Guidance on Publishing in the Government of Canada

The following is departmental guidance on publishing in the Government of Canada that complements the Treasury Board Procedures for Publishing. The Procedures require departments to make information available on Government of Canada websites while limiting print publishing. Print communications products and alternate formats continue to be available to Canadians on request.

Publishing responsibilities

Heads of communications are responsible for the publishing function in the Government of Canada; however, publishing activities are also carried out by other functional areas within departments. To ensure compliance with publishing requirements, accountabilities now rest with managers as well. They need to seek the approval of their head of communications for all communications products, promotional items and volume printing. The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has developed a sample approval template for promotional items and volume printing, which departments can use to seek the necessary approvals.

The Requirements section of the Procedures for Publishing outline responsibilities for heads of communications in departments, as well as for senior managers.

Volume printing

Volume printing, which can also be called a "print run", refers to the printing of a large, pre-determined number of printed communications products, including publications, that generally requires warehousing.

Under Requirement 6.3.3 of the Procedures for Publishing, departments can only undertake volume printing in certain situations, and volume printing is always approved by the head of communications of the department.

The situations, or exceptions, where volume printing is permitted are meant to give departments the flexibility needed to communicate with target audiences in print where required, for example, by legislation or in the case of a health or safety issue.

In the case where the Minister requests volume printing, departments will develop internal processes for such approvals.

Another exception is the case where a printed version is required to meet the specific needs of the target audience. This could be, for example, printed information for seniors, veterans, immigrants, or inmates in a correctional institution.

It is important to note that just because volume printing could be authorized in one of the situations outlined in requirement 6.3.3 of the Procedures, the decision to do so rests with the head of communications. Departments should always determine if a printed communications product is the most efficient means of reaching the target audience and if on-demand printing can achieve the same results. Sound expenditure management practices and value for money should always prevail.

In order to limit warehousing cost, departments are also expected to regularly review stocks of publications and other communications products in warehouses and other facilities.

On-demand printing

On-demand printing refers to the printing of a small number of communications products such as publications, whether using in-house printers or contracted printing firms, when requested by an individual or as the need arises. On-demand printing does not require warehousing.

The Government is enhancing electronic communications while continuing to ensure that information is readily available and cost-effective. Therefore all departments are required to limit volume printing, and to ensure that on-demand printing is carried out by default, using the most economical printing option, and in black and white unless colour printing is deemed necessary. To generate efficiencies within departments, this requirement has to be enforced in all areas at all levels.

Print-ready formats

Departments now publish all of their communications products on Government of Canada websites, in print-ready formats where possible. A print-ready format is a format that allows printing on any printer without the need for additional formatting (for example, HTML, PDF, etc.).

Print-ready formats allow Canadians to print information at their convenience. It also ensures Government of Canada employees can also easily print a copy for clients on demand.

Here are some examples of communications products that have been developed in print-ready format and meet the requirements of the Treasury Board Standard on Web Accessibility.

Communications products

The choice of the term "communications product" is meant to broaden the context for publishing, which in the past was always "publications". Communications products, for the purpose of the procedures, include publications as well as information products designed for a variety of mediums such as print, electronic and recordings. Accountabilities for communications products rest with heads of communications. See Appendix: Definitions in the Procedures for Publishing.

Use of Promotional items

Promotional items are novelties, mementoes, merchandise, gifts and other giveaways used to promote a program, project, service or initiative. In the past, promotional items have been produced by a variety of areas within departments and have not always been part of an approved communications strategy. Unfortunately, in some cases, the production of promotional items may not have been approved by senior management, and at times promotional items may have been perceived as a waste of taxpayers’ money.

There may be valid reasons to produce giveaways such as pens or bags to promote initiatives at conferences, meetings or trade shows. However, heads of communications are also stewards of public resources and assets and need to approve these items since they are responsible and accountable for this type of spending.

Promotional items and the Federal Identity Program

Promotional items, including but not limited to novelties, mementoes, merchandise, gifts and other giveaways, are communications products when produced by or for the Government of Canada. As such they include a message about programs and services (a URL at a minimum) and are under the responsibility of the head of communications. The official symbols of the Government of Canada (Canada Wordmark, departmental signature or Government of Canada signature) are used to identify the source of the message as required under the Federal Identity Program. Therefore, if there is no message, no official symbol is used on the item.

In the case of awards and gifts, the item does not display an official symbol, but the related certificate, card, tag, plaque, etc. displays a signature and the Canada Wordmark.


A co-publication is a Government of Canada information product published by a third party, selected through a competitive process, such as a private sector publisher or a university press, or produced in collaboration with another government.

The only situation where the Procedures for Publishing do not apply to co-publications is when the third party incurred all costs, including distribution, printing and warehousing costs.

Co-publications are included in the index of publications maintained by departments and provided to Public Works and Government Services Canada and Library and Archives Canada.

Use of Third-party material

Departments must ensure all permissions are obtained prior to using third-party material (texts, photographs, videos, etc.). If ownership of such material does not belong to the Crown, it is important to protect the Government from any potential legal or ethical issue.

It is important to remember that the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada forbids departments from publishing, in any communications product or vehicle, any advertisement from a private-sector or non-government entity, or any symbol, logos or information that could be perceived as an endorsement by the public.

For example, if permission to use a photograph is obtained on the condition that the photographer’s name appear prominently, the department needs to analyze the risks against the benefits of using the photograph, and ensure that the photographer is not receiving any perceived benefit such as free advertising, or that the choice of that photograph is fair to all other photographers and companies. Basically, the choice of specific third-party material must be easy to explain and defend.

Government of Canada websites and social media tools

The Government of Canada is communicating more and more through social media tools and services. However, because information for Canadians must be accurate and consistent, there is a need to choose a communications channel as the "official source". Government of Canada websites are the official source for Government information and communications products. That is why the requirement in the procedures ensures that communications products are posted first on the official website, and only then can they be posted on a third-party platform such as a social media service.

Applying International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN)

An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a 13-digit number that is applied to publications published by the Government of Canada. Book-like products include books, pamphlets, educational kits, microforms, CD-ROMs and other print, digital and electronic publications. Publishers, booksellers, libraries and others in the book industry use ISBNs to identify, locate, track and manage publications. As well, many retailers will not stock an item that doesn’t include an ISBN.

An ISBN generally appears on the verso of the title page, following the Crown Copyright statement and the Government of Canada Catalogue Number. For example:

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of (legal departmental name), (year of publication)

Cat. No. En40-568/2001E
ISBN 0-662-50000-X

However if this is not possible or appropriate, the most important factor is that the ISBN appears accurately and legibly in the publication. For example an ISBN can appear on the face of a CD-ROM or on the back of a kit or folder.

Departments can obtain an ISBN from the Depository Services Program at Public Works and Government Services Canada.

Applying International Standard Serial Numbers (ISSN)

An International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is an 8-digit number that is used to identify serial publications, such as periodicals, newspapers, annuals, journals and monographic series, published by the Government of Canada. The ISSN provides an efficient and economical method of communication between publishers and suppliers. ISSNs are used in libraries to identify titles, order and check in serials, and claim missing issues.

The ISSN should appear in a prominent position on all issues of a serial publication. For serials distributed on the Web, the ISSN should appear on the first screen of the item. For printed serials, the preferred location for the ISSN is the top right-hand corner of the front cover. The number should always be preceded by the letters ISSN.

Departments can obtain an ISSN from Library and Archives Canada.

Role of Public Works and Government Services Canada

In the context of Budget 2012, the mandate of Publishing and Depository Services at Public Works and Government Services Canada has changed to the management of electronic publications only. This change in responsibilities is aligned with the Government of Canada's greening government initiatives and supports the increased use of e-publications among Canadians.

Statistics from Government of Canada publications indicate that there has been a significant increase in the number of downloads of publications. In recent years the demand for printed publications has gradually decreased. This decline is expected to continue as the trend towards electronic publishing increases. By transitioning to free web-based publications Public Works and Government Services is eliminating costs associated with producing, printing, distributing and warehousing printed publications.

The Publishing and Depository Services Directorate at Public Works at Government Services Canada no longer produces, prints, distributes or warehouses tangible publications such as printed books, DVDs or CDs, and videos. In addition, the Depository Services Program no longer accepts tangible publications from departments and agencies for distribution to depository libraries. However, the Directorate continues to provide electronic access to Government of Canada publications provided by departments and agencies through its website.

Also following Budget 2012, Publishing and Depository Services has discontinued their coordination services for Crown Copyright and Licensing. Canadians need to contact departments directly for assistance on Crown Copyright and Licensing.

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