CRS User Guide Step 3: Retain Records

Retain Records

The retention periods – the amount of time records need to be kept – as reflected in the CRS are based on federal and provincial statutes and regulations, University policy, professional records management best practice, and operational use. The retention periods have been reviewed by the University Archivist and Director of Internal Audit, and authorized by the University Secretary and General Counsel. This authorization allows for records to be disposed of according to the instructions in the CRS once the retention period has expired.

back to top

Retention Triggers

How long a file is retained before being destroyed or transferred to the University Archives is a combination of a time period (e.g. 2 years, 18 months, etc.) and a retention trigger. The retention trigger indicates when the time period begins. The following chart lists some examples:

Retention Trigger Explanation
... after superseded or obsolete for documents that are overwritten or replaced
... after last action for an ongoing issue or project
... after confirmation of results
... after decision
... after expiry of contract
... after graduation or withdrawal
for situations where something has to happen
... after life of building
... after two review periods
a specific time period
... until operational use ceases normally used by those holding “other copies”; decision is discretionary, but retention should never be longer than the retention period for the OPR

OPR Versus Non-OPR

The retention period for the Office of Primary Responsibility (OPR) is very specific. For the unit that is not the OPR and which is holding “other copies”, the retention period is most often left to the discretion of the unit. Normally, the retention period states “Until operational use ceases”. Operational use means the day-to-day use of a record to facilitate the ongoing business of an office or unit. Operational use is usually not longer than three years, and is never longer than the stated retention period for the OPR.

Note that under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, records containing personal information that have been used must be retained for a minimum of one year in order to permit the individual the opportunity to request access to those records. Therefore, a unit holding “other copies” of such records should not dispose of them before one year.

Important Note: Records retained until operational use ceases should never be retained longer than the official copy in the Office of Primary Responsibility (OPR). If units find that operational use is ongoing, please consult with the Information and Privacy Office for review of the CRS.

back to top

Permanent Retention

When records have continuing value for the unit and should not be disposed of, the retention is permanent. If the Office of Primary Responsibility (OPR) decides to dispose of the records, it must contact the Information and Privacy Office (IPO) so that the schedule can be amended.

A retention decision of permanent will be reviewed periodically with the IPO, the OPR and with the University Archives to ensure that permanent retention remains an appropriate decision.

Remember, transitory records have no ongoing operational, informational, evidential or historical value and therefore can be disposed of as soon as their use ends. See Tip Sheet 3 on Transitory Records.

back to top

Records Storage

Once files have been closed, they are used less frequently and thus often are stored away from the creating office in the interest of saving space.

When storing closed files on campus but out of the unit, do not store boxes of records in areas of the University where they may not be secure, where they may be moved without the unit’s knowledge, or where they could be exposed to hazards such as water or pests.

Electronic records with a long or permanent retention period should be retained on the University’s network so that they are maintained through system upgrades and do not become unavailable due to software or hardware obsolescence. Electronic records present a particular challenge with respect to their long-term retention. If the information in electronic records is required for the long term, units must ensure that electronic records are migrated through software and/or hardware changes, or alternately that the information is stored in stable non-electronic formats such as microfiche or paper.

User Guide Contents | Introduction | Step 1 Classify | Step 2 File and Maintain | Step 3 Retain | Step 4 Dispose | Special Issues | Appendix