signifie que la mise à jour de chaque registre cesse à la fin de chaque année civile. Nous pouvons alors appliquer la conservation à ces registres. Supposons que nous ayons une catégorie contenant des registres de suivi qui ont été transférés à la fin de chaque année. Par exemple, si nous appliquons une période de conservation par défaut normale de cinq ans, cela suffirait pour recueillir les registres de suivi. Les registres de suivi seraient conservés pendant cinq ans après la fin de chaque année civile, puis ils seraient détruits. En règle générale, si la période de transfert est inférieure à la période de conservation par défaut, le traitement par modification continue n’est pas nécessaire.




Une nouvelle approche du calendrier de conservation est essentielle au déploiement d’un SGEDD moderne. Le calendrier doit prendre la forme d’une feuille de calcul et contenir des descriptions détaillées des catégories, des cas explicites et une convention d’appellation pour les catégories de cas, ainsi que des règles de conservation mathématiquement correctes pour toutes les catégories qui exigent plusieurs règles de conservation. Cela permet de tirer parti des capacités complètes du logiciel de SGEDD.


Le calendrier de conservation ne se limite pas à préciser les règles de conservation : il constitue la structure sous-jacente de la plateforme de GCE. Une fois le SGEDD entièrement déployé, la structure de GCE, le calendrier de conservation et les règles d’automatisation de la RBR fonctionnent de concert comme une seule unité interconnectée. Tout changement apporté à l’une ou l’autre de ces trois composantes doit être soigneusement coordonné afin que les règles de tenue de documents fondée sur des règles ne soient pas enfreintes. Cela signifie que le professionnel de la GDI doit :


  1. Remanier considérablement le calendrier de conservation.
  2. Exercer une forte influence sur la structure de GCE.
  3. Concevoir et déployer des règles de déclaration et de conservation automatisées des documents.
  4. Surveiller de manière continue l’ensemble du système et s’assurer que les changements sont communiqués et pris en compte aux trois niveaux du système.


À propos de l’auteur


Bruce Miller, MBA, IGP est un expert de réputation mondiale en tenue de documents électroniques. Consultant indépendant, auteur et éducateur, il est à la source du premier logiciel de tenue de documents électroniques au monde. Il a été directeur mondial de la stratégie et du développement des affaires d’IBM en matière de documents électroniques. M. Miller compte parmi les 439 employés d’IBM (sur les 360 000 que compte l’entreprise) qui se sont vu décerner le titre de leader technique. Il a reçu le prestigieux prix Emmett Leahy, la plus haute reconnaissance internationale accordée aux professionnels du domaine de la gestion de l’information. Son livre Managing Records in Microsoft SharePoint est l’un des ouvrages les plus vendus de l’ARMA. M. Miller est titulaire d’un diplôme en technologie du génie électronique, d’une maîtrise en administration des affaires (MBA) et est un professionnel certifié en gouvernance de l’information.


Re-Envisioning the Retention Schedule : How to Build a Software-Ready Retention Schedule


by Bruce Miller, MBA, IGP


View PDF 08-Sagesse-2021-Re-Envisioning-the-Retention-Schedule-EN

Back to Sagesse 2021


Modern electronic recordkeeping software provides new capabilities and techniques for managing digital records that were not previously possible with physical records. These capabilities include such things as multiple retention rules per category, retention assignment based on document value, multiple retention triggers and types, retention override, automatic declaration of records, and more. Many of these new capabilities are possible due to the presence of metadata fields assigned to digital records. To fully utilize these new capabilities, the retention schedule must leverage known available document metadata, and call for new document metadata in support of retention. The schedule must be fully aware of the new capabilities and utilize them where appropriate. A retention schedule that fully leverages these new capabilities is referred to as a software-ready retention schedule.  It is structured differently from a traditional retention schedule, allows multiple retention rules per category, leverages document metadata, uses multiple types of retention triggers unique to digital records, and explicitly specifies how case-based records are handled, as well as a number of other functional capabilities.

The Need for a New Retention Schedule

Many organizations have decided to deploy a modern EDRMS (Electronic Document and Records Management System). The records administrators of such projects will soon learn that the retention schedule is the key building block underpinning a successful EDRMS.

EDRMS is a blend of two technologies. The first is a modern ECM (Enterprise Content Management) platform (which used to be known as document management). This platform forms a digital repository for all electronic records, and provides for advanced searching by content and metadata, security control, version management, workflow automation, and collaboration such as multi-author document editing, and much more. The second technology is recordkeeping capability, often delivered as a set of features within the ECM itself or as a third-party product added to the content management platform.

In reality, the retention schedule underpins both technologies. The retention schedule does more than just feed retention rules to the ECM platform-it actually greatly influences the configuration of the ECM itself. This is necessary for the recordkeeping component to do its job properly.

All modern EDRMS systems incorporate RBR (Rules-Based Recordkeeping) to some extent. RBR is an approach to electronic recordkeeping that automates the recordkeeping functions the end user would normally have to carry out. These functions include identifying which documents are records, when to declare documents as records, and how to classify the documents against the retention schedule. A full and proper EDRMS deployment that fully utilizes RBR capability automates all these end user recordkeeping functions. End users have absolutely no role to play in the declaration or classification of any records. They simply operate the system as an ordinary everyday ECM, without thinking about records management whatsoever. Thanks to RBR however, in the background documents are being declared as records and are being properly classified against the retention schedule, even if the user is blissfully unaware of this.

Modern electronic recordkeeping software can carry out retention and disposition in ways most records professionals may not have even heard of. Because the records are digital, administrators have more document-level information to deal with and can leverage that information to do more granular, more sophisticated, and more flexible retention and disposition. For example, they can apply retention based on the value of documents, they can apply multiple retention rules to a single category, even different types of retention rules within the same category. The software has these amazing retention and disposition capabilities; however, the records administrator must tell it what they want it to do. And that’s the job of the retention schedule. If we know what the recordkeeping software is capable of in terms of retention and disposition, then we can write a retention schedule to take full advantage of these powerful new capabilities. A retention schedule that leverages these retention and disposition capabilities is referred to as a “software ready” retention schedule.

Traditional retention schedules were written without any knowledge of the capabilities of modern recordkeeping software. If you use a traditional schedule within a modern EDRMS, the software won’t be able to utilize any of the advanced retention and disposition capabilities it delivers. Furthermore, it will severely curtail the ability to fully utilize modern RBR automation techniques. A software ready retention schedule however is written with the assumption that it will be used within an EDRMS, and will take full advantage of the advanced retention and disposition capabilities of the software. Any well-written software ready retention schedule can be used with any modern recordkeeping software, regardless of brand.

Figure 1 shows an excerpt from an admittedly dated retention schedule. It shows the title, description, and a very simplistic retention rule for each category. But it is real, and it is in use today.

Figure 1 – Traditional Retention Schedule

Figure 2 below shows just how different a modern software ready retention schedule looks in comparison to a traditional schedule. A traditional schedule typically is just a long list of activities and retention rules and citations. A modern retention schedule shown in figure 2 however has three different but interrelated components. More on this later.

Figure 2 – A Software-Ready Retention Schedule

In this paper, we will explain how the retention schedule plays a pivotal role in the overall configuration of a modern EDRMS, and highlight the characteristics of a software ready retention schedule.

The Role of the Retention Schedule

Figure 3 shows what a modern EDRMS looks like conceptually. There are three “layers” to an EDRMS:

The retention schedule The software ready retention schedule. This will be divided into case categories and administrative categories. On the left side are two administrative categories (operator rounds, and employee onboarding). On the right are two case categories (union grievances, and safety audits).

ECM structure Often referred to as “information architecture”, the ECM structure consists of all the so-called “libraries”, or places that documents can be stored. Different ECM products have different names for storage locations. Storage locations can be called libraries, folders, cabinets, etc. ECM structure also consists of the metadata, fields of information permanently stored with each document placed in each storage location. There is more to ECM structure than just libraries and metadata, including such things as versioning, security and collaboration, etc. But for now, we’re only concerned with libraries and metadata.

RBR rules RBR rules refer to the rules created within the recordkeeping software to automate the recordkeeping processes, namely declaration (which documents are declared as records and when), and which retention rules in the retention schedule get applied to which locations in the ECM structure.

Done properly, the retention schedule massively impacts the ECM structure. Each category in the retention schedule translates to a library in the ECM structure. This library is where users will store documents for that particular category. Each category in the retention schedule forms one library in the ECM structure. Both the category and the library bear exactly the same name. Case categories require that the library be subdivided into “cases”, or containers, one for each case. This allows us to group records of each case together, separate from and independently of all other cases.

At the top of the pyramid lies the recordkeeping software and its RBR rules. This is where you define declaration rule such as “if library = “operator rounds” and approved = “yes” then declare”. Retention rules also get defined here, such as “if library = “operator rounds” retention equals true document date +5 years”. The rules need to know what the library names are, and what metadata it can work with.

As you can see, the retention schedule forms the base upon which the ECM is structured. This in turn allows the RBR rules to execute against that structure, as shown in figure 3.

Figure 3 – A Modern EDRMS

Case Records

The retention schedule must differentiate between case and so-called “administrative” record categories. Each category in the retention schedule therefore is either a case category or an administrative category. In most organizations today, about 60% of all records belong to case categories. The best way to understand case records structure is with the help of an example. Suppose you have 1000 contracts in existence at any one time. Each contract has a contractor name, the contract value, an expiration date, a contract type, etc. This data will not change among all the documents in any given case. Each contract theoretically could have an expiration date different from those of all other contracts. All contracts would have a single retention rule similar to “keep five years after contract end date, and then destroy”. Although there is only one single rule applied to all 1000 contracts, that single rule has 1000 different trigger dates, i.e. 1000 different expiry dates. The recordkeeping software must therefore track each of these 1000 dates.

Let’s look at this from the perspective of an EDRMS end user. A user has a document related to a particular contract. The document may be an email suggesting several changes to the draft of the contract. The user must specify which of the 1000 contracts the document is related to. How is this accomplished? The user must have a way to choose from among the 1000 contracts. How this is done can vary among different ECM systems but the most common would be a simple drop-down list of all 1000 contracts, as shown in figure 4. Each contract has a unique name, and the user must select one of the 1000 contracts. The ECM will have a library known as “contracts”. That library will be further subdivided into 1000 case containers, each bearing a unique name of one of the 1000 contracts. This is a good example of how the retention schedule shapes the ECM structure. The two have to work in concert, and only then can the RBR rules be applied to the records within these libraries.

Figure 4 – Contract Selection

Retention Schedule Structure

A modern software ready retention schedule is recorded in a spreadsheet. There are 2 reasons for this:

  1. It is machine-readable. All the elements of the retention schedule including all categories and RBR retention rules can be read by modern electronic recordkeeping software and imported directly into the ECM and or the electronic recordkeeping software itself.
  2. Better presentation. In a spreadsheet we can group things by business unit, or by department. We can apply filters to various columns to examine subsets of the schedule. We can use automatic numbering to number categories. Compared to a written document, it is a better environment for developing the schedule, revising it, and presenting both to machines and to humans

It does not matter which proprietary spreadsheet format you use (Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, etc.). The examples we use in this report utilize Microsoft Excel. The retention schedule is a workbook consisting of multiple worksheets.

The retention schedule consists of 3 major components:

Categories A worksheet containing all the categories for each business unit within the organization. Each category is named, numbered, and has a retention rule. Where there is more than one retention rule for the category, only one retention rule is shown and all of the category’s retention rules are listed in the MRR worksheet.

Cases A worksheet containing the details such as naming nomenclature for each case across all business units.

MRR A worksheet containing retention rules for each category that has more than one retention rule.

The first worksheet is a summary of primary business functions, as shown in figure 5 below.

Figure 5 – Primaries

In this worksheet, the code column heading is a short acronym for each of the business functions. The function is the name of the function. Number indicates a sequential number assigned to each of the primary business functions. The description is a detailed description of the function. Each row in this worksheet constitutes a different business unit grouping within the organization, often called a department or section. Each row in this worksheet has a corresponding worksheet of the same name.


Figure 6 shows a worksheet for one of the business functions, in this case the clerks department.

Figure 6 – Business Unit Categories

Each spreadsheet row is a single category. White rows are administrative categories, usually with simple time-based retention rules, and green rows indicate case categories that are subdivided into cases. This report does not allow for a comprehensive treatment of all column headings, therefore we will highlight only the key headings from figure 6. The primary headings are as follows:

Secondary Short title of the category.

No. Sequential unique number of the category.

Description Detailed description of the category.

MRR number Indicates that there are multiple retention rules for this category. The rules appear in the MRR worksheet. Each batch of rules unique to that category are uniquely numbered.

BR Business retention. Retention needed by the business, not the retention period specified by legislation.

Trigger Either the document metadata field, or the case metadata field used to trigger the retention period

Type One of the 5 retention types (explained later in this report).

Unit Unit of time measure, typically years.

Disp. Action Disposition action. What will happen to the records at the end of their lifecycle. Typically delete, keep permanently, review, transfer.


Figure 7 below shows the worksheet used to define the details (structure) of all cases.

Figure 7 – Case Structure

The purpose of this worksheet is to specify the naming convention for each case within each category that is designated as a case category. Each case within a category must be uniquely named from all other cases in that same category. Some ECM systems have severe limitations on the length of a container name. A container is what the ECM uses to group together documents that are related. In some ECM systems this is called a folder, a cabinet, or a document set, etc. We will refer to these with the generic name “container”. We specify a case naming convention of 3 parts. Each part will specify a name, whether it is mandatory or optional (M/O), and a maximum allowable number of characters for that part of the name. The column headings are as follows:

Category name The name (title) of the category.

Case examples Fictional examples of how the naming would appear for each case.

PRI The primary business function underneath which the category falls.

Name The name of that part. The system administrator names the container with a suitable name that matches the particular case, but this column shows what the name is supposed to consist of.

M/O Either mandatory (M) or optional (O).

MAX Maximum allowable number of characters.

Multi-Rule Retentions

This worksheet contains one row for each component of a retention rule for each category that specifies more than one retention rule. These rules can be read by machine directly into most modern recordkeeping software. This spreadsheet can also be easily manipulated so that the column headings and the order of the columns are in the particular order that the recordkeeping software requires. Column headings are as follows:

MRR A unique sequential number that identifies the batch of rules unique to a given category. Each row will have the same number for all rule components in a given category.

PRI The primary business function that the category falls under.

Document field The document metadata field that triggers the retention rule.

Value, document The value of the document metadata field necessary to trigger the rule.

Case field The case metadata field that triggers the retention rule.

Value, case The value of the case metadata field necessary to trigger the rule.

Name The external trigger name that triggers the retention rule. Typically from an external source such as a corporate database.

Value The value of the external trigger necessary to trigger the rule.

REL Related. A Boolean logic operator that relates this rule component to the following rule’s component. Examples are AND, OR, NOT, etc.

Type Retention rule type. Retention rule types are itemized later in this report.

Period Retention period.

Unit Unit of time measure, usually in years.

Disposition Action carried out at the end of the lifecycle, e.g. transfer, permanent, etc.

Retention Schedule Characteristics

Here we will examine the five core structural characteristics of a software ready retention schedule. They are:

Multiple Retention Rules The ability to have multiple retention rules, and multiple types of retention rules, for any given category in the schedule.

Value-Based Retention The capability to base retention periods on the value of specified documents within the category.

Published Documents A method of handling documents with an indeterminate retention period.

Retention Over-Ride (ROR) The ability for an end user to override an assigned retention rule.

Continuous Over-Write A means of dealing with records that are being continuously revised and updated.

Multiple Retention Rules

Traditional retention schedules by and large allow only a single retention treatment for each category. That retention treatment, or rule, can be time-based as in “delete after 5 years”, or case-based as in “delete two years after end of investigation”. With the first rule each document qualifies for destruction is it reaches five years of age. Disposition is accomplished on a document by document basis. In the second rule all the records in any one case are qualified for disposition two years after the case has ended, i.e. the investigation is over. In both of these instances, there is one single retention rule that applies to all the records in that particular category.

Modern electronic recordkeeping software however allows us to support not only multiple retention rules for any one category, but also different types of rules within a category. Each retention rule type refers to a different approach used to calculate the eligibility for disposition. Inside the software, the retention type invokes a different algorithm that determines how the retention is calculated. Different software products offer a different selection of retention types. Some offer more retention types than others. And a given retention type in one product may be similar in function to that of another product, but will be named differently. The following table shows the five common retention types found across most software products:

Type Usage
T Time Based (based on document’s AGE)
D Document-based (based on a document metadata field property)
E Event Based (For case records, or external defined events)
R Relationship-based (for Supersedence)
O Over-Write. A document that is continually added to, over-writing prior changes, e.g. a tracking list or database. Must never be immutable, will never be deleted.

There are plenty of real-life situations that call for multiple retention rules within a given category. Below are some common examples:

  1. Executed copies of agreements must be kept much longer than drafts and supporting or ancillary documents related to the contract.
  2. Legislation specifies a different retention period applies if a document is referring to a person below a certain age.
  3. In engineering projects, each type of document within the project has a different lifetime and value for retention purposes.
  4. Approved documents are to be kept for longer than those that have not been approved.
  5. Minutes and agenda of formal meetings are typically kept permanently, whereas the remaining records related to that meeting can be discarded.
  6. The retention period of certain records can vary depending on the outcome of the business process. For instance, records related to the acquisition of a company specify that certain due diligence records are to be destroyed immediately if the acquisition fails to close, but if the acquisition is completed successfully, they are to be retained for X years.
  7. Policy. Documents related to the policy can be discarded after a few years, whereas the official “published” policy that was put into effect remains indefinitely until superseded.

In any modern software ready retention schedule, it is common to have multiple retention rules applicable to as many as 80% of all categories in the schedule. Let’s take a look at a real-life example of a category in the retention schedule that requires multiple retention rules. Under human resources we have an activity (category) called “Credentials, Employee and Apprentice”. This is used to store all records related to the credentials needed by employees and apprentices, such as for operating vehicles with air brakes, handling hazardous materials, firefighting, or emergency medical services. There are three retention rules for such credentials, based on various applicable legislation as shown:

  1. If Hazardous Materials = Yes, retention = Credential Expiration date + 50 years then destroy
  2. If Business Unit = Fire or EMS, retention = Credential Expiration date + 8 years then destroy
  3. If Hazardous Materials = No .and. Business Unit .not =. Fire or EMS, retention = 5 years

Let’s look at what these three rules really mean. The first rule states that if the credential is for hazardous materials, the records relating to that credential must be kept for 50 years then destroyed. Rule two states that if the record belongs to the business unit fire or the business unit EMS, and regardless of what type of credential it is, records relating to these credentials must be kept for eight years after the expiry of the credential, then destroyed. Rule three looks rather complicated and technically it is somewhat complicated however its meaning is inherently simple. Rule 3 simply says that all other credentials are to be kept for 5 years then destroyed. This would apply to all credentials that are not hazardous materials, and are not within the business unit fire or the business unit EMS.

The recordkeeping software must have a way to know which rule to apply to which records within this category. It will rely on metadata to tell it what it needs to know. We need a document metadata field called “hazardous materials”. The default value will be NO. If, however the user enters YES in this field, that triggers rule 1 for that document. We need a second metadata field called ”business unit”. If this field contains either “fire” or “EMS”, rule 2 will be applied to that document. Rule 3 will be applied to all remaining documents in that category.

This is an excellent example of how the retention schedule drives ECM structure. The retention schedule specifies the three different variations of retention treatments necessary for this category. It explicitly specifies the metadata fields needed in the ECM structure. As long as those metadata fields exist, and users use them, the retention rules will be applied correctly. Obviously these three fields must be mandatory, as the RBR retention rules depend on the values in these fields to do its work.

Figure 8 shows how these three retention rules are expressed in the retention schedule. The retention schedule is a spreadsheet consisting of several columns from left to right.

Figure 8 – Three Retention rules in a single category

The column “secondary” shows the title of the category. The column “MRR number” indicates that this category has multiple retention rules. MRR number 100.1 will show the details of the rules. Meanwhile, the column BR or business retention shows 5 (years). This is the default rule of five years then destroy, as needed for rule 3. However the column heading MRR shows rule number 100.1, which  refers to the entire set of rules for this category. Let’s take a look at the details of the retention rules for this category. Referred to figure 9 below.

Figure 9 – Rule Details

There could be hundreds or even thousands of rules in this worksheet. In this category however there are exactly 8 rows which act together to form the three unique retention rules for this category, rows 79 through 86 inclusive. Each electronic recordkeeping software product has differing capabilities and limitations for multiple retention rules. Furthermore, each product has a slightly different approach and nomenclature to how the rules are expressed and documented. The example we see in figure 9 is a neutral expression of the three rules that should apply to most modern recordkeeping software products. They would likely have to be adjusted to suit any one particular software product.

In row 79 we define the first rule. The rule is triggered by the document field “hazardous materials”, and the value in the field must be “yes”. The retention rule type is T (time-based), the retention period is 50 years, and the disposition action is delete. Rule 2 is a little more complicated. In rows 80 and 81 we take care of the situation where the business unit is “fire”. In rows 82 and 83 we take care of the same situation, but where the business unit is “EMS”. In row 80, under the column heading REL (Related), we enter the Boolean operator AND. This simply means that the condition in row 80 and the condition in row 81 must both be met in order for the action to take place. In row 81, we specify that there must be a date in the metadata field “credential expiration date”. Hence if the business unit is “fire “and there is an expiration date, the document will be kept for eight years after the date specified in the field “credential expiration date”. Note the retention type is D, which tells the software to trigger the retention period on the date field known as “credential expiration date”. Rows 82 and 83 accomplish the same thing but for the business unit called “EMS”. Rows 80 to 83 together are necessary for our retention rule 2.

Rows 84 to 86 form our retention rule 3. Row 84 specifies that the field “business unit” must not contain the word “fire”. In row 85 we specify the field “business unit” must not contain the word “EMS”. In row 86 we specify that the field “hazardous materials” must contain the value “NO”. Once these 3 criteria have been satisfied the document will be kept for 5 years then deleted.

This has been a deliberately complicated example, but it shows how we can make very sophisticated and complex retention rules. Modern electronic recordkeeping software is more than capable of handling these complex rules; however we have to explicitly tell the software exactly what to do. This will require the use of metadata within the rules, and it is imperative that the retention schedule specify the metadata needed to execute the rules. This metadata must then be built into the ECM. Only when the metadata has been constructed can the rule possibly work. Over the lifetime of the ECM it is imperative that these metadata fields not be disturbed, renamed, removed, or altered in any way. If changes are made to this metadata at any time, the changes must be communicated to the RIM professional so the retention rule can be adjusted accordingly, otherwise the rule will simply stop working.

Value-Based Retention 

With today’s recordkeeping software we can assign retention periods based on the value of records within a category. We can assign longer retention periods to documents of higher value, and shorter retention periods to documents of lesser value. To do this we again rely on document metadata within the ECM structure. We will need a metadata field to differentiate documents of high value from those of lower value. There are many ways to do this that can involve a single metadata field or multiple metadata fields depending on the particular activity. For now however we will use a very common technique found in a number of organizations. Let’s suppose we have an activity (category) for “capital projects”. These are large capital-intensive engineering projects such as building roads, bridges, or buildings. Each project is a case within the category. Each case will store all the records related to that particular project through to the end of its life (which would be the project end date). Needless to say, there could be thousands, even tens of thousands of documents for each project. We can define a metadata field that can tell us the nature of each document. The nature, or subject of the document in turn can tell us the inherent value of the document for the purposes of assigning a retention period. A good example would be a document metadata field called “Document Type, Capital Projects”. This would be a mandatory field in the ECM library, so that every single document must have a value in this field. There would be a dropdown list of document types similar to that shown below:

Document Types, Capital Projects
Document Type Trigger Retention Period (Yrs)
Project Management TDD 5
Contractual/Legal EOL 5
Planning and Logistics EOP 5
Reports, Draft TDD 2
Reports, Final N/A P
Charter/Authorization N/A P
Meeting Minutes/Agenda N/A P
Technical Specifications EOL 5
Drawings, Draft EOP 5
Drawings, As-Built N/A P
Regulatory-and Compliance EOP 5
Permits & Licenses EOP 10
Contractor-related EOP 2
Approval-related TDD 25
Budget Related EOP 5
Other EOP 2

Retention triggers are as follows:

TDD True document date

EOL End of life (of asset)

EOP End of project

End users are forced to pick one of the 16 possible values for this mandatory field. Users would not normally see the trigger or the retention period when they select the document type. There is no reason why they couldn’t, but most users simply don’t have an interest in the retention periods. Below are some examples of how the retention rule was derived from the selection of the document type:

Technical specifications These records will be kept for 5 years after the end of life of the asset being constructed. If the asset is a bridge, technical specifications are necessary to keep on hand for the entire life of the bridge.

Project management These records would include things such as project schedules, Gantt charts, and other documents related to the management of the project. The value diminishes quickly after they have been used, hence the retention period is the date of the document (true document date) +5 years, then destroy.

Budget related Records related to the budget are to be kept for 5 years following the end of the project. These records are not needed to be held for the life of the asset under construction.

Not all document types necessarily need to have a different retention treatment from other document types. Note above that the two document types “contractor -related” and “reports, draft” each have the same retention treatment. In many modern EDRMS systems the document type is used to help end-users search and retrieve documents by their type. This is particularly useful where there are high volumes of documents, i.e. thousands or even tens of thousands of documents. The document type field makes it easier to find the document of interest. We can take advantage of that to assign appropriate retention periods to each document type.

Figure 10 shows how these retention rules will be entered into the retention schedule itself, in the MRR (multiple retention rule) worksheet.

Figure 10 – Document Type Retention Rules

Note there are two different retention types among the 16 retention rules. The rules in each of the spreadsheet rows 101, 104, 114, and 116 each use retention type T (time-based retention). The remaining rules use retention type E (event-based retention), except for the 3 rules in spreadsheet rows 105, 106 and 107 which call for permanent retention. Retention type E specifies that the trigger date is some event date. On spreadsheet row 108 the event date is the end of life (EOL) of the asset. In row 109 however the event date is the end of project (EOP).

This approach to value-based retention is generally useful when you have a very high quantity of records within a given activity (category). This approach offers 2 distinct benefits:

  1. Improved document retrievability. Users can search for documents based on the type of document.
  2. Better retention granularity. Documents of low continuing value are destroyed early, and documents of higher, more persistent value are kept longer.

Once again, it’s important to point out the criticality of metadata in the EDRMS. This technique would not be possible without properly defined metadata, in this case the “document type” field. Well-defined and carefully considered metadata is a key to the success of any ECM project, and is equally important for recordkeeping automation.

Published Documents

Certain types of documents have an effective retention period of “indefinite”. This usually means that the document is to be kept until it has been superseded by a newer version. The document is kept for an indefinite period of time until it is replaced with that newer version. Some examples may include:

Policies A policy, such as an email usage policy, is in effect until replaced by a newer version of the policy.

Standard Operating Procedures Standard operating procedures are often documented for things such as fire alarm drills, confined space entries, diagnostic test processes, plant operating and testing procedures, etc. Such procedures remain in effect, and must be followed, until they have been replaced with a newer version.

Training materials Training materials have been developed for a particular training course. These materials are used to deliver the course as often as necessary. Eventually, these training materials will be replaced with a newer version. The retention period for the original training materials is indefinite, until superseded with a newer version.

Plans Many plans are in effect until replaced with newer versions, such as annual operational plans, emergency plans, corporate strategies, etc. Sometimes plans are replaced on a scheduled cycle such as annual or every 5 years. However, in many cases a plan is in effect until it is replaced with a newer version, and it is impossible to predict when that newer version will arrive.

We refer to such documents as published documents. A published document is simply one that is “in effect” until superseded. The document is “in play” so to speak, or “in force”. We must not destroy these documents while they are in effect. Once they’ve been superseded, we can then apply retention. After the date they were superseded, we can then delete them. The term “published” is simply a convenient moniker, it is not necessary to use that particular word. Within any given category where a published document is being developed, there will be many more documents than just the published document itself. Suppose the published document being worked on is a policy. There will be many drafts of the policy. There will also be many emails with directives and instructions and comments related to the development of the policy. There will be many reference documents including financial documents, legal briefings, and any manner of supporting or ancillary documents. Of all of these records in that category, we only need to apply the supersedence process to the actual policy itself (which was put into effect). We can apply a different retention rule to the remaining documents. The remaining documents do not have an indefinite retention. They can be disposed of in a fixed period of time, or a certain period of time after the published document has been put into effect. Either way, we need a way to distinguish the published documents from those that are not. To do this we use a document metadata field called PUBLISHED (Y/N).

To handle supersedence in a modern EDRMS, we use a combination of the following four metadata fields:

Version The version of the document in question. Versions can be one of many forms, such as a sequential number, date, or even a season (summer, fall, etc.).

Superseded date The date that a document was superseded by a newer version.

Effective date The date that a newer version of a superseded document was put into effect.

Published A document with an indefinite retention period (until superseded). This distinguishes a document in the category that requires supersedence retention treatment from those that do not (drafts, commentary, supporting or ancillary documents).

The supersedence process is shown in figure 8.

Figure 11 – Supersedence Process

Version 1 was published, or came into effect on January 10, 2018. On June 11, 2018 however version 2 was approved and took effect on that date. Hence the superseded date of version 1 became June 11, 2018, and the effective date of version 2 was also June 11, 2018. On December 10, 2018 version 2 was superseded by version 3, which became effective on December 10, 2018 version 3 has no superseded date as it has yet to be superseded by a newer version. Each of these 3 documents would have the value YES in the metadata field PUBLISHED. All other supporting and ancillary documents related to the published document would have the value NO in the metadata field PUBLISHED.

Suppose we have a category called “Policies, Corporate” with the following retention rules:

If Published = Yes, retention = Date Superseded + 5 years

If Published = No, retention = 2 years

Figure 12 shows how we would enter these two rules into the retention schedule in the MRR (Multi Retention Rules) worksheet.

Figure 12 – Retention Rule Details

In spreadsheet row 147 we indicate that the value YES must be in the field “published”. We enter ”AND” in the REL (RELATED) column to show that there is a 2nd condition that must be met. In spreadsheet row 148 we specify that there must be a date in the field “superseded date”. The document will be destroyed 5 years after the date in the “superseded date” field. Note the retention type is D (trigger retention on a document metadata date field). In spreadsheet row 149 we deal with all the remaining documents, i.e. those that are not published. Here we simply keep these documents for 2 years, then destroy. The retention type T tells the software to destroy the documents 2 years following the true document date.

Retention Over-Ride

Every now and then in some categories, the business owner will request the ability to override the retention schedule and keep the document for a longer period of time. We refer to such an extension as a retention schedule “override”. The rationale for a business user to support this varies greatly but the following are some common examples of the reasons they may wish to override the retention schedule:

  1. Reference value. A particular document may have an unusually long (persistent) value for future reference. It may be a rare legal precedent. It may be a technical specification or photograph of an extremely rare piece of equipment that is long out of date but still in service, and the document may need to be preserved as long as the equipment is still in service.
  2. Protective value. A document may record something that could be used in the future to protect the organization from legal action, or serve to defend it in the event of any legal or regulatory challenge in the future. It may serve as evidence that the business owner feels should be kept well beyond the regular retention period, “Just in case”.
  3. Legal value. Some legislation obligates an organization to keep relevant documents if there is a “reasonably foreseeable prospect” of legal action. You may suspect that this document or documents would be important in the event of future legal action against your organization.
  4. Historical value. Records within a given category do not ordinarily contain anything of historical value. But for whatever reason, every now and then a document may be deemed to be historically significant, even though it was never expected to be. For example a photograph of the sod turning ceremony during the construction of a new facility may be included with the construction project documents, however the photo may be declared as historical, therefore you would wish to keep that particular photo permanently.

To allow an end user to override a retention period, you need a mechanism by which they can designate a document with higher retention value. This would be yet another metadata field. The field used for this override would commonly be called CRITICAL (Y/N), or something similar. The name of the field does not matter-it can be called anything you wish, as long as the user understands its purpose. We then define two separate retention rules for this category — one where CRITICAL = NO, and one where CRITICAL = YES, as shown below:

If Critical = Yes, retention = 25 years

If Critical = No, retention = 5 years

Figure 13 shows how we would enter these rules into the retention schedule.

Figure 13 – Retention Rule Over-ride

In spreadsheet row 162 we have a simple time-based retention rule where the value of the field “critical” = YES. Documents meeting that rule will be destroyed 25 years after the true document date. In spreadsheet row 163 we specify a retention rule of 5 years where “critical” = NO.

Below are some important considerations when implementing retention rule overrides:

  1. Each category can have a different retention period for the override. For example, a category “financial audits” might have an override of 25 years, whereas a category “museum collections” might have an override of permanent.
  2. This capability can be subject to abuse. Some users may have a proclivity to using it too much, on too many documents. The only defence against this is to educate your users, and to monitor the usage of the over-ride. We recommend that on a regular basis, perhaps monthly, you should run a report against the entire EDRMS to determine how often, in what categories, and which users applied the override. Monitor it frequently to ensure it’s being used in a healthy fashion and not being abused.
  3. This override can be combined with other retention rules in any given category. The example below shows how the override can be applied to a category with supersedence rules:
  1. If Published = Yes, retention = Date Superseded + 5 years
  2. If Published = No, retention = 2 years
  3. If Critical = Yes, retention = 25 years

 Continuous Overwrite

Unlike traditional physical documents, electronic documents can be modified on an ongoing basis over time. There are 3 distinctly different methods to modify a digital document:

Save with a different filename Every time you modify the document, you save it with a different filename. This creates a separate document for each time you modified the document. Each is different from the other, and they bear a different filename from each other. Technically and legally, each change constitutes a different record. Each of these separate records can be declared and managed independently of the other.

Save with the same filename You make a change to the document and save it without changing its name. This overwrites the previous version of the document with a new version that contains the changes. There is no record of the changes made to the document. There is no version that tells you how often it was changed or what the differences are between the versions. It is legally and technically one record, the content of which has changed over time. This is what we refer to as a true “continuous overwrite” document. It is continuously being overwritten. The frequency with which it is modified is of no consequence, so don’t be put off by the “continuous” terminology. It is continuous insofar as all the changes are continuously being overwritten throughout the lifetime of the document.

Save and increment the version In any modern ECM system, you can optionally turn on version management. Each time you save the document the system automatically increments the version number by one. The first time you save a document it will automatically have version 1. The next time you save it, it will have version 2, and so on. This allows you to go back in time and see every change made to the document. Legally and technically, each version is a record and can be managed as a record independently of all other versions. Some would say that the entire version series is a single record. Either way, in modern recordkeeping the versions and the changes to those versions should be preserved in accordance with the principle of records preservation.

Here we are concerned only with the 2nd of the 3 methods shown above – saving with the same filename. We refer to this as “continuous overwrite”. Some examples may include:

  1. Tracking logs. A spreadsheet used to track attendance of students, phone calls, project changes, etc. The spreadsheet is updated periodically (daily, weekly, monthly) or on an as needed basis. Each time the spreadsheet is updated it is saved without changing its name.
  2. Databases. You may have a database to track things such as assets, employee leave, or other information. Such databases might include Microsoft access, Oracle, or even a Microsoft Notepad document. The database is updated periodically and all the data is stored in a “database”. This database can consist of a single file or a set of related files, which we considered to be a record. The name of that database file(s) never changes, and is continuously overwritten as new data is added or modified.
  3. Notebooks. A notebook can be an ordinary document such as a Microsoft Word document which is used to record operator notes, police notes, or anything else which is periodically and continuously updated. Microsoft has an innovative software application called OneNote which is specifically designed to record notes on a continuous basis in a single document. In essence, OneNote is a database of unstructured documents.

Such documents often constitute important records. But because they are being continuously modified and saved (i.e. continuous overwrite), we can neither make them immutable (locked them down and prevent deletion or modification) or delete them. So how do we deal with it in a retention schedule? Any given category can have one or more such documents. For example, a category such as “sales performance and tracking” might contain records of the sales quotas and targets of a sales team. Mixed within these records could be a tracking log – the spreadsheet that records and tracks aggregate data of the entire sales team over time. Because this tracking log is being continuously overwritten, we cannot make it immutable or delete it. In essence, we have to ignore it and leave it be. In this example we would define two retention rules as follows:

If Continuous Overwrite = Yes, retention = Ignore

If Continuous Overwrite = No, retention = 5 years

In the ECM, each document in this category must have a mandatory metadata field called “continuous overwrite”. The default value would be NO. For each tracking log stored in this ECM library (Category), the user must specify “continuous overwrite” = YES. Where “continuous overwrite” = YES, the software will ignore the document and not lock it down or apply any deletion to it. For all documents where “continuous overwrite” = NO, the document will be kept for 5 years then destroyed.

Figure 14 shows how we would enter that into the spreadsheet.

Figure 14 – Continuous Overwrite

In spreadsheet row 194 we specify that for all documents where document metadata field “continuous overwrite” = YES, we will use retention type O (ignore, no deletion). In spreadsheet row 195 we specify that for all documents where document metadata field “continuous overwrite” = NO, we use retention type T (time-based) and delete these documents 5 years after their true document date.

In some cases, tracking logs and similar databases are “rolled over” on a periodic basis. Suppose a tracking log is used to track sales performance in a given calendar year. A spreadsheet is updated continuously throughout the year. At the end of the year the spreadsheet for that year is left behind and a copy is made with a different name for the following year. This new spreadsheet for the next year is then continuously updated throughout the second year. This means that updating of each log ceases at the end of every calendar year. We can then apply retention to those logs. Suppose we had a category that contained tracking logs that were rolled over at the end of each year. If we applied normal default retention period of 5 years for example, that would be sufficient to capture the tracking logs. The tracking logs would be retained 5 years after the end of each calendar year, then destroyed. As a general rule of thumb, if the rollover period is less than the default retention period, the continuous overwrite treatment is not necessary.


A fresh approach to the retention schedule is essential if you are about to deploy a modern EDRMS system. The schedule must be in a spreadsheet format, and contain detailed category descriptions, explicit cases and naming convention for case categories, as well as mathematically correct retention rules for all categories that require multiple retention rules. This allows you to leverage the full capabilities of the EDRMS software.

The retention schedule does more than simply specify retention rules – it forms the basic underlying structure of the ECM platform. Once the EDRMS is fully deployed, the ECM structure, the retention schedule, and the RBR automation rules all work together an as interconnected unit. Any change to either of these three components must be carefully coordinated so that the RBR rules do not break. This means the RIM professional must:

  1. Substantially re-work the retention schedule
  2. Heavily influence the ECM structure
  3. Design and deploy automation records declaration and retention rules
  4. Continuously monitor the overall system and ensure and changes are communicated and reflected in all three levels of the system

About the Author

Bruce Miller, MBA, IGP is a world leading expert on electronic recordkeeping. He is an independent consultant, an author, and an educator. He pioneered the world’s first electronic recordkeeping software. He served as IBM’s global e-Records Strategy and Business Development Executive. At IBM he was honored as a Technical Leader, one of 439 out of 360,000 IBM employees. Mr. Miller is the recipient of the prestigious Emmett Leahy Award, the highest international recognition given to professionals in the field of information management. His book “Managing Records in Microsoft SharePoint” was an ARMA best seller. Bruce holds a Diploma in Electronics Engineering Technology, an MBA, and is a certified Information Governance Professional.

Medical Information Management for COVID-19 or Other Medical/Emergency Procedures

Sagesse Winter 2021 – An ARMA Canada Publication


by Alexandra (Sandie) Bradley, CRM, FAI


Back to Sagesse 2021




This paper will examine 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.




A sudden emergency, an accident, or the diagnosis and care for a critical medical issue such as COVID-19 or other significant illness will catapult an individual into the medical environment of testing, diagnosis, treatment and continuing care.  Each procedure will involve records creation and maintenance by the care providers, in a variety of organizations.  Records managers, as professionals assume responsibility for the records of organizations.  However, where our individual health is concerned, we are the subject of the various records that will accumulate about our issue.  For our use and protection, we are faced with collecting and maintaining personal health information as individuals, no matter where else this information may reside.  This paper will examine why this information is one’s most critical record, why such personal record keeping is necessary and how our information assists with successful treatment. Observations are based on a personal journey through the Canadian health care environment.  Finally, in light of current emergencies like hurricanes and wildfires, it is essential to maintain key health records in case we are stricken or have to leave our homes quickly.


Welcome to Canadian Medicine


Most people enjoy living a healthy and predictable life.  However, there may come a time when, through an accident or diagnosis of illness, the healthy person suddenly becomes the “patient”, and embarks on a pathway to healing, one that may involve a wide number of treatment providers and agencies.  Thankfully, our universal health care system in Canada means that individuals are not deprived of access for treatment.  However, across the country, various provincial jurisdictions govern the provision of health services, and within each province, diverse professional service providers may have a role to play.  The information that is documented and maintained is subject to each jurisdictions’ rules and responsibilities, varying from practice standards of professional groups to laws governing access and privacy.  Despite progress to unify these diverse systems, health information may still be fragmented and not always universally accessible to the health care providers.


Personal health information


The terminology identifying medical records has evolved to the collective term “personal health information” (1).  The retention and management of this information is governed by diverse organizational requirements, and generally is maintained for the use of the creator, not the subject of the information (2). 


As this paper will demonstrate, one patient will likely be seen by several doctors, may have many tests, and while the results may be collected or aggregated by the agencies administering the treatments, there is still no single source of truth or one “master” medical file on the patient.  The cumulative personal health information collected by the patient at each step becomes their key to understanding their diagnosis and treatment, and enables accurate communication between the patient and the various medical staff involved.  Furthermore, in an emergency, the patient’s’ ability to provide immediate and accurate medical history will speed up the provision of the necessary care.


This conclusion is based on my personal experience with a serious illness.  The paper discusses the management of personal health information from both the person experience as well as from a records manager’s perspective in collecting, organization and managing information. 


My case study


Records collection


Whether a person identifies symptoms or is suddenly stricken, whether the entrée to treatment is through a physician’s office, or through an emergency facility, the treatment process generally starts with a series of tests for diagnosis.  A friend warned me that an immediate reaction to medical news is shock, and that having a second person present helps with hearing and noting the information provided about treatment. (She called the shock “medicine brain”, and based on my experience, she was correct.  A second person heard the information I missed.)


A notebook was also recommended, to keep track of conversations, notations about medications provided, and reminders for activities, follow up meetings, etc. (Notetaking on my smart phone was not convenient, often not permitted because of proximity to medical equipment or difficult without access to WIFI.)  My husband was able to attend all meetings, and his observations assisted with my notetaking. 


Record collecting began after the first meeting with the family doctor, when we both recalled what the doctor said and noted the discussion.  The notebook became “the Blue Book” which evolved past note-taking to include handouts and other materials.  When the collection of information grew beyond five pages of documents, the Blue Book was added to the Blue Briefcase, to hold the accumulated material which had evolved into a personal case record and diary of all that happened in the journey.  This information was retained in chronological order, and corresponded to the dated notes in the Blue Book.  At each stage of my treatment, the notes provided me with quick recall and summation of treatment to discuss with the attending health staff.


Initial diagnosis and testing


My diagnosis arose from a sister’s medical event.  At a regular check-up, I made a casual comment in the family physician’s office.  On the basis of my sister’s issues, the family doctor ordered a series of routine tests.  One of them, a blood test, detected anomalies, and the doctor ordered more testing.  


As discussed above, notes of the conversation with the family physician were made in the Blue Book.  Doctor’s patient notes and medical laboratory records were created.  While doctors’ records are still not universally available in our province, a patient can sign up for access to the laboratory records and create copies of their laboratory results (3).  These copies are vital for future discussions (such as when complications arise).  


A referral from the family physician to an internist was also given, and at his office, medical history (from the Blue Book) was provided.  There were several sets of tests ordered. The dates and results of these tests were recorded in the Blue Book as they were completed, and were also shared by the internist’s office to the family doctor, who discussed them with me.  


Another referral from the family physician was made to a gastroenterologist, for a colonoscopy, properly called a “CT Scan of Abdomen and Pelvis with Contrast”, which took place in the local hospital.  Preparation for the test including detailed instructions and medication. On arrival for the test, a nurse provided a form requesting personal and family medical history, use of medications, allergies, and previous medical tests taken. 


Now, in addition to this third physician’s records, there were pharmacy (prescription) records, test procedures, the hospital test record, and discharge instructions (4) following the test.  The discharge instructions provided a brief description of the test results, which were soon followed by another record, the laboratory results of the colonoscopy.  These results were forwarded automatically to the family physician, and a copy was provided to me.  All documents were collected into the Blue Book.  Note:  My husband was also present after the colonoscopy and heard the instructions from the gastroenterologist to the surgeon.  (Sedated, I heard nothing.)  The next day, the family physician provided confirmation of the diagnosis and the prompt need for surgery.  As part of the discussion, the family physician provided a printed copy of the analysis of the colonoscopy, which was noted in the Blue Book collection, and added to the Blue Briefcase  collection of documents, now including three sets of physicians’ tests and notes. I am uncertain if the provision of copies to patients is a standard procedure or just the practice of our family physician.  If such documents are not provided, I recommend asking for copies to be provided. 




The next step in the process was surgery.  


At his office, the surgeon (Physician#4) confirmed a date for the procedure.  Again, there was a review of medical history, from the well-thumbed Blue Book.  His staff provided more information about the surgical process, including more handouts for the Blue Briefcase including “Dialogue for Patient Fasting Guidelines”, “Bowel Preparation Instructions – Surgery” (5) and a checklist of the various departments of the hospital to be cleared before surgery.  


Appointments were made for these pre-surgical consultations at the hospital, first with the anaesthesiologist who reviewed my hospital testing record, and confirmed physical information, and a surgical nurse to brief me on the pre- and post- surgery requirements.  Again, I was required to provide my medical history (accumulating in the Blue Book), family medical history, medication use and allergies.  The anaesthesiologist indicated that the surgery would be 1.5 hours in duration, and that, prior to the surgery, no medications or supplements are permitted.  The surgical nurse provided two booklets: instructions (6) for the surgery preparation:  showering, hair washing, no use of deodorant or makeup prior to arrival at the hospital on the day of surgery.  She also confirmed the requirements of the post-surgical recovery outlined in the second booklet (7):  deep breathing, use of sugarless gum, coughing and stretching to ensure no complications from the surgical procedure. She instructed me to bring the second Enhanced Recovery after Surgery (ERAS) booklet to the hospital when I came in for surgery.  I answered questions about a representation agreement and final preparations if a full code was called. Again, all was noted in the Blue Book and the surgical instructions filed into the Blue Briefcase.  The last stop was at the hospital laboratory where blood work was done with results forwarded to the surgeon prior to the operating date.


Surgery took place two weeks later. Tissue samples were sent for biopsy, with the results forwarded to my family physician and the surgeon.


During the hospital stay, physicians, nurses and physiotherapists checked my progress, charting information into an integrated electronic record keeping system (8). All interactions with me were noted into the system, either by the nurses on a mobile computer that was brought to the bedside, or in the various locations of the hospital, including the laboratory, pharmacy or imaging department (9). I took no notes during this time.  


Five days later, I was discharged.  More information was provided by hospital staff, beyond the ERAS booklet, to cover diet (10).  A daily injection of medication was prescribed, to ensure no blood clotting after surgery. All conversations were noted in the Blue Book.


Emergency follow up 


Ten days later I was back at the Emergency Department with sharp pains and difficulty breathing.  Blue Book notes provided my recent medical history to the attending doctor.  After initial examinations by the emergency staff, including referral to my recent surgical history in the hospital’s electronic system, Physician #5 sent me for scans to determine the cause of my pain.  The scans revealed an infection as well as thrombosis in my lungs. I was readmitted to the hospital.  The infection site was drained and I was isolated for three days, until further tests revealed that the infection was not contagious.  All of this treatment was noted into the hospital electronic system, and forwarded to both my family physician and surgeon.  Two days later, I was discharged again, with medication to treat the infection as well as the thrombosis (a three month treatment of drugs).  Once again, I updated notes in the Blue Book to cover new medications and treatments.


A visit to my family physician was necessary, to prescribe the complete course of medications for the two conditions.  She also provided me a copy of the report by the BC Cancer Agency, which indicated that the surgery had successfully contained the tumour. This report was added to the Blue Briefcase.  She also referred me to a haematologist, (Physician #6) to confirm what further treatment might be required from the thrombosis.  


Ten days later, I visited the surgeon for the surgical follow up.  Despite the complications described here, he pronounced the surgery a success, and indicated that he would see me in a year for further examination.  He also referred me to an oncologist (Physician#7) for review of the tumour and any further treatment.  Ten days later, in our meeting, the oncologist stated that there was no need for further treatment. This was duly noted in the Blue Book.


The last medical visit was the haematologist, who reviewed my medical history from my Blue Book notes and the electronic hospital records.  He indicated that after the three month period of medication was completed, I was cured, and should expect no further complications, unless a similar set of circumstances arose in future. There were final notes (I thought) in the Blue Book, and much dancing and celebrating by me.




Once hospitalization was finished, I started on the path to “back to normal” health.  The two challenges post-surgery were to regain strength and resume physical activity.  Clearly, improved muscle tone and increased energy levels were needed after the two month interval of surgery and recovery.  Normally I would swim or walk or play golf.    At our local recreation centre’s medical physiotherapy unit, I obtained an appointment with a specialist in post-surgical recovery.  She assessed my condition, reviewing my Blue Book notes and the documents associated with the surgery and post complications.  Through the next three months, she led me through a series of strengthening and balancing exercises, providing me with an illustrated set of instructions.  These were well-thumbed, copied and added to the Blue Briefcase.  I had graduated to the Weight Room for independent exercise, just as the facility closed because of the COVID 19 pandemic. However, a regime of walking and now golf have replaced the inside activities.


Finally, the last and continuing post-surgical issue is diet.  In the booklet provided upon discharge, the instructions were to follow a moderate diet for 6 to 8 weeks and then resume “normal” eating.  However, the notes from the Blue Book indicate that the physicians can assume, but don’t guarantee, when “normal” returns.    Six months post-surgery and after trial and error with different types of foods, digestion was definitely not back to normal.  Through a friend, I heard about Inspire Health (11), a cancer support agency approved by the BC Ministry of Health.  I registered with them, providing permission for them to access and review my hospital, laboratory and Cancer Agency medical history.  Inspire Health provides referrals to individual specialists, and I obtained the services of a dietitian.  Resulting from the closures caused by COVID, Inspire Health adopted a model of remote learning.  The dietitian booked a Zoom conference and my health history and subsequent diet issues were discussed.  The Blue Book notes were essential to provide context to the issues. After the first meeting online, we booked a series of Zoom calls. I was asked to maintain a food diary, and to submit it two days prior to each Zoom call.  


She immediately placed me back on the restricted diet provided when I was discharged from hospital.  In addition, she identified food allergies and reactions to specific food types, which I was instructed to remove from my diet, as well as supplements and electrolytes to add to my diet.  Each Zoom call resulted in six to eight pages of notes in the Blue Book, as well as copies of handouts about aspects of diet that related to my particular circumstances (12).  She requested further blood tests be undertaken, so I contacted my family  physician, providing her with all of the information I had been given via my Blue Book notes, and she ordered the tests.  Results indicated that I needed more iron and vitamins, which the physician ordered.  These were noted in the Blue Book.  


In all, there were four consultations with the dietitian, each resulting in recommendations for diet and supplements.  I shared the results of her recommendations with my family physician, who is now monitoring my results for iron deficiency.


A follow up visit to the internist who had been part of my diagnosis was the last step in the immediate care.  He concurred with the recommendations about diet supplements, and requested another follow up in six months to ensure progress.


Continuing care


This case will not be completed for at least five years, when the surgeon will pronounce that my treatment is completed.  At year one past surgery, a scan and colonoscopy are required, to ensure no return of cancer cells.  If none are found, the tests will drop to three years post-surgery, and then five years.  Each of the tests and scans will generate a set of additional records and notes, which are filed in chronological order within the Blue Briefcase and Book.


Benefits of the personal recordkeeping


The case study illustrates the varied sources and diverse types of records that will accumulate as a patient is diagnosed and treated for a medical condition.  Despite the evolving state of centralized electronic record keeping in the medical environment, the uncoordinated systems are still not linked, particularly the physicians’ records and those of outside service providers like the physiotherapist and dietitian, where the records are created within their office environments.  (Depending on the doctor’s relationship with the hospital, there may be access from the doctor’s office to the hospital information, but this access will not be universal.)  Consequently, when required to describe their medical condition and history, a patient must have a comprehensive and reliable information source at their fingertips.  In my case, the Blue Book and Briefcase started as reminders for me, and evolved into the story of my health, which I was required to recite with each specialist consultation.  


The need for this personal record keeping may be short-term, for the duration of the immediate treatment, or long-term, depending on the medical condition.  In my circumstances, because I will be treated for my condition for five years, this set of records will become a vital and ongoing active record until such time as I am declared “cured”.  Subsequently, this record keeping will become an historic record of my treatment, with a summary available at my fingertips should I require medical treatment for any reason in the future.  As previously noted, the physicians’ records may be retained for 16 years past my last contact or treatment, but for me, these become a permanently valuable set, and will be retained for my lifetime. 


In case of emergency – make your own information available


An emergency situation requires a different, less detailed, but equally important set of personal medical information.  If a patient is suddenly stricken and must be carried into emergency treatment, a succinct summary of medical information will be essential for the immediate treatment and assistance to the first responders.  Such information should be readily available to an emergency medical technician, ambulance attendant or other individual who is responding to the sudden event, accident, collapse, or other immediate event (13).  Sometimes called the “ICE” file, this vital record should include the information that a paramedic or first responder will require to treat the patient, and also provide to the emergency staff at the hospital.  


The original idea for the ICE file was based on an observation by a paramedic in the United Kingdom that most people have their smartphone with them at all times, so it was logical to encourage people to carry their essential information on their smartphone and in an unlocked file for ready access.  Various types of phones have software and procedures available so the phone will remain secure, yet the first responders will be able to access the information they need (14).  


Across Canada, various agencies have identified and provide template forms for the individual to complete and have available should emergencies arise, when the individual may not be in a position to provide the information. As an example, the West Toronto Support Services (15) organization provides a two page form which includes a section for relevant medical history, medications, medical allergies, and special considerations, such as dialysis or extensive medical history.  This form is brief enough that it can folded and carried in a wallet or purse.  A second, more detailed form is provided from Patient Pathways (16) which is described as “one of the most thorough available and takes into consideration any Advanced Care Planning documents that outline your preferences for future healthcare.”  This eight-page document covers full identification as well as important circumstances (e.g. deafness) , life-threatening allergies, mobility and sensory issues, medical conditions and recent surgeries, prescription medication record, non-prescription medications, medical emergency contacts, current physicians, and personal and household contacts.  Both agencies recommend that the completed forms, one for each family member, are stored in a clear plastic bag and attached to the front or inside of your refrigerator, where paramedics are trained to look. It is also recommended that these forms are updated annually, or when medical circumstances change.


While organizations may vary in the recommendations for the content of this information and where to keep it, generally, first responders agree that what they will need is information on whether there is a life threatening condition, whether there is a condition that could appear threatening but is not, and information (signed by your physician) that you are DNR (have indicated Do Not Resuscitate) if you have chosen this approach (17).


 The “go bag” 


Another type of emergency medical information you may require is the evacuation or “go bag”, information that should be prepared in advance, and ready when and if you must leave your home on short notice.  With the recent wildfires, storms, floods and other disasters, emergency planning authorities are encouraging all citizens to have a carry-all or backpack, prepared in advance and filled with the essential items you need to live in an emergency shelter or other facilities.


Along with other household information, emergency planning organizations are encouraging families to collect family health information (18).  As an example, within their Home Emergency Plan kit template, Prepared BC includes a page for family health information, including names and medical card numbers, lists of medications, medical equipment and other health information and family physicians. There is also a tip about keeping extra amounts of up to date prescriptions in the emergency kit, along with extra glasses and contact lenses, a first aid kit and other basic COVID disinfecting supplies.  In popular media (19), articles featuring the emergency needs of families also stress the need for the medical information and supplies of medicines needed to be top priority for the emergency bag or pack.




As a healthy person, I had no significant medical history, other than giving birth to my children, and receiving immunizations and dental care, before my diagnosis.  However, as I collected the information during my adventure (20) of the cancer treatment, my professional training alerted me to collect, organize and retain the medical information that accumulated.  My case record, at my fingertips, will have value for the duration of my treatment, and following, will contribute to my medical history.  In five years, upon conclusion of my treatment, I can foresee a file closing and culling of the documents to retain the essential information:  laboratory reports, doctors’ notes and medications.  I will include a summary in the “in case of emergency” and “to go” information that I will retain within the house. Hopefully, there will be no need for another adventure. If a hospital stay is required in future, the comprehensive medical information of the hospital treatment is in the CST system and available to the doctors and staff who will treat me.  However, until the physician’s office records are also online, some type of bridge record keeping will be required.  Another notebook, perhaps.


Every person’s medical adventure is unique, and may include fewer or more steps than the one described in this paper.  However, the ability to document and track the treatment provides assistance to the health care professionals and enables the patient to contribute to his or her immediate care.



1 British Columbia. E-Health (Personal Health Information Access and Protection of Privacy) Act. SBC 2008, Ch. 38, Part 1 Definitions and Interpretation. “Personal health information means recorded information about an identifiable individual that is related to the individual’s health or the provision of health services.”

2 College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia Practice Standard Medical Records, Data Stewardship and Confidentiality of Personal Health Information. Section 3-6 (2) “Records are required to be maintained for a minimum period of 16 years from either the date of last entry or from the age of majority, whichever is later, except as otherwise required by law.” records.

3 In British Columbia, this service is called “my ehealth”.

4 Vancouver Coastal Health, Providence Health Care. Discharge Instructions Following Colonoscopy/Sigmoidoscopy/Polypectomy/Gastroscopy/Endoscopic Ultrasound, Vancouver Coastal Health, March 2017.

5 Office of Dr. Eiman Zargaran, North Vancouver, BC., August, 2019.

6 Vancouver Coastal Health. Preparing for your Surgery: Information for Patients having an Operation. Vancouver Coastal Health, February 2016

7 Vancouver Coastal Health. Enhanced Recovery after Surgery (ERAS) Colon Surgery. Vancouver Coastal Health, January 2018. 

8 Clinical + Systems Transformation. On April 28, 2018, Lions Gate Hospital and Squamish General Hospital were the first of approximately 40 acute care sites across the Vancouver Coastal, Provincial Health Services Authority and Providence Health Care, to implement a multi-year project including a new shared computer system to replace aging systems. . 

9 Ibid. “What’s changing for clinical care: Mark’s Patient Journey” illustrates the various components of the electronic health system as a patient arrives at a hospital for care. The video matches my experience in the hospital setting.

10 “Your first 6-8 weeks after surgery”, Lions Gate Hospital, n.d..

11 InspireHealth Supportive Cancer Care.

12 “Health Eating for your Condition”. “HealthLink BC is a government-funded telehealth service launched in 2001, which provides non-emergency health information to the residents of British Columbia, Canada through combined telephone, internet, mobile app, and print resources.” www: British Columbia HealthLink BC

13 Rod Brouhart. “Where to Keep Medical Information for Emergencies.” Emergency response organizations have varying recommendations, ranging from a bracelet or device on a person’s body to various locations in the home, in a wallet or purse or on a cell phone. 10/1/2020 

14 TechGuy Labs. Put Emergency Medical Information on Your Smartphone. Identifies processes for setting up through the Apple Health app on iPhones, or through free third party apps available for iPhone and Android phones.

15 Toronto Paramedic Services. Information Sheet, West Toronto Support Services, n.d. https:

16 PatientPathways. In Case of Emergency Form. Guidelines and Forms, 2019. http: PatientPathwaysca

17 Op. cit. Brouhard.

18 This template covers the full gamut of emergency information including vital identification, property and other records. 

19 Shilton, A.C. “Prepare a ‘Go Bag’ Today. The New York Times, September 20, 2020. P. D10

20 In his seminar Re-Envisioning the Retention Schedule, ARMA Canada and RIMTech Consulting, September 17, 2020, Bruce Miller referred to case records as individual “adventures”. Considering my contact with the various medical services for my treatment, the term “adventure” I agree that the term is a perfect description for a personal medical case file.


About the Author


Alexandra (Sandie) Bradley has been a records and information manager for over 45 years, and a member of the ARMA Vancouver Chapter for 38 years.  Through her chapter, regional and International roles within ARMA, she has been a mentor and teacher, researcher, writer, and advocate for our profession.  She is a librarian and Certified Records Manager and was made a Fellow of ARMA International (Number 47) in 2012. She is currently a member of the Sagesse Editorial Board and focusses on research and writing. 




British Columbia.  SBC, Ch. 38.  E-Health (Personal Health Information Access and Protection of Privacy) Act.


British Columbia.  HealthLink BC.  In addition to resources for non-emergency health matters, this site is the definitive source for information about COVID-19 in British Columbia.


British Columbia.  Prepared BC. Fill-in-the-blanks Home Emergency Plan.  2019.


Brouhard, Rod.  “Where to Keep Medical Information for Emergencies”.  Very Well Health, April, 2020.


Clinical + Systems Transformation (CST).


College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.  Practice Standard:  Medical Records, Data Stewardship and Confidentiality of Personal Health Information.  Version 3.0, September 2014, rev. June 21, 2019.


InspireHealth Supportive Cancer Care.


Miller, Bruce.  Re-Envisioning the Retention Schedule.  RIMTech Consulting and ARMA Canada, September 17, 2020.


Patient Pathways.  In Case of Emergency Form: Guidelines and Form. 2019.


Shilton, A.C.  “Prepare a ‘Go Bag’ Today.  New York Times, September 20, 2020.  P. D10


TechGuy Labs.  Put Emergency Medical Information on Your Smartphone. -information-your-smartphone.  Accessed 9/22/2020


Toronto Paramedic Services.  Information Sheet; In Case of Emergency.  West Toronto Support Services. n.d.


Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.  http://www/ Various publications provided by physicians and hospital staff.

Starting the Digital Transformation Journey in a Pandemic


By Sandra Bates and Amitabh Srivastav, IGP, CIP, PMP

Back to Sagesse 2021


Digital transformation (DT) is a key drive and a critical factor for organizational success in the current digital business environment. 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. Although DT is not a new initiative, it has changed from an innovative journey to a business necessity leaving management lost and struggling as to how to proceed. This article will examine the business drivers for DT by linking them to key concepts and identifying the DT initiative’s scope. Next, the article will discuss preparing the business case via Use Cases and examining change management risks and mitigation strategies.


Dating back prior to the invention of the abacus or compass, people have been using technology to improve the way they live and work in society.  For centuries now, transformation in society due to new technology inventions has been slow and the benefits were often easily realized. Digital technology has evolved primarily over the past 70 years. However, in the past 30 years, digital technology has developed at a rate never before experienced, which affects almost every industry. Before, people looked at digital technology and said “wouldn’t it be cool if we could…” to an environment where the technology develops at a rate where people were apprehensive, but needed to change with technology. Now, they can realize some of their imaginations, those crazy ideas. People no longer need to imagine, because digital technologies can make it a reality.

COVID-19 vaulted many organizations and government agencies into a world where digital technology and processes were forced upon them due to the current climate.  Now organizations have a “taste” of what digital technologies can do, and there is no turning back.  Organizations have introduced many digital processes, yet may still be thinking in manual ways and not realizing the full potential of the digital capabilities that are thrust upon them.

Hence the need for digital transformation (DT). DT is not solely about taking manual processes and using technology to replicate that process but rather it is about digitizing a process and using that technology to enhance or realize additional benefits.  Some examples of additional benefits are improved analytics, better self-serve capabilities, and effective collaboration.

For information professionals, DT is about realizing the organization’s information as assets and using them to their full potential. 

Defining Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how you operate and deliver value to customers. It’s also a cultural change that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment, and get comfortable with failure. (enterprisers project, 2020)

Throughout this article, the authors will address DT from the information professional’s perspective and looking at terminology and best practices when engaging in the DT initiatives.

Digital Transformation Drivers

Looking at the technology trends, legislation, regulations and stakeholder expectations gives an idea of some of the key drivers of DT.

Technology Trends: Artificial Intelligence (AI) 

The past few years has seen a drastic improvement and uptake in Big Data (BD) and Machine Learning (ML). This is largely due to the vast amounts of data that is continuously collected. BD and ML offer solutions to use this data and give it value as an asset. Analytics and robotic process automation (RPA) reduce human effort, offer better, faster business decisions and improve customer experiences. 

Knowledge and information gained from AI is changing the way organizations do business. The ability to improve the customer experience will determine the success or failure of organizations. Ultimately the ability to digitally transform your organization is necessary to stay competitive and fiscally profitable. This is achieved through utilizing AI to understand and make decisions based on customer behaviours, values and needs. Not only can AI solutions provide the knowledge and information to accomplish this, but also, they are more effective and efficient people.

Legislation and Regulations

The Government of Canada has also recognized the value of DT. In understanding the value in DT, the government recognized the risks associated with it as well. To protect the privacy of Canadians and safeguard against the misuse of their data, Canada’s Digital Charter was introduced. The objective of the Charter is to keep Canada competitive by realizing the economic and societal benefits of DT, while safeguarding against privacy and security threats that can accompany a digital society.

(, accessed Oct 2020)

Canada is invested in this strategy.  In addition to empowering digital businesses, investing in DT can increase economic growth and accessibility. By 2030 it is expected that every Canadian business or home, regardless of geographical location, will have internet access to enable access. But currently, reliable digital access that is expected in more populous areas is not accessible to 16% of the population. That means there are over six million Canadians that cannot promote their businesses, file their taxes online, apply for jobs on-line, shop or connect with family via social media, etc.


Another primary driver for DT in Canada is the information privacy. Canada’s privacy by design principles generate an environment where privacy of personal information is embedded into technology solutions. This is especially important with cloud-based solutions. It is essential in seeking solutions to ensure that understanding information privacy and security outside of Canada is not always equal to Canada’s mandate.

In Canada, legislation such as Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) guide the approach to governance regarding the protection of privacy of information by Canadian based businesses. 

In addition to the federal legislation, most provinces also have mandates such as the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) and the Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (LA FOIP) in Saskatchewan which guide handling personal information by government agencies as well as access to information requests. The ability to provide information in response to access to information requests within legislated timelines often poses a challenge due to manual processes.  DT initiatives have the potential to improve response to requests as well as make information available through initiatives such as Open Government where the federal government is making more information accessible to the public through proactive publishing of information.

Although Canada’s PIPEDA may prove to be stronger than many countries if businesses wish to house information in Europe or conduct business with European agencies, the General Data Protection Regulation’s (GDPR) “right to be forgotten” require that all personal information of an individual must be erased upon request of the individual.

Technology solutions implemented within the organization must understand the need for privacy and security measures. In Canada, the privacy laws are more robust than in some countries and understanding where data residency issues may be a factor are essential to cloud solutions.  Knowing where your data lies physically and the understanding the local laws in those countries that may affect the privacy and security of the information. It is important to privacy protection that data residency issues are understood and addressed. 

Concepts and Definitions

When the organization’s senior management team decides to embrace DT and move forward with the initiative, the team may have varying ideas about DT, the key concepts, the scope of the initiative, the end product, etc.  The first question is – what is DT? As noted above, DT is very broad, encompassing technology and non-technology concepts.  Understanding these key concepts can help the organization define its DT journey, its business case, and increase the probability of its success.  Some of the key concepts are:

Cloud enablement: is about a “cloud-first mindset” to leverage capabilities and tools, and deploy services that are outside the firewall.  This implies a cloud computing model that ARMA defines as, “A model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g. networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.” (Glossary of Records Management and Information Governance Terms, ARMA International TR 22-2016, p 9)

Intelligent capture: focuses on opportunities to convert physical information into digital formats across multiple channels.  Intelligent capture can also leverage capabilities of RPA using artificial intelligence via machine learning and machine teaching.

Repository-neutral content: are storage locations that are independent of the underlying systems and technology creating content so the content is available to diverse business users.  Integrated collaboration leverages diverse technology platforms and disparate repositories to allow teams to save, search, and share content.  This can include knowledge management, data analytics, data management, etc.

Information governance (IG): is a very critical, if not the most important concept for a successful DT initiative.  It is acknowledged that IG, “… helps organizations achieve business objectives, facilitates compliance with external requirements, and minimizes risk posed by sub-standard information handling practices.” (Glossary of Records Management and Information Governance Terms, ARMA International TR 22-2016, p 28)

Content services: is recognized as another key and critical concept because it facilitates the capability to deliver content and / or services on-demand to any device, anywhere at any time independent of the source of the content.  In many cases, this is the end goal of a successful DT initiative. Since the content has business value, therefore IG, compliance, security, and privacy are critical considerations when delivering the content to internal users and external customers as a new service or a digital product.  More importantly, the success or failure of a new online service or digital product can determine the success or failure of a DT initiative.  The DT initiative needs to define the product scope of the initiative.  PMI defines product scope as “The features and functions that characterize a product, services, or result.” (PMBoK 6th ed ., p 715)  Therefore, the business case needs to clearly articulate the product, service, or result of the DT initiative – i.e. “What is the end-state or end goal?” In fact, the business case should identify the benefits and outcomes from the perspective of different stakeholders – i.e. “What does it mean to me?” or “How will it benefit me?”

Auto-classification: is the systematic identification and classification of content into categories according to a taxonomy representing logical structures such as functions, activities, procedures, methods, etc.  Auto-classification can leverage RPA using AI via machine learning and machine teaching to analyze the explosive growth of digital content and categorized it, including redundant, obsolete, and trivial (ROT) content.  “According to data compiled by Visual Capitalist, a single internet minute holds more than 400,000 hours of video streamed on Netflix, 500 hours of video uploaded by users on YouTube and nearly 42 million messages shared via WhatsApp.” (, accessed Oct 2020).

Customer experience: is the collection of experiences, emotions, expectation, impressions, etc. as a result of interacting with online services and digital products across all platforms and delivery channels from an organization’s website, mobile apps, chat, call centres, etc.  Customer experience is closely associated with content services, because from an existential perspective a “thumbs up or down” on social media can materially affect the success or failure of new content services as mentioned above.

Product Scope

While the above concepts help define a DT initiative, it still needs to define the product scope of the DT initiative – in other words what will content services deliver to its stakeholders and how?  When the organization accepts a “cloud-first” strategy of a cloud computing service model, it includes Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).  The nomenclature includes other services such as Content as a Service (CaaS), Managed Content as a Service (MCaaS), Data as a Service (DaaS), etc. More recent technology trends include Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) and Artificial Intelligence as a Service (AIaaS) from third-party cloud-based providers, amongst other services and products.

CaaS / MCaaS infers a “digital mindset” too, for the product scope to deliver services and products.  This means digitizing business processes for the content throughout the information lifecycle from the “cradle-to-the-grave.”  The scope for content services can be just as board as the DT initiative itself.  So, the second question is – what is the product scope?  The scope can include the following key ones:

Information architecture: overlaps many areas of design, but some key ones are navigation, user experience, user interface, security model, taxonomy, etc.

Artificial Intelligence: can perform data analytics on content from many sources, such big data, various types of sensor (i.e. Internet of Things (IoT)), wearable devices, social media, etc.  The analysis can focus on trend analysis, predictive analytics, modelling, etc.  AI can also identify trending topics, curate content from disparate repositories, and deliver it, based user-defined rules.

Document management (DM): traditional document management was “save, search and share,” but now DM is more collaborative with real-time co-authoring on any device, from anywhere, anytime (assuming authorized access).

Records management (RM): has traditionally focused on physical records management, but now the greater emphasis is on digital content such documents, presentations, reports, websites, social media posts, chats, email, video conference, multi-media (images, video, and audio), etc.  Access to the records should be on any device, from anywhere, anytime (again, assuming authorized access).  Records management can include archival storage for long-term preservation.

Knowledge management (KM): is now becoming critical due to the exponential growth in content creation.  It includes digital content that is not a record.  Knowledge management can help derive insight, drive innovation, improve organizational performance, reduce operational risks, increase market share, etc.  Furthermore, “… not knowing what your organization knows is definitely a recipe for rework, stagnation, and inefficiencies.”  (The Official CIP Study Guide, AIIM, 2019, p 49).  Lew Platt, HP’s former CEO once famously stated, “If only HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times more productive.”

Search experience: goes to the heart of finding content using search technology and rendering search results from disparate repositories.  The search technology needs to crawl the content on a regular basis, and update a searchable index.  The search technology also needs to process queries to locate content matching the search criteria, and process the search results to sort them based on filters.  Finally, the search technology needs to format the results and render them for the user’s device.

e-Discovery: is closely related to the search experience, but the focus is on discovering content in order to respond to litigation, compliance, investigation, and information requests.

Digital asset management (DAM): is a mindset shift to thinking, treating, and managing information business assets, applying a value to the information assets, and perhaps monetizing the information asset.  This includes digital content mentioned above, but with a greater emphasis on multi-media such as podcasts, video, digital images, movies.  Digital assets can also include architectural and design documents, intellectual property, logos, trademarks, copyrights, etc.

Digital rights management (DRM): If the digital asset has business values, then the organization has to manage and control access to the asset.  DRM is a “… form of managing digital content to limit access from a specific device and / or prevent unauthorized copying or conversion …” (Glossary of Records Management and Information Governance Terms, ARMA International TR 22-2016, p 15)

Archival services: is really a combination of KM, DAM and DRM for organization to develop and deliver new content services and products to internal business users, customers, and other stakeholders.  In some cases, it is also an opportunity for organizations to monetize their archived audio, video, and other types content libraries.

Data management: has traditionally focused on structured data in warehouses and data marts (and now data lakes) for business intelligence, key performance indicators, decision modeling, and other analytics. Now data management should be included within KM because of the large volume of unstructured data, or visa-versa – i.e. KM should include data management.  In fact, data structures, such as data lakes, store structured (e.g. financial, customer information, etc.) and unstructured (e.g. email, multi-media, social media, etc.) data / content.  Managing this data and content to derive knowledge and actionable insight is both data and knowledge management.

Business Case for a DT initiative

Success for DT in any organization relies heavily on making a good business case. A business case is often required several times throughout the DT work you are looking to accomplish. A well-developed business case demonstrates the value of the initiative to your organization and provide the rationale required by your executive to support the initiative whether it is approval to proceed with developing a framework for a particular line of business or the implementation of a technology solution to advance DT in your organization.

Executives are responsible for the success the organization and require sufficient information to support and approve funding for operational activities. The decision to support or provide funding is strongly influenced through the business case. Ensuring that the reason, problem or current state that requires addressing is clearly defined along with the benefits, risks, costs and impact the initiative will have for the organization.  It is important to be clear, concise and accurate in the statements provided.

Use Cases for the Business Case

How does one determine and decide the scope of the DT initiative when preparing the business case?  One approach is to identify and use personas for business users and determine their needs.  Creating personas can be time consuming and complex, but they can be the foundation for good requirements and user experience.  Common personas are Executive, Director, Senior Manager, HR Manager, Marketing Manager, Financial Analyst, Administrator, Records Manager, etc.  Specific industries would have specialized personas, e.g. hospitality would have Hotel Manager, Restaurant Manager; life sciences might have a Compliance Manager, Patient Care Manager, etc.

Developing Use Cases require identifying the appropriate ones in order to define the scope of the DT initiative.  This is 4-step process for selecting the Use Cases and prioritizing them.

Select and identify many representative Use Cases in order to have a good sample of personas.  When identifying and assessing the Use Cases, the organization should consider strategic, financial, compliance, and operational risks.  As well, determine whether the Use Case has business value or not; and determine whether the Use Case is worth the risk or not.  Finally, “filter out” and prioritize about 10 to 15 Use Cases for the business case.  Note that the size of the organization and the focus of the DT of the initiative will influence the final number of Use Cases prioritized in the business case.

Governance, Compliance and Risk Management

Governance in any organization is essential to ensure the appropriate framework and procedures are in place to give credence to the direction the organization has decreed as the official strategy. Likewise, to ensure the accountability and efficiency of DT strategy in the organization the DT governance framework is crucial to the success of the DT initiatives.

Compliance must also be a consideration when engaged in strategic planning and establishing oversight. The ability to understand and function within the mandate is imperative. The governance strategy must be achievable as well as understood. Information must be clear and readily accessible. Once implemented, a good practice is to have an audit process in place to assure compliance, monitor performance management, determine corrective actions and future improvement needs.

As with all initiative there is risk associated with DT.  The first step in risk management is identifying the risks associated with embarking on the DT initiatives as well as to understand the risks associated with not proceeding. Threats to the organization are identified as anything that can cause disruption in services, financial loss or damage to reputation.  

The needs for risk mitigations should be identified in the business continuity plan. Understanding the risks associated with operations may be paramount to the success of the business. Risk mitigations include any factor that may occur, including pandemics, that cause a disruption to business as usual. Dating back to the Spanish Flu of 1918, Canada has had many flu pandemics (, Oct 2020) three of which have occurred since the SARS outbreak in 2003. In understanding that pandemics pose a greater risk in recent years the necessity to include the mitigations for a pandemic event equal or surpass the need for mitigations due to natural disaster depending on your geographical location.

Change Management and Stakeholder Risks

Change is ubiquitous and permeates every organization. The cliché, is truer today than ever, because technological change is so rapid.  Consequently, digital technologies are forcing organizations to embark on DT initiatives that fundamentally change how they operate.

Organizational Change Management (OCM) is often overlooked in technology implementations, which is unfortunate as it has the power to “move the needle” from failure to success. OCM is about initiating a “mindset shift” to change the organization’s culture. Recall the phrase originated by Peter Drucker, and made famous by Mark Fields, President at Ford, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner.” (,of%20each%20other%20to%20create%20true%20organizational%20transformation, accessed Oct 2020)  In other words – “culture is everything!”

OCM is managing the human impact of organizational change.  The Information Governance Body of Knowledge (IGBOK) states, “OCM … is a framework that describes … ‘changes to processes, job roles, organizational structures and type and uses of technology.’” (Information Governance Body of Knowledge, 1st ed., ARMA International, p 120).  In the context of a DT initiative, an OCM strategy is essential for a successful initiative.  OCM will involve challenging the “way things are done” with respect to people, process and technology.  This means initiating conversations not only around technology, but also how teams collaborate today, and how they can collaborate more effectively and efficiently tomorrow.  Digitalizing business processes is more than just applying new technology.  Digitizing must focus on understanding the growing and changing business drivers, improving those processes, applying governance, and educating business users in “new ways of working” — in other words changing the culture.  The challenge for OCM is to “how to make the culture work with the DT initiative rather than against it?” To that end, it is imperative to first understand the organization’s desire for change, so that culture becomes an enabler of change.

In a DT initiative, the organization needs to examine the OCM and stakeholder risk along two dimensions – cultural mindset and using new processes with new technology.

Firstly, if the culture is rigid, i.e. “stuck in the past” – then changing the mindset will be challenging.  In general, this is evident in large organizations with heavy bureaucracy that continue to “do things as they were done.”  This risk can lead to diminishing organizational performance and even reduce the chance of survival.  Only when the pain of the status quo exceeds the ability to survive, then only transformative change is forced onto the organization.  On the other hand, organizations with an entrepreneurial culture are all about change, and “doing things differently and better.”  This is evident especially in start-up organizations because they need to continuously adapt and transform to survive.  As an example, this risk can affect intelligent capture, integrated collaboration, IG, customer experience, etc.

Secondly, if the culture is rigid, then organizations are prone to use legacy processes and tools.  Unfortunately, the imperative to develop new process that will use new technology is absent.  Furthermore, when organizations implement new processes and technology, the business users view the change as a “threat” to themselves to learn new skills, their job, and their daily business routine.  This risk can introduce conflict in the workplace between those who feel threatened and management, and even co-works who embrace the new processes and technology.  As an example, this risk can affect cloud enablement, repository neutral content, content services, auto-classification, etc.

Below is a quadrant grid that illustrates these risk relationships.  Along the x-axis is the organization’s cultural mindset to change from “Rigid” to “Adaptable”.  Along y-axis is the organization’s ability to accept new processes and technology tools.  Quadrant I represent the highest probability of failure for the DT initiative, while Quadrant IV represents the highest probability of success, i.e. probability of success is ¼.

Quadrants II and III represent high probability of failure, because only one of the two dimensions has moved from a “Low (0)” towards “High (10).”  The middle of the grid represents medium probability of success.  The organization recognizes it must change and is willing to do so, but there is significant resistance.  This most likely corresponds to the organization changing from legacy processes to new processes using new tools, but the organization is facing resistance, as just mentioned. 

The DT initiative will not be a straight line from Quadrant I to IV as the business users eagerly start adapting and are willing to change such that the DT initiative’s risk reduce over time.  Instead, the initiative will zigzag from decreasing risk to increasing risk, and back to decreasing risk.  Consequently, the risk management response will change according to the attributes that the organization is transforming.  For example, the DT initiative’s effort to improve content enablement might face less resistance because the IT department is eager to adopt the new cloud-based tools.  However, IG related to new developing processes and training to use auto-classification tools in the cloud faces resistance from the business users.  These could hinder the DT initiative. So, the risk management response needs to address these two attributes in order to the get the DT initiative “back on track.”


DT is a very complex, broad, diverse and yet advantageous undertaking. It is an inevitable chapter in the success of business in a technology-driven world. When beginning the DT journey, it is important to understand that DT is the new normal for business and society, and is not “a” project. Instead, DT is a culmination of innovative solutions and constant change that will provide advantages, and is necessary to help organizations remain competitive. Additionally, in the information industry, DT adds value to the information assets and data holdings of an organization allowing for the use of its information assets and data to be used to make better business decisions.  

Research and experience are the key to success with DT initiatives. It is important to remember that DT is relatively new and this is the time to explore, experiment and be comfortable with the understanding that organization will have successes and challenges along the way.

About the Authors

Amitabh Srivastav is an IG/IM transformation strategist. He provides CxO/VP-level consulting advice on digital transformation and focuses on content convergence, process automation, change and risk management, and governance and compliance. He writes and speaks at industry conferences about digital transformation and participates in the development of standards and certification exams.

Sandra Bates is passionate about digital transformation and a recognized professional in the security, information and privacy industries. Her passion is evident through her work within the Executive Government of Saskatchewan and is an engaged “industry” volunteer as President-Elect, ARMA Saskatchewan Chapter, while being actively involved in AIIM Digital Transformation groups.

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.




Acker, Amelia and Jed Brubaker. “Death, Memorialization, and Social Media: A Platform Perspective for Personal Archives.” Archivaria 77 (2014): 1-23.


Association of Canadian Archivists. “Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.” Last modified October 18, 2017.


Bonner, William, and Mike Chiasson. “If Fair Information Principles Are the Answer, What Was the Question? An Actor-Network Theory Investigation of the Modern Constitution of Privacy.” Information and Organization 15, no. 4 (2005): 267–93.


Canada. Minister of Justice. Access to Information Act 1985, c. A-1.


Canada. Minister of Justice. Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act 2000, c.5.


Canada. Minister of Justice. Privacy Act 1985, c. P-21.


Canada. Ontario. Archives and Recordkeeping Act, 2006, c. 34.


Cook, Tim. “Archives and Privacy in a Wired World: The Impact of the Personal Information Act (Bill C-6) on Archives.” Archivaria 53 (2002): 94-114. https://archivaria-ca.myaccess


Douglas, Jennifer. “A Call to Rethink Archival Creation: Exploring Types of Creation in Personal Archives.” Archival Science 18, no. 1 (2018): 29-49.


Dryden, Jean and Loryl MacDonald. “Archives and the Law.” Archivaria 69 (2010): 5-8.


Dryden, Jean. “MENZI L. BEHRND-KLODT, Navigating Legal Issues in Archives.” Archivaria 69 (2010): 189-92.


Fisher, Rob. “Donors and Donor Agency: Implications for Private Archives Theory and Practice.” Archivaria 79 (2015): 91-119.


Forsyth, Ian. “Access Law and Lost Records: A Commentary on ‘In Search of the Chill.’” Archivaria 55 (2003): 21-26.


Foscarini, Fiorella. “InterPARES 2 and the Records-Related Legislation of the European Union.” Archivaria 63, no. 1 (2007): 121-36.


German, Daniel. “Access and Privacy Legislation and the National Archives, 1983-1993: A Decade of ATIP.” Archivaria 39 (1995): 196-213.


Hamer, Alyssa. “Ethics of Archival Practice: New Considerations in the Digital Age.” Archivaria 85 (2018): 156-179.


Henderson, Desirée. “Reading Digitized Diaries: Privacy and the Digital Life-Writing Archive.” Auto/Biography Studies 33, no. 1 (2018): 157-174.


Henttonen, Pekka. “Privacy as an Archival Problem and a Solution.” Archival Science 17, no. 3 (2017): 285-303.


Hester, Jessica Leigh. “How to Help Librarians and Archivists From Your Living Room.” Atlas Obscura, March 23, 2020.


Iacovino, Livia and Malcolm Todd. “The Long-term Preservation of Identifiable Personal Data: A Comparative Analysis of Privacy Legislation in Australia, Canada, the European Union and the United States.” Archival Science 7, no. 1 (2007): 107-127.


Kelly, Elizabeth Joan and Lucy Rosenbloom. “Self Analytics and Personal Digital Archives in University Collections.” Collection Management 44, no. 2-4 (2019): 244-258.


Ketelaar, Eric. “The Right to Know, the Right to Forget? Personal Information in Public Archives.” Archives & Manuscripts 23, no. 1 (1995): 8-17.


MacNeil, Heather. “Defining the Limits of Freedom of Inquiry: The Ethics of Disclosing Personal Information Held in Government Archives.” Archivaria 32 (1991): 138-144.


MacNeil, Heather. Without Consent: The Ethics of Disclosing Personal Information in Public Archives. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 1992.


McNealy, Jasmine. “The Privacy Implications of Digital Preservation: Social Media Archives and the Social Networks Theory of Privacy.” Elon Law Review 3, no. 2 (2012): 133-160.


Millar, Laura. Archives: Principles and Practices. Chicago: Facet Publishing, 2017.


Morrison, Hamish. “Glasgow Archives Want Records of Life During Coronavirus.” Glasgow Times, March 26, 2020.


Neazor, Mary. “Recordkeeping Professional Ethics and Their Application.” Archivaria 64 (2008): 47-87.


Rules for Archival Description. Ottawa: Bureau, 2008.


Sillitoe, Paul J. “Privacy in a Public Place: Managing Public Access to Personal Information Controlled by Archives Services.” Journal of the Society of Archivists 19, no. 1 (April 1998): 5–15.


Todd, Malcolm. “Power, Identity, Integrity, Authenticity, and the Archives: A Comparative Study of the Application of Archival Methodologies to Contemporary Privacy.” Archivaria 61 (2006): 181-214.


Valpy, D. Richard. “For the Purpose of Accountability: The Need for a Comprehensive Recordkeeping Act.”  Archivaria 88 (2019): 198-229.


Additional Resources


Amir, Maayan. “The Visual Side of Privacy: State-Incriminating, Coproduced Archives.” Public Culture 32, no. 1 (2020): 185-213.


Archives of Ontario. “Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy 109 Customer Service Guide” October 2019. service_guide_109_freedom_of_information.pdf


Belovari, Susanne. “Historians and Web Archives.” Archivaria 83 (2017): 59-79.


Brown, Robert Craig. “The Government and Historian: A Perspective on Bill C-43.” Archivaria 13 (1981): 119-123.


Cook, Terry. “Keeping our Electronic Memory: Approaches for Securing Computer-Generated Records.” South African Archives Journal 37 (1995): 79-95.


De Baets, Antoon. “A Historian’s View on the Right to be Forgotten.” International Review of Law, Computers & Technology 30, nos. 1-2 (2016): 57-66.


Eschenfelder, Kristin R., and Michelle Caswell. “Digital Cultural Collections in an Age of Reuse and Remixes.” Asist (2010): 22-27. doi:10.1002/meet.14504701045.


Hayward, Robert J. “Federal Access and Privacy Legislation and the Public Archives of Canada.” Archivaria 18 (1984): 47-57.


Hutchinson, Tim. “Protecting Privacy in the Archives: Preliminary Explorations of Topic Modeling for Born-Digital Collections.” In 2017 IEEE International Conference on Big Data (2017): 2251–55.


Hutchinson, Tim. “Protecting Privacy in the Archives: Supervised Machine Learning and Born-Digital Records.” In 2018 IEEE International Conference on Big Data (2018): 2696–2701.


Kirby, M.D. “Access to Information and Privacy: The Ten Information Commandments.” Archivaria 23 (1986): 4-15.


LeClere, Ellen. “Breaking Rules for Good? How Archivists Manage Privacy in Large-Scale Digitisation Projects.” Archives and Manuscripts 46, no. 3 (2018): 289-308. DOI: 10.1080/01576895.2018.1547653.


Moss, Michael, David Thomas, and Tim Gollins. “The Reconfiguration of the Archive As Data to Be Mined.” Archivaria 86 (2018): 118-51.


Sheffield, Rebecka. “Facebook Live As a Recordmaking Technology.” Archivaria 85 (2018): 96-121.


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.


Waiser, Bill. “Integrity and Accountability: Why It Matters.” Archivaria 78 (2014): 161-63.


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

Association canadienne des archivistes. « Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct ». Association canadienne des archivistes, 2017.

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.

Loi sur le droit d’auteur. Lois révisées du Canada, c.42. Canada. Ministère de la Justice. 1985.

Ministère de la Justice.

Dryden, Jean. (22 septembre 2017). « Crown Copyright Law is Outdated and Requires Comprehensive Reform ». Options politiques, 22 septembre 2017.

—-. Demystifying Copyright: A Researcher’s Guide to Copyright in Canadian Libraries and Archives, 2e éd., Association canadienne des bibliothèques, 2014.

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

Centre de gouvernance de l’information des Premières Nations. « Les principes de PCAP® des Premières Nations » Centre de gouvernance de l’information des Premières Nations,

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.

Society of American Archivists (SAA). « SAA Council Endorsement of Protocols for Native American Archival Materials ». Society of American Archivists, 14 septembre 2018,

Comité directeur sur les archives canadiennes. « Un cadre de réconciliation pour les institutions d’archives canadiennes : rapport préliminaire pour consultation publique ». Comité directeur sur les archives canadiennes, juillet 2020. 

–.  « 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.

Nations Unies. « Déclaration des Nations Unies sur les droits des peuples autochtones ». 13 septembre 2007.

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.