The "thirty-year rule" is the informal name given to laws in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and the Commonwealth of Australia that provide that certain government documents will be released publicly thirty years after they were created.
Other countries' national archives also adhere to a thirty-year rule for the release of government documents.
To preserve this rule of confidentiality, subsection 70(1) of the Privacy Act provides that the Act does not apply to confidences of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada. Other notable cases that expand upon the doctrine of cabinet confidentiality include Canada (Minister of Environment) v. Canada (Information Commissioner), 2003 FCA 68 and Quinn v. Canada (Prime Minister), 2011 FC 379. As of 2013, after a time lag of 20 years Canadians can submit access-to-information requests for cabinet records through the Privy Council Office, but this comes at a cost of $5 per request and can take months to process. In May 2018, it was disclosed that the Supreme Court of Canada under Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin had placed a "50-year from the time they rule on a case" embargo on public access to files related to the deliberations of the judges.
According to Archivist Michael Dufresne, it was not until 1940 and the advent of the Second World War that Cabinet kept an agenda and minutes of its deliberations. From 1867 to 1940, a succession of six men served as Clerk of the Privy Council, and their duties included serving as the only institutional memory bank of the Government of Canada. The appointment in 1940 of Arnold Danforth Patrick Heeney as Clerk and as first Secretary to the Cabinet changed the format of memory bank from biological to scriptural. Heeney was surprised upon arrival by the informal ways in which important business was conducted:
I found it shattering to discover that the highest committee in the land conducted its business in such a disorderly fashion that it employed no agenda and no minutes were taken. The more I learned about Cabinet practices, the more difficult it was for me to understand how such a regime could function at all.
Order-in-Council PC 1940-1121 of March 25, 1940 ushered in a significant change in the documentation
Order-in-Council PC 1940-1121 of March 25, 1940 ushered in a significant change in the documentation of government. The Order-in-Council read, in part: In 1942, the Statutory Orders and Regulations Division was set up under PC 7992, 4 September 1942. Also under PC 7992, a registry for maintaining orders and minutes of council, Treasury Board Minutes and other government orders was established. It was not until 1944 that the formal collection of "Cabinet Conclusions" was created.
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In the early 1980s, the PCO began a voluntary transfer of cabinet records, which had been declassified after a 30-year holding period, to the National Archives (which became Library and Archives Canada in 2004) where they became publicly available, under the label "Cabinet Conclusions". After an initial document dump that included records dated from 1937 to 1952, the PCO released the records on an annual basis.
In 2008, two years after Prime Minister Stephen Harper was elected, the tradition of annual voluntary releases of Cabinet Conclusions stopped.
In September 2013 while the Harper government was in power, PCO spokesman Raymond Rivet told a news organisation that the office was "committed" to making government documents and information accessible but that "Processing these records requires a significant investment of resources. We will continue to process and release records as resources permit."
In May 2017, it came to light that the Government of Canada was under no obligation to release documentary records after a number of years. NDP MP Murray Rankin, a legal scholar, said at the time:
It's a question of political will. Some countries do this a lot better than Canada. The Americans do. The Swedes do. The British do. We have to catch up.
In June 2017, an agreement between the Supreme Court of Canada and Library and Archives Canada arranged for the transfer of case-files under a 50-year rule.
The original law has been modified and updated a number of times. Following a 2010 update of the legislation, the office of the Prime Minister released as statement explaining that "the new regulations shorten the period after which non-security-related material may be viewed, from 30 to 15 years, while lengthening the confidentiality period of certain defense-related documents to
The original law has been modified and updated a number of times. Following a 2010 update of the legislation, the office of the Prime Minister released as statement explaining that "the new regulations shorten the period after which non-security-related material may be viewed, from 30 to 15 years, while lengthening the confidentiality period of certain defense-related documents to 70 years in cases in which Israel's security conditions require it".
The German Federal Archives generally makes its holdings available after 30 years. Exceptions are for personnel files, which are opened only 10 years after the death of the individual or 100 years after the person's birth if the date of death is unknown, and records dealing with taxation, credit, and banking, which are sealed for 60 years.
Additionally, Federal Archives holdings originating with the Communist Party and communist organizations of the former German Democratic Republic (East G
Additionally, Federal Archives holdings originating with the Communist Party and communist organizations of the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) have been available for decades with almost no limitations. The Federal Archives has also worked to make East German government records available with a minimum of time limitation. In any event, in October 2020, 30 years will have passed since the dissolution of the GDR.