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Article Published Jan 28, 2004
POST-1901 CENSUS NEWS (Canada)
By: Gordon A. Watts, email@example.com
Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament
Parliament to resume sitting
Prime Minister Paul Martin announced recently that Parliament will resume sitting on Monday 2 February. The Speech from the Throne is supposed to commence at 3:00 PM Ottawa time. At the same time this announcement was made it was indicated that some unfinished business from the previous Session would be brought forward to the new Session. While a number of specific Bills were noted, there was no indication as yet that Bill S-13 would be one of those brought forward. Time will tell if that will happen.
In the meantime, we now have another opportunity to remind our Parliamentary representatives what we seek regarding access to Historic Census records. Remind them that we seek the same unrestricted access that we already have for 240 years of records up to and including those for 1906.
Letter to the Prime Minister
While on the campaign trail for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, then hopeful candidate for Prime Minister Paul Martin met a great many people and addressed many groups - putting forth his beliefs and policies. One of those groups addressed was the Crossing Boundaries Conference on e-democracy. Mr. Martin reportedly made a number of statements regarding bureaucrats making decisions on policy. The following letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin is a result of some of his reported statements. We hope that the statements of Mr. Martin were not simply campaign trail rhetoric, and that he follows through on his reported beliefs.
Right Honourable Paul Martin,
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
On 9 May 2003 the Ottawa Citizen newspaper reported on an address you made to the Crossing Boundaries conference on e-democracy (page A4 - "Leave decision-making alone, Martin warns PS" - Katherine May). In that article you were reported as having stated that the public service is not an "alternate legislature" and should stick to consulting Canadians on policy, but leave the decision-making to MPs. It was further reported you had made it clear to public servants that MPs should be as involved as bureaucrats in talking to and "consulting" Canadians on policy, but it's the job of MPs - not bureaucrats to make the policy decisions.
While some might consider your reported comments to have been simply political rhetoric in your bid for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada you are now in the unique position, as Prime Minister of Canada, to put into practice what you preach. I call upon you now to do exactly that.
Canadians have been 'consulted' regarding public access to Historic Census Records for more than twenty-five years. Consultations in the late 1970s resulted in clauses in the Access to Information and Privacy Acts that make specific provision for public access to personal information provided to Census, 92 years after collection. Those consultations, and the passage of Bill C-43 in 1980 through 1983 saw the release and unrestricted public access of the 1891 and 1901 Census records.
Canadians were consulted in 1999 and 2000 - this time through an Expert Panel on Access to Historic Census Records appointed by then Industry Minister John Manley. The Expert Panel recommended unrestricted access to all Census Records - past, present and future - 92 years after collection.
Canadians were consulted in December 2001 and January 2002, through a series of Town Hall Meetings conducted by Statistics Canada. At those meetings 151 of 157 presenters supported unrestricted public access to Historic Census Records. At the same time they rejected a number of conditions and restrictions to that access that had been put forth for comment by Statistics Canada.
Through all these consultations Canadians have made it very clear that they desire the same unrestricted public access to Post-1901 Census records, 92 years after collection, that has been available for 235 years of records up to that time. This was made clear also through more than 62,000 signatures on petitions to the House of Commons and the Senate, and through untold numbers of personal communications to Members of Parliament and Senators. So many letters and email have been sent to our Parliamentary representatives that a number of times we were advised that they received more correspondence on the Census access issue than on any other subject.
What has been the result of all these consultations, representations and recommendations? For the most part they have been ignored. More than that - certain senior bureaucrats have actively opposed the recommendations made. A Government Bill finally put forward would have allowed access to the records sought. Unfortunately the Bill included conditions and restrictions on that access that Canadians had previously rejected. Because of the wording of the Bill, particularly insofar as the conditions and restrictions is concerned, it is believed that the major player in the drafting of it was Dr. Ivan P. Fellegi - Chief Statistician of Canada.
Ivan Fellegi has refused requests by National Archivist Ian E. Wilson to return the records in question to his care and control. By that refusal we believe the Chief Statistician to be in contravention of at least four Statutes of Canada. I include with this letter a summary of pertinent sections of Statutes that affect public access to Historic Census records.
Mr. Prime Minister, we remind you of your statement that it is not the job of bureaucrats to make policy decisions. We call upon you to direct the Chief Statistician of Canada, Dr. Ivan P. Fellegi, to immediately obey the Laws of Canada, specifically the National Archives Act, the Access to Information Act, and the Privacy Act and Regulations attached thereto. We call upon you to direct Dr. Fellegi to immediately return care and control of Canada's Historic Census records to the National Archivist so that they might be released for public access 92 years after collection.
Gordon A. Watts
Co-chair, Canada Census Committee
On the afternoon of 13 January I called Dan O'Donnell, the investigator in the Information Commissioner's office assigned to our complaints re: Statistics Canada. In response to my query he indicated that he felt the Information Commissioner would give his response to our complaints in about six weeks. This would put it about the end of February or beginning of March. Mr. O'Donnell was unable to elaborate further, or give any indication about what he believed the response of the Information Commissioner would be.
The legal action
Our legal action to obtain release of the 1911 Census records continues. In December our lawyer Lois Sparling requested a date for a hearing in our action and advised the Federal Court of those dates in the following three months that she would not be available to attend. At the time of her request the government lawyers had not yet advised of the dates they would not be available. It was felt that this was another attempt on the part of Justice Canada lawyers to delay proceedings even further.
Even though the Courts requested information regarding unavailability during the following three months, Lois thought it unlikely that we would receive a hearing date within that timeframe. As it turned out, she was correct. On 13 January 2004 we were officially advised that the Court had confirmed a date for our hearing. It will take place in Calgary at 9:30 AM, 8 June 2004.
Our confidential (?) tax records
On Thursday 8 January the Toronto Sun published the following article by Tom Godfrey.
By TOM GODFREY, TORONTO SUN
U.S. border agents will soon have access to the immigration and tax records of Canadian residents for use in nabbing terrorists before they cross the American border. U.S. officials said an impending merger of Canadian and U.S. immigration and customs databases will also help them intercept illegal aliens, criminals and fugitives.
Officials said the measure will give U.S. front-line agents the power to check Canadian residents - citizens, immigrants, refugees or visitors - driving into the U.S. at land crossings.
They said U.S. officers will have access to Revenue Canada files, which contain tax information on Canadians, including their work records, property owned and investments.
That information may lead to unemployed people being refused entry into the U.S., officers said.
The merging of databases is one of 32 points in a smart border action plan that has been in the works since 2002.
In response to Mr. Godfrey's article I wrote the following Letter to the Editor of the Toronto Sun. I have been advised that it was published as the Letter of the Day on Wednesday 21 January 2004.
Editor - Toronto Sun
Tom Godfrey's brief article (Yanks will see your tax data. - Toronto Sun - Thursday 8 January 2004) should be setting off alarm bells to all who have mistakenly assumed that information provided in their tax returns remained unassailable except where they gave permission to have name and address information transferred to Elections Canada.
At the very least, learning that U.S. border agents have access to current immigration and tax records of Canadian residents will anger the tens of thousands of Canadian genealogists and historians who have been seeking to regain public access to 92-year-old Census records. Those records have been withheld because the Federal Government does not have the 'cohones' to stand up to a very senior bureaucrat -- Chief Statistician Ivan P. Fellegi -- and direct him to obey the laws of Canada. (Privacy Act Regulations make specific provision for personal information from Census to be released for purposes of research 92 years after collection.)
Six years of lobbying the Federal Government resulted in a Bill that allows access to these vital records. The Bill also places conditions and restrictions upon that access that go against all recommendations of a Government appointed Expert Panel, a series of Town Hall Meetings, and every survey conducted. There is currently unrestricted access to 240 years of Census records up to 1906. We seek the same unrestricted access for records after that time.
For further information regarding our campaign, and a legal action currently under way, we invite you to visit the Post 1901 Census Project website at
Gordon A. Watts firstname.lastname@example.org
Co-Chair, Canada Census Committee
1455 Delia Drive
Port Coquitlam, BC
Personal information of Parliamentarians
While the Federal Government continues to promote conditions and restrictions for genealogists seeking information on their ancestors through Historic Census records, they seem not to have the same qualms about placing personal information regarding our Parliamentary representatives, past and present, on a website accessible to everyone on the net.
On the home page for Canada's Parliament located at
http://www.parl.gc.ca/common/index.asp?Language=E you will find a link labeled 'Family Relations in the Canadian Houses of Parliament'. This link takes you to another page located at
http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/about/people/key/family-famille/index.asp?lang=E The opening of this page provides the following statement:
Other web pages of Parliament include a wealth of personal information regarding those who represent us. Through a little research on these pages one can learn a great deal about Senators and Members of Parliament - both past and present. While not in a consistent format between Senators and MPs, or even between different members of either House of Parliament, information is unrestricted and freely available about the following:
http://www.parl.gc.ca/common/SenatorsMembers.asp?Language=E&Parl=37&Ses=1 We have no complaint regarding the unrestricted access to this information regarding our Parliamentary representatives. To the contrary, we believe everyone has a right to know about those we elect or appoint to represent us in government. However, we have some difficulty in knowing that under the conditions and restrictions proposed by the Federal Government for access to Historic Census records much of this very same information - currently available for Federal politicians - for ordinary people would be restricted from publication until 112 years after collection.
It would appear that in this instance, 'Sauce for the Goose' is not necessarily 'Sauce for the Gander'!
Until next time. Happy Hunting.
Gordon A. Watts email@example.com
Post 1901 Census Project Web Site: http://globalgenealogy.com/Census
en français http://globalgenealogy.com/Census/Index_f.htm