This page contains correspondence of Celeste Rider relating to the Town Hall Meeting held in Regina. Her presentation to the meeting follows. Celeste attended the afternoon session of these meetings.From: Celeste Rider
To: garth ulrich
Sent: Friday, February 01, 2002 5:09 AM
Subject: Re: [Can-Sask] Regina Town Hall Meetings
I gave a presentation at the afternoon session in Regina. There were many people in attendance, more than they expected because they had to have more chairs brought in. Also, a point of interest, they made it very difficult to find the right room. There was no signage in the foyer of the hotel and the listing in the hotel events bookings Environics was listed as Enbironics with no mention regarding census consultations. I don't recall how the event was written up in the hotel's booking but it was a far stretch of the imagination to make the link to census consultations. I believe many more people might have been there had the event been clearly advertised. One lady thought a second car load of people was coming from Moose Jaw but they never arrived. Not sure why but it makes me wonder if they weren't directed to the proper room.
The write up on the Environics site is quite accurate as to its generalization of the comments. I believe they will also be putting the content of the actual presentations, most of which were handed in before people left, on the site as well. All of the presentations were in support of release and did not support the Compromise Solution.
If you have any questions, please ask.
25 January 2002; 2:55 p.m.,
Ramada Hotel, 1818 Victoria Avenue, Regina
Mr. Chairperson, fellow presenters, & colleagues.
My name is Celeste Rider. I have lived in Saskatchewan all of my life. I am a Certified Saskatchewan Genealogical Instructor, a Certified Saskatchewan Genealogical Record Searcher, and a member of the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society whose membership totals more than 1,000 members. I believe the vast majority of those members do support the release of the post-1901 census.
I very much appreciate this opportunity to voice my opinion regarding release of the post-1901 census, however I find it very unfortunate that Statistics Canada has chosen to ignore the recommendations of the Expert Panel concerning the release of the post-1901 census. Conducting expensive Town Hall meetings (11) and Focus Groups (28) across Canada to collect yet more feedback from the people of this country is, in my opinion, a waste of the Canadian taxpayers money. To date, the Town Hall meetings have not produced a throng of people opposing release of the census as Statistics Canada may have hoped. According to my interpretation of the reports on the Environics site on the Internet, of all of the presenters to date not including the Town Hall meeting in Winnipeg on the 23 January, only five people out of a total of 99 presenters have opposed the release or have supported limited access. All Canadian people have already had plenty of opportunities to voice their opinions and the great majority of the people whove done so are in support of release of post-1901 census records. I would speculate that the rest of the people of Canada dont feel that it is an issue and are indifferent to the release of these historical records.
My paternal grandparents emigrated from Belgium in 1909. They were ordinary people with hopes, dreams, and feelings just like ours. It was people like them who helped to build this country and denying access to these records is, in effect, denying the importance of their contribution to the development of this country. Denying access will deny me use of information that could reveal facts that could help me to understand the circumstances of my grandparents life during the early years of the area where he settled and homesteaded in Saskatchewan.
Denying access to post 1901 census is denying prairie researchers the right to know their history. Saskatchewan became a province of Canada in 1905. Family and historical researchers would not be given an opportunity to document the history of our province as those eastern provinces such as Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces have been allowed to do. This would truly be an unfortunate situation for Western Canada and the Territories to be denied the opportunities enjoyed by our eastern sisters and brothers. Saskatchewan needs the opportunity to have a sense of the history of its people through the information found in these post-1901 census returns just as the eastern provinces have enjoyed in the past. If this privilege is denied, we in the West will have been alienated yet again.
Statistics Canada is worried that Canadian citizens will no longer trust the census process and will not participate in the collection of census data as willingly as they do now if the post-1901 census records are released after 92 years.
Lyn Winters, a retired RCMP officer, wrote an article "More on the 1911 Census" published in the Ottawa Branch News, Vol. 32, No. 2, 1999 and wrote about a similar situation regarding release of the United States census records. This is an excerpt of a portion of the article:
"As is currently the case in Canada, census records in the United States were once protected by a guarantee of indefinite confidentiality. In 1978, however, Congress passed an amendment that affirmed a long-standing practice of releasing records after 72 years. The . . . 72-year rule seems to have been accepted by the general public. During the 1980 census this limitation was noted on the front cover of every census questionnaire and there has been no evidence of any adverse effects on the levels of respondent cooperation."
In 2001, the population of the United States was 278,058,881 people compared to the Canadian population of 31,592,805 people. The United States has a population about 8.8 times greater than the population of Canada. If the United States can release their census without adverse effects to the level of participation to the collection of census information in their country, wouldnt it make sense that Canada could expect the same results? Actually, Environics conducted a poll in March, 2000. The results of this poll did not support the belief of Satistics Canada that future census participation would be jeopardized if the post-1901 census material is released.
The United States and England are making their census information more accessible to researchers by publishing scanned images of their census records on the Internet. In the United States the 72 year rule has allowed for the release of all of their census records up to and including 1920. The census records released by the United States to date include information regarding some 450 million individuals. In the very near future the 1930 census records of the United States will also be made available to researchers.
A column, written by Bill Waiser in the 19 November 2001 issue of the Globe & Mail, reported that with the release of census records containing records of more than 620 million individuals in the United States, Britain, and Canada before 2001, there has not been a single complaint. Canada, who usually follows the example of the United States and Britain in making laws and defining policies, is now doing an about face and is trying to deny access to these historically valuable records. How can countries with so much in common see this issue from such totally different views?
I do not support the "Compromise" solution. It is too restrictive. I am not just a genealogist researching only my direct family lines. I consider myself to be more of a family historian, collecting information and putting together a history of all of my family members. The "Compromise" would tie my hands in my family research. I would not have access to information regarding my great aunts and uncles and their families. I research my collateral lines not just my direct ancestors. To have such restricted access is only one step better than no access at all. It is very important that genealogy and family history researchers have access to all census information, not just information related to their direct ancestors.
What is the cost of the Compromise Solution? I suspect this solution would end up costing taxpayers of this country a lot of money. It would need to be policed to ensure researchers were following the "rules". This would need to be done at a government office, by a government employee, at possibly several locations across Canada involving several employees. The space required (expensive office space) would be at the expense of the tax payers. Why do this when in the past it has been administered by the National Archives of Canada through distribution of copies of the microfilm to provincial archives, libraries, private institutions, and allowing access through interlibrary loan as is the current practice for the census records released up until now. As much as I hate to suggest it, rather than being an expense to government and this country’s taxpayers, this could become a source of revenue. Access that costs us money is better than limited access or no access at all!
I believe we should be discussing how to make these records accessible to researchers, not if they will ever be released.
It has not been proven that a promise of perpetual confidentiality was ever made to those giving census information after 1901. Requests under the Access to Information Act have produced no substantiated proof of the supposed promise. Perhaps enumerators were instructed to ensure citizens that the information they revealed to the enumerator would be kept confidential by that enumerator, however I dont believe it was ever meant to be understood that it would be kept confidential forever. After 92 (or even 100) years census records should be transferred to the National Archives of Canada and made available to researchers. It is crucial that they be accessible to genealogists, family historians, and historical researchers alike. "There should be no discrimination between handling of records up to and including 1901 and those collected after 1901." (Gordon A. Watts. "Post 1901 Census News", The Global Gazette. 12 December 2001.) One of the presenters at the 14 December 2001 Town Hall meeting in Ottawa, Murray Long who was described as a "leading expert on private sector privacy law in Canada," stated "in the case of the 1906 and 1911 census information, I am satisfied that there is no privacy or confidentiality issue that would stand in the way of the release of this information to the National Archives and the public." The Chairperson of that same Town Hall meeting said that "he had heard no arguments or persuasive points against release of the census." There has been virtually no opposition among Canadian citizens to the release of these records.
I and more than 40,000 other Canadian citizens are asking Statistics Canada to re-evaluate their position on the post-1901 census and to release these records to the National Archives of Canada.