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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Access to Information Act and its impact on federal public records : an exploration of the issues from an archival perspective Hepplewhite, Anne

Abstract

The “Access to Information Act” has been in force in Canada for twenty years, changing the way public records administration is conducted in the federal government. The passage of the Act crafted a new regime of access to both active and historical public records, and generated debate on the desirability of the new rules, as they apply to historical records. The new access rules emphasised the relationship between accountability and record-keeping but did not offer a distinction between the different roles and access status of a record during the different phases of its life cycle. This thesis aims to explore the issues brought about by the “Access to Information Act”, and its partner legislation, the “Privacy Act” from an archival perspective. It seeks to elucidate, by means of analysing the development of access rights to historical records in Canada the debate inspired by the application of the Act to all public records, regardless of age. Also, it shows the legislative relationship between the “Access to Information Act”, the “Privacy Act” and the “National Archives Act” and examines the strengths and weaknesses of that relationship. Then, the thesis continues on to explore the broader effects on public records in the federal government, including the so-called "chilling effect." The thesis proposes that the greatest effect of the “Access to Information Act” on records from an archival perspective is that it changed the access landscape, making archivists examine their role in the delicate balance between preserving privacy and providing access.

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