Open Government versus National Security

Daniel German

Open Government versus National Security; The application of concepts of public ownership of Government records and accessibility to the archival records of Canada’s Federal Security  and Intelligence Agencies

 

Starting in 1967, with the issuance of an Order-in-Council by Canada’s Privy Council, the concept of providing Canadians access to their Federal Government Records through their National Archives was clearly promulgated, with certain equally clear exceptions to this public access, exceptions which included many of the records of Canada’s Federal Security and Intelligence Records. Over the years, as two more Orders-in-Council reiterated both the concept of open government records along with the need to protect Security and Intelligence Records, it became obvious that a method of access to such records must be created. This was realised in 1983 with the passage of the Access to Information Act, Federal legislation which can be applied to Security and Intelligence Records, along with all the other records of Government, including those Federal records properly deposited by Federal agencies and departments with Canada’s Federal Archives.

In the intervening decades, millions of pages of Security and Intelligence Records held by the Canadian National Archives have been reviewed and, whenever possible, released to the researching public.  Now, as the Canadian Federal Government examines changes to the Access to Information Act, as well as changes to Canada’s National Security systems, a new commitment is being made to National Security Transparency.

The intent of this presentation is to discuss the Changing Political Climates through an examination of the historic provision of archival access to the records of Canada’s Federal Security and Intelligence Records, in particular to the archival records of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).  It may be one of the more interesting aspects of a Changing Political Climate, that CSIS exists at all. Following a political scandal in the 1970’s, a Federal Royal Commission of Inquiry into “Certain Activities of the RCMP” led to the closure of the primary Canadian Federal Intelligence/Security agency, (primarily responsible for counter-intelligence) the Security Service of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Pursuant to this, CSIS was formed, inheriting the records and information previous collected and amassed by the RCMP Security Service.  Today, the CSIS fonds held at Library and Archives Canada holds more than 6400 containers, most of them originating with the RCMP.

Through a proper application of the terms of the Access to Information Act to the Canada’s Federal Security and Intelligence files, carried out in consultation with Canada’s intelligence community, Library and Archives Canada has embraced its responsibilities to Governmental Openness and the needs and requirements of National Security. In doing so, Canada’s Federal Archives have worked to balance our legislatively mandated commitment to provide access to our holdings with the legitimate need to protect some forms of information.  In doing so, Library and Archives Canada has helped to chart a course between desirable accessibility and the operational needs of Canada’s Security/Intelligence community. 

A version of this paper is being presented via distance tools 30 May 2018 before the 8th International Conference on the History of Records and Archives: Archives in a Changing Climate, being held in Melbourne Australia at Monash University. The proposed presentation would incorporate any comments received at that conference, as well as any information to be drawn from other sources such as some recent publications or court decisions (http://i-chora.org/program/ ).

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MA MLIS has been involved with Canada’s Federal archives since 1989, first with the Directorate of History at the Department of National Defence, before joining what is now Library and Archives Canada in 1992. After a number of years as an Access to Information Analyst, specialising in applying the Access to Information Act to some of Canada’s National Archives most highly classified records, and two years as an archivist working with the personal papers of Canadian politicians, he became an archivist responsible for Federal Government records.  For the last number of years, he has been the Senior Archivist responsible for the Security/Intelligence portfolio.  He is also presently the Chair of the Association of Canadian Archivists Special Interest Section on Access and Privacy, an area in which he has extensively spoken and published.

  

Previous Presentations (representative sample)

Invited participant, “Archival Methods and Tools”, – “Nuclear Histories: Official Secrets, Closed Files, Open Archives”, to be held in Ottawa, Canada, at Library and Archives Canada 1 June 2018 (forthcoming).

“Archival Records and CSIS”, Presentation to Canadian Security Intelligence Service, 12 April 2018

Participant, Debate – “What is the Archive for?”, with L. Sander, LAC, vs Michael Moss and David Thomas, Northumbria University, Presented before the Conference of the Association of Canadian Archivists, Ottawa, 10 June 2017.

“Respect des fonds and original order vs data sets and other electronic records in the archives of the near future;  Some Considerations on Archival Analog Principles as Applied in a Digital Universe (A Luddite Rant?)” Presented before the Conference of the Archives Association of Ontario, London, Ontario, 29 May 2015.

“Privacy, Ethics and the Provision of Access to Military Personnel Files”. Presented before the Conference of the Archives Association of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, 15 June 2012.

“Access, Privacy and the Archival Record”.  Presented before the Conference of the Association of Canadian Archivists, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 10 June 2010.

“Personal Papers and their Owners: Musings on Issues of Ownership and Control over Private Papers Held by Archival Repositories”.  Presented before the 3rd International Conference on the History of Records and Archives, Boston, Massachusetts, 29 September 2007. 

“Accountability as a Primary Factor in Appraisal; Or, Why Archivists are Neither Historians, Nor Records-Managers”, Presented Before the Conference of the Archives Association of Ontario, Hamilton, Ontario, 9 June 2006.

“Who Owns the Archives?;  The Cognitive Dissonance of Ethics, Morality, and the Law”, Presented before the Conference of the Archives Association of Ontario, Kingston, Ontario, 2 June 2004.

LAC Representative, RCMP Roundtable Discussion on Canadian Security and Intelligence, Ottawa, 2009

“Accessing the Personal Records: Access to Information, the Privacy Act, and the National Archives of Canada,” Presented before the Conference of the Association of Canadian Archivists, London, Ontario, 5 June 1999.

 

Publications (referred Journals)

Editor, With Paulette Dozois, “Doughty on the Use and Utility of Government Information and Archives 1933,” Archivaria 70 (Fall 2010), 177-196.

Author “A Commentary on Patrizia Gentile’s “Restricted Access? National Security, the Access to Information Act, and Queer(ing) Archives.” Archivaria 69 (Spring 2010), 1-4.

Author “Who Owns the Archives?:  A North American Perspective on Issues of Ownership and Control over Holdings of Archival Repositories,” Revista Arhivelor/Archives Review, LXXXV:2 (2008), 9-29.

Author "Press Censorship and the Terrace Mutiny: A Case Study in Second World War Information Management," Journal of Canadian Studies, 31:4 (Winter 1996-1997), 124-142.

Author "Access and Privacy Legislation and the National Archives, 1983-1993; A Decade of ATIP," Archivaria, 39 (Spring 1995), 196-213.

 

Daniel German

 

Archiviste principal, Direction générale des Archives

Bibliothèque et Archives Canada / Gouvernement du Canada

daniel.german@canada.ca / Tél. : 613-614-2857

 

Senior Archivist, Archives Branch

Library and Archives Canada / Government of Canada

daniel.german@canada.ca / Tel: 613-614-2857

  

Tina Andersen