In this post I’ll try and step you through looking for patient records for you or your loved one at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa.
Step 1. Check out this website to get you started. Melissa, a Metis nurse living in Edmonton, was born at the Camsell, and created it as part of a recent university project to help people find out what happened to their loved ones. It will help you figure out what information to have ready and what records you might be able to find online or in Edmonton.
Step 2. Download and print this form from Library and Archives Canada, or complete it online. It’s called a Personal Information Request form. Usually you can only request information for yourself or a deceased next-of-kin. You might need to have their death certificate or other records in this case.
Step 3. Fill the form out with the following information (if you get frustrated and need help, you can call Library and Archives Canada during business hours: 613-996-5115 in Ottawa or 1-866-578-7777 toll free)
- When it asks for “Federal government institution” at the top, write in Library and Archives Canada
- Check the appropriate box for “as it is” or to have the records “in English” or “in French”
- When it says to “provide details regarding the personal information being sought (e.g. subject matter, date range, type of records), you can use this template: Any and all records, photos, etc related to [INSERT NAME – this should include any possible alternate spellings or additional names/last names so they can be thorough] and their time at the Charles Camsell Hospital. I believe they were a patient there [DATES]. I would also like any information connected to their travel to and from the hospital, and where they might have been buried [if applicable].
- “Method of access preferred” you can select the first one for them to mail you copies, the second one for them to email you digital copies, or the third if you live in Ottawa or nearby and want to go in person.
Based on my research and help from the archivists at Library and Archives Canada, the most likely spots for Charles Camsell Hospital records are in the following locations. You can include these in your “details” section if you can squeeze them in, or write them at the bottom of the page like I did:
- Records from the Charles Camsell Indian Hospital (graphic material and textual record) RG29, Accession 2001—11-03 EFRC 2003-01384-9; Mikan number 4166162. [FYI There may be photographs in this accession of records, but the ledgers and registers are not complete – going only up to 1958.]
- RG29, Volume/Box 2769, file 822-1-D479, entitled Medical and Dental Arrangements Charles Camsell Hospital Edmonton AB; Mikan number 1521993
*As you read these descriptions, you will note they are Code 32, or restricted material. This doesn’t mean you can’t have this information, only that first you must apply to the Access to Information and Privacy Officer because it’s not public access (that’s a good thing, since this is private, sensitive medical information in many cases!).
Step 4. Write a cheque or money order for $5 application fee (or use your credit card with the online form).
Step 5. Submit your $5 fee and form online or mail it to:
ATTN: ATIP Section
Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0N4
A couple of things to keep in mind:
- The records you receive may be ‘redacted’ – this means that parts relating to other patients will be blacked out to protect their privacy (just like yours or your loved one’s would be blacked out to protect your privacy if someone requested those records).
- My experience has been that the archivists at Library and Archives Canada are happy to help but often have a heavy workload, so there can be a bit of a delay (it took me four months to get a reply about an inquiry in 2015/16, for example). I’ve also found it’s best to call on the phone for clarification rather than email – just faster and easier (and less room for confusion).
- If it takes them more than 5 hours of research, they may request more fees (this hasn’t happened to me yet).