Directive to preserve all information related to historical harms committed against Indigenous children
April 4, 2022
On this page
The Government of Canada has committed to an extensive internal review of all documents related to historical harms committed against Indigenous children (the "Documents") currently in the possession of Crown–Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (the "Department"). Harms were suffered by Indigenous children as a result of numerous historic policies related to Indian residential schools, federally-operated day schools, boarding homes, hospitals and other education and care settings. In order to conduct that review, this directive requires all officials within the Department to take further steps to preserve Documents within their care and control. The preservation of the Documents will support the process of healing for survivors and their families and promote the goals of reconciliation with Indigenous communities.
The Government of Canada seeks to ensure transparency in aid of facilitating a better public understanding of the truth of historic harms committed against Indigenous children. Survivors, families, and Indigenous communities have made clear that truth is necessary to achieve reconciliation.
An important step to support Survivors, communities, and the wider public in assessing the truth of historic harms committed against Indigenous children is the preservation and retention of relevant documents and electronic information. As a first step, preservation and retention will facilitate the Government of Canada's review of documents and electronic records for the purposes of identifying any previously undisclosed Indian Residential Schools records that may be shared outside of the Government.Footnote 1 The review will take into consideration and respect applicable legislation, court orders, and other sources of legal obligation, particularly as pertaining to the privacy and confidentiality of Survivors and their families.
Scope of Preservation
With the support of the Chief Information Officer who is the functional authority for information management in the Department under the Policy and Directive on Service and Digital, I am issuing this directive to all Department officials to immediately take all necessary and reasonable steps to preserve all information that is relevant or potentially related to historic harms committed against Indigenous children. Preservation means making sure that relevant and potentially relevant documents, which may include metadata, hard copy requests, personal notes, email and calendars, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, messages, webpages, social media content, audio recording or voicemail, photographs, videos or any other electronic data whether stored electronically or physically in a location (e.g. Government of Canada offices, employees' homes, off-site storage, etc.):
- Are not destroyed, lost, or relinquished to others either intentionally or inadvertently, such as through departmental standard records retention and destruction policies. To the extent that there is a conflict between this directive and any other applicable policy, this directive shall prevail;
- Are not modified; and,
- Remain accessible.
For greater certainty, this directive encompasses all hard copy and electronic documents and information, including information retained in electronic systems such as the departmental financial management systems and Human Resources systems such as the NAKISA Organizational Management System, etc. It does not include duplicate copies of existing information.
For more information on types of information related to Indian Residential Schools, see Annex A.
Respect of Settlement Agreements and Ongoing Discussions
Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement Documents
I recognize concerns about the destruction of certain documents related to the operation of the Independent Assessment Process (IAP). However, the Supreme Court of Canada has decided that, with limited exception, such documents containing personal information about IAP and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) claimants must be destroyed in light of the absolute confidentiality of the IAP and other considerations. Therefore, this directive does not apply to "IAP Documents" as defined in the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada dated October 6, 2017 (Fontaine v Canada (Attorney General), 2017 SCC 47) and the associated court orders of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice dated August 6, 2014 and of the Court of Appeal for Ontario dated April 4, 2016 (together, the "In Rem Order"). Nothing in this directive purports to affect those judicial decisions or their operative effect.
Indigenous Childhood Claims Litigation Settlement Agreements and Ongoing Litigation
Nothing in this directive should be interpreted as impacting existing obligations under court approved settlement agreements related to childhood harms or ongoing or future settlement negotiations, which may contain provisions on document retention and storage. For greater certainty, please refer to Annex B for a list of Childhood Claims settlements and related documents.
The purpose of the present directive is to ensure preservation of identified records. This directive does not address the collection of records, which will be addressed through further means in the future.
Even if your regular policies or practices call for deletion or destruction of documents considered within the scope of this directive, those policies or practices should not be implemented with respect to those documents. In other words, relevant documents should be preserved regardless of the retention and destruction policies or practices which would normally apply.
Best efforts should be taken to ensure that existing records are not varied or amended or changed in any way from their current state. Electronically stored information can sometimes be modified by the simple act of accessing the information. Accessing for the purpose of securing and preserving should be done but care must be taken not to modify, amend, or change such items. Where standard form documents are used on an ongoing basis in the work of the Department, the form that was used as of the date or dates relevant to events in question should be secured and separated from any other process relating to them.
Where preserved Documents are stored in a particular system using a particular variety of software or hardware, the systems must also be preserved to the extent required to enable the documents and electronic information to remain accessible for eventual review. This must occur even if the Department, for its ongoing work, begins using different hardware or software.
If you have any questions as to the Documents covered by this directive please email the following address: IRSDocuments-DocumentsPI@rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca. This generic account provides a central point of contact for all questions concerning the retention of Documents related to historical harms committed against Indigenous children, including questions around the impact of the Supreme Court of Canada decision of 2017 and questions related to Childhood Claims. The account is monitored daily.
Thank you for your collaboration in this matter.
The Honourable Marc Miller, PC, MP
Minister of Crown‒Indigenous Relations
Thank you for your feedback