When researching the military service of an individual requesting their service record should be the first step. Not only will it, in most cases, prove to be the best source of information, but the requests can take months to complete and therefore it’s best to initiate them as soon as possible.
First World War: 1914 – 1918
Personnel records of the First World War are available at the Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. Following a lengthy digitization process these records are now available online.
Second World War: 1939 – 1945
There are no access restrictions on the service files for members of the Canadian Armed Forces who died in service between 1939 and 1947, including those killed in action, those who subsequently died of injuries related to service, and those who died as a result of accident or illness while in service. Some of these records may be available in whole, or partially online.
World War II personnel records of individuals who did not die in service are considered restricted due to privacy laws and must be requested from the Library and Archives Canada. You can do this yourself or hire a freelance researcher to do it for you. I highly recommend hiring a researcher, they are knowledgeable, prompt and affordable. Requests can take months to be fulfilled, hiring a freelance research can reduce this turn-around to a matter of weeks.
For records of those who did not die in service but have been deceased for over 20-years no proof of relationship is required. For those who have been deceased less than 20 years you must provide proof of relationship.
Requesting Military Service Files
Before making a request ensure that you have as much information as possible regarding the individual.
Date of Birth
Place of Birth
Date of Death
Place of Death
Proof of Death
Parent’s Full Names
Proof of Relationship (if the individual has been deceased less than 20 years)
Not all of this information may be required (aside from literal request requirements such as proof of death/proof of relationship) however the Library of Archives Canada needs enough information to identify the correct individual.
Once you have gathered the appropriate information requests can be made in one of two ways, formal and informal.
An informal request involves filling out a form and submitting it either in person, by mail, email or fax.
Library and Archives Canada
Access to Information, Privacy and Personnel Records Office
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0N4
While the Library and Archives Canada tries to answer inquiries within 30 days they have a great volume of requests and responses can take much longer.
Formal Requests (Access to Information)
A formal request is a request that is made under the Access to Information Act of Canada and requires institutions to respond to the request within 30 days, unless certain criteria is met to allow them to extend this time frame.
A formal request can be submitted online, by fax, mail or email but must include a $5 application fee payable to the Receiver General of Canada. This fee makes the fax and email option rather unpractical as you still need to mail a check to accompany the application — this payment cannot be made over the phone.
Proof of Death
The following are examples of documents accepted as proof of death: death certificate, newspaper obituary, funeral notice or photograph of the gravestone.
Proof of Relationship
The following are examples of documents acceptable as proof of relationship: newspaper obituary, baptismal certificate, marriage certificate, full-form birth certificate that indicates parents’ names. A wallet-sized birth certificate is not acceptable. Documents must clearly show the relationship between the service member and the requestor; both names must appear on the document.