Access to historical information

The letter published by the Globe and Mail copied below is a contribution to a series advancing the issue of the poor state of access to historical information in Canada, particularly at Library and Archives Canada.  Any genealogist who has attempted to get a copy of a Second World War service file will attest to the delays.

A service that our genealogical and family history societies could provide to members is to be active with like-minded` researchers from the humanities in advocating reform.

Re “Canada’s leaders know the value of applied history. So why won’t they set it free?” (Feb. 15): As a former longtime investigator with the Office of the Information Commissioner, I couldn’t agree more about having had endless battles with Library and Archives Canada to release relatively mundane historical information.

Before that time, I also worked at LAC as a record-review officer. I witnessed firsthand how arduous the task was for academics, historians and others to access information that should have been routinely disclosed after a certain time period, as is routinely done in Britain and the United States.

There should be immediate action from the government to rectify this unacceptable and, quite frankly, embarrassing situation. Intimate knowledge of our past is essential to facilitate the creation of effective public policy. It is also vital for our general understanding of our past.

Marey Gregory Ottawa

5 Replies to “Access to historical information”

  1. A chum has waited two years to hear back from LAC about his father’s WWII record. He now wants to see his uncle’s, as he had discovered that his uncle was a POW.

    He told me he thinks he was too old to make another request and obtain the record. Sad situation. Cheers BT

  2. Bravo Marey Gregory! I have been waiting almost a full year now for a subject file (not a service file) dating from the Second World War. It shouldn’t need any review at all. Likewise, it has been a year since asking for a Mounted Police administrative file from the 40s and 50s. My letter to the Heritage Minister six weeks ago about the situation at LAC has also gone unacknowledged, but I shouldn’t be surprised, should I?

  3. What reasons does LAC / the government give for this lack of access? Is it just a matter of not having enough staff? Or are they just reluctant to reveal information?

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