FOI and Access Restrictions

Access to records at the BC Archives is governed by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (RSBC 1996, c. 165), as well as other legislated, donor and conservation restrictions.

FOI and Privacy Restrictions

FOIPPA legislates the public’s right of access to BC government records, though it does not cover all court records.

Government and court records often contain information that is protected from release by FOIPPA and by other acts such as the Youth Criminal Justice Act  (SC 2002, c. 1) and the BC Adoption Act (RSBC 1996, c. 5). The YCJA applies to government records that relate to a youth offender who is found guilty under the act. The Adoption Act applies to the confidentiality of adoption-related court files created under the act. Private records that contain information protected by these acts may also be restricted.

When court and government records are transferred to the BC Archives, our Government Records team conducts a review of these records to identify any restrictions that may apply and then designate records open or restricted. In past decades, this process was not always completed for incoming records, so many are designated “undetermined”, meaning they have not yet been reviewed.

Records designated restricted or undetermined may still be accessed by members of the public. Also, not all of the records in our custody are described in our online collections search. Researchers can still request access to government records in our custody that have not yet been described. These include records transferred from other ministries as well as the active corporate records of the Royal BC Museum and BC Archives.

Our archivists will review a request and give details about how we can provide you with information. Often, access to restricted records is possible through:

  • A research agreement between the requester and the BC Archives; or
  • Removing restricted information from the file

Copyright and donor restrictions

Access to and copying of private records in our custody may be restricted. The BC Archives does not hold copyright for all of the private records in its holdings and we may not have authority to provide access to certain private records.

Under the federal Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42), the copyright owner retains the right to provide copies of their records. Sometimes when private records are acquired, copyright is signed over to the BC Archives, but the donor may choose to retain these rights. Similarly, donors may choose to restrict access to or use of their records when making donations to the BC Archives.

Conservation restrictions

Records may also be restricted due to conservation and preservation concerns: they may be fragile, light sensitive or located in specialized storage. Where original records are too fragile to be handled or are frequently requested, we endeavour to create an access copy which can be viewed instead.


To place an FOI request or to request restricted records in our custody, please see our request FOI or restricted records page.

For more information on acquiring private records, see Acquisitions

For information on conservation and preservation, see Conservation and Preservation