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Article Published May 17, 2004

Gordon A. Watts POST-1901 CENSUS NEWS (Canada)
By: Gordon A. Watts,

Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament

Many still not aware

We have been campaigning now for more than six years to regain unrestricted public access to all Historic Census records of Canada, 92 years after collection, in accordance with the Access to Information and Privacy Acts. We have not yet succeeded.

What is noted after all this time is that there are still a great many people who are not aware of the Census issue, or believe with the release of the 1906 Census of the Northwestern Provinces the issue has been resolved. This includes a great many who belong to genealogical or historical organizations.

Let me assure everyone that public access of 92-year-old Census records is still very much an issue. The release of the 1906 Census records, although very welcome, resolved nothing regarding access to records after 1906.

The Canada Census Committee is making a renewed effort to ensure that as many people as possible become aware that the Chief Statistician of Canada is still withholding Canadian records of Census after 1906. With that in mind we seek your assistance.

We ask that you attend meetings of your organizations to ensure those attending are aware that without their assistance we may never see any of Canada's records of Census past 1906. Contact the editors of your organization's Newsletter and ask them to inform their membership about the Census issue through their publications.

We need contact information for as many Canadian genealogical and historical organizations as possible. Mailing addresses etc. are relatively easy to find for the major organizations. It is more difficult for smaller, local groups. Please send to me, at my email address below, the full name of any genealogical or historical organization you belong to. Include full postal mailing address, email address and any applicable website URLs. If possible include the name of the President, or major contact of the organization.

New Petitions Posted

For some time consideration has been given to having a NEW Petition for release of Historic Census records. Our previous petition was worded in general terms. It had an effect. It did not, however achieve our ultimate goal -- that being the continued public access, without conditions or restriction, of ALL Historic Census records of Canada 92 years after collection.

On Thursday 22 April 2004 NEW petitions were posted on the Post 1901 Census Project website.

Our NEW petitions are worded in very specific terms - giving explicit direction regarding what we seek, and the reasons for our request. There are petitions available for the House of Commons and the Senate of Canada, as well as a petition of support for those living outside of Canada. All petitions are available in both English and French languages. A link on the Petitions page will access instructions for the petitions, including where to send them when completed. The instructions are downloadable as well. Please read and follow the instruction to avoid having government scrutineers void improper signatures or entire petitions.

We ask that concerned individuals, Family History and Genealogical Societies, and Historians -- anyone wanting to regain public access to Canada's Historic Census records, download and circulate these petitions. Attend the meetings of your local organizations to ensure that they are aware of the Census issue and the NEW petitions. Ask them to advise their membership through their newsletters. Ask them to include copies of the petitions when mailing their newsletters to their membership.

Petitions will be collected and held -- probably until after the expected federal election. This means that the first signatures will be presented to Parliament after the summer. This gives us several months to collect signatures. There is no deadline for collecting signatures on the NEW petitions. We will continue until we have achieved our goal. We would, however, like to receive completed petitions as soon as they are available so that they might be checked and collated. Our original petitions sent more than 62,000 signatures to Ottawa. Let us make a concerted effort to beat that number with our NEW petitions. Let us do it in record time.

2004 Census Test

On Thursday 28 April 2004, some 320,000 people in selected areas of Canada received a 2004 Census Test. Apparently Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, and the Territories were not considered worthy for inclusion in this test. As with a regular Census there was a distribution of short and long forms, and forms for a Census of Agriculture. The effective date for the 2004 Census Test is 11 May 2004. The following information was taken from an 'Overview of the 2004 Census test' located on a Statistics Canada website available at

The Census Test will be conducted only in a limited number of locations. These locations were chosen to provide a cross-section of socio-economic characteristics, English and French households and a mixture of geographic areas including cities, towns and farming rural areas.

Here is a breakdown of where the Census Test will be held:

LocationsMail-outList LeaveAgriculture

Sites for the Test

Regional Census Centre Edmonton
Locations of test areas Atlantic - Nova Scotia
Mail-out areas: parts of Halifax and Kentville
List Leave areas: parts of Annapolis Valley and Cumberland County

Quebec - South Shore
Mail-out areas: South Shore (parts of Longueuil, Marieville, St-Mathias-sur-Richelieu) and 3 CUs on Montreal Island
List Leave areas: parts of the Montérégie

Prairies - Manitoba
Mail-out areas: parts of Winnipeg, Selkirk and Yorkton (urban canvasser - part of Winnipeg)
List Leave areas: parts of central Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan
Census Help Line Montréal area
Warehouse Ottawa
It is not unusual for Statistics Canada to have a trial run well in advance of the actual Census. We have no objection to the 2004 Census Test as such. We are, however, incensed about the inclusion of one question in this test. I detail my objection to this question in the following article.

Bill S-13 is dead! - Or is it?

It would seem that even though Bill S-13 will not be re-introduced to Parliament, it has not been forgotten. Our illustrious Chief Statistician - Ivan P. Fellegi - appears intent on forcing some provisions of it upon the people of Canada. The 2004 Census Test includes an 'informed consent' question that asks respondents if they would permit access to their information 92 years in the future. It was the inclusion of an informed consent clause in Bill S-13 that received the greatest concern and objection by those voicing their opinions about the Bill. Information Commissioner John Reid stated that if inclusion of such a clause in the Bill was the price to pay for continued public access to Historic Census Records it was too high a price to pay.

For the benefit of those who were not blessed by receiving one of the 2004 Census Tests, Question 8 on the short form and Question 53 on the long form read as follows:
    "The Statistics Act guarantees the confidentiality of your census information. Only if you mark "YES" to this question will your personal information be made public, 92 years after the 2006 Census. If you mark "NO" or leave the answer blank, your personal information will never be made publicly available.

    Does this person agree to make his/her 2006 Census information available for public release in 2098 (92 years after the census)? Yes __ No __ "
The wording of this question states quite clearly the point that I have made numerous times, including in my testimony before the Senate Committee deliberating Bill S-13 - those who do not respond to the question will be viewed as having responded negatively and their information will be withheld. To state that a negative response, or no response at all, will mean that personal information provided will never be made publicly available is at odds with the existing Access to Information and Privacy Acts.

The 'Guide and reasons why the questions are asked' for the 2004 Census Test states the following regarding this question:
    "Question 53 ensures that each person is given the opportunity to make an informed decision about what happens to his or her personal census information. For this Census Test, the information you provide will not be used to be made public. However, in the actual 2006 Census, this question will be used to determine which Census records will be made available for genealogical and historical research or release to respondent's descendants."

    While giving testimony to the Senate Committee deliberating Bill S-13 Chief Statistician Ivan P. Fellegi committed himself and his successors to joining with the National Archivist in a publicity campaign to encourage respondents to Census to answer YES to allow release of their personal information in the future. We have seen no evidence of such encouragement in relation to the 2004 Census Test. To the contrary - the wording of the question and the explanation for it seem to us to discourage, rather than encourage, giving permission for future access. They certainly do not explain the desirability and need for such information to remain accessible in the future.
There is no current legislative provision for the inclusion of an 'informed consent' provision for future access of information provided to Census. To the contrary - the Access to Information and Privacy Acts state quite clearly that personal information from Census may be accessible after 92 years by 'any person or body for purposes of research'. In my opinion should this question be included on schedules of the 2006 Census it will be done in contravention of existing legislation. Not that this would be anything new for our Chief Statistician. In refusing to return care and control of Canada's Historic Census Records to the National Archivist he is believed to be in violation of at least three and possibly four existing Statutes of Canada.

No bureaucrat or civil servant, regardless of how highly placed, is above the Laws of Canada. We have, a number of times, called upon the government of Canada to direct the Chief Statistician of Canada to obey the Laws of Canada. We have called upon them to direct the return of care and control of Canada's Historic Census Records to the National Archivist. To date they have refused to do so

We wonder - is there no one in our Federal government that has the intestinal fortitude to stand up to a senior bureaucrat that is long past the normal age of retirement? We remind Prime Minister Paul Martin of his statement that it is not the function of civil servants to direct policy - rather that such is a function of Parliament. We hope that his statement was not simply political rhetoric in his campaign to become Prime Minister.

Unlike the regular Census that you are required by law to complete and return participation in the 2004 Census Test is voluntary. There is no penalty for refusing to complete and return the Test Census. We strongly suggest that rather than completing the 2004 Test Census you return it without being completed. Enclose with it a letter expressing your concern and outrage with the inclusion of the 'informed consent' question when there is no legislative mandate for such a provision. This is likely to have a greater impact than simply not returning the questionnaire. Should you have already completed it, please ensure that you have said YES to the informed consent question and still include a letter of protest when returning it to Statistics Canada.

'Contracting out' Census collection

Last fall there was a brief period when there was a number of postings to mail lists expressing concern that Statistics Canada had let a contract to Lockheed Martin (Canada), a subsidiary of an American based company, to conduct the upcoming National Census of Canada in 2006. Some of those expressing concern about the letting of this contract did so because of the relationship of the company to its parent company - a major manufacturer of arms in the United States. Others expressed concern about the possibility of personal information of Canadians falling into the hands of the United States. Most of those voicing opinions, however, were concerned about how the letting of this contract would affect our access of Census records in the future, and how it would affect our current efforts to regain the access to records currently withheld from us by Statistics Canada.

On 28 April 2004 the Moose Jaw Times Herald included a Front Page article indicating that MP Dick Proctor (NDP - Palliser, SK) had introduced a Private Members Motion (M 587) seeking approval from MPs to reconsider the deal with Lockheed Martin (Canada). The motion of MP Proctor states:
    "That, in the opinion of this House, the government should reconsider the contract it signed with Lockheed Martin (Canada) for that company to provide systems and processing technologies for the Canadian census to be conducted in 2006."
The Times Herald article concluded by stating "Some persons upset with the contract have set up a Web site of protest at " While this website was not set up specifically for this purpose, it links the issues mentioned above and provides a letter of protest regarding the contract let to Lockheed Martin (Canada). It allows you to modify anything in this letter that you wish to change and provides the means of sending it. It suggests the boycotting of the 2004 Census Test, although for different reasons than what we have suggested above, and in a different manner.

One individual wrote to protest the letting of the above-mentioned contract as well as the refusal of the Chief Statistician to release 1911 Census records. They stated that because of this they would refuse to fill out any Census forms. I copy here an extract of the response they received from Chief Statistician Ivan P. Fellegi.
    There have been public concerns about the security of census information in light of a contract by Statistics Canada with a group of firms including Lockheed Martin Canada. Statistics Canada wants to respond to these concerns since it is essential that Canadians should have no doubt whatsoever about the confidentiality of their census returns.

    1. Given the public concerns, we have decided to limit the scope of this contract strictly to the development of software and the provision of some specialized hardware. Under the new arrangement, only Statistics Canada employees will have access to completed census returns. In other words, the group of Canadian companies headed by Lockheed Martin Canada will not carry out any of the operations associated with the Canadian Census - none.

    2. Is there a legitimate need for any contracting out of even some preparatory work for the census? Given technological changes, the 2006 Census will have to be conducted in a manner that is different from previous censuses. We have to offer Canadians a user-friendly option to return their questionnaires via the Internet - with security that exceeds that used by on-line banking operations. Among other requirements, this necessitates the practically instantaneous scanning of even those questionnaires returned via the regular mail. These tasks are enormously difficult to implement: they require an on-line operation capable of tracking the census returns of over 12 million households from one end of the country to the other to ensure that at all times we know who returned their questionnaires by mail and who did so via the Internet; and the practically instantaneous scanning of over 12 million questionnaires. Statistics Canada simply has no experience with the development of software involved in a huge and specialised scanning and Internet operation. Consequently, it was decided that it would be more cost-effective to leverage outside expertise in the development of these systems.

    3. When we decided to contract out the software development necessitated by the Internet, we wanted to be able to hold accountable the eventual contractor for the smooth functioning of the software and specialised hardware involved. We therefore specified that they must be responsible for the operation of the questionnaire scanning - of course, under our supervision and our own security arrangements so as to ensure the total security of Canadians' census returns up to the very high traditional standards of Statistics Canada. In addition, they were all to be sworn in under the Statistics Act and so be subject to all the confidentiality constraints and penalties to which regular Statistics Canada employees are subject. Statistics Canada was unqualifiedly certain that it could continue to be the guarantor of the confidentiality and security of census information.

    4. The contracting was carried out with the most scrupulous and meticulous care. The group of Canadian companies headed by Lockheed Martin Canada submitted what was clearly the best bid, based on their experience in carrying out similar tasks in other countries' censuses.

    5. To reiterate, even though Statistics Canada was unambiguously clear that it could protect confidentiality, we feel that public trust in the census is fundamental. Consequently, we have made arrangements to limit the contracting out of census work to nothing more than the provision of specialised software [and] hardware. Under the new arrangements, all operational activities of the 2006 Census will be carried out by regular employees of Statistics Canada - as in past censuses. Only employees of Statistics Canada, sworn to secrecy under the Statistics Act, and subject to significant penalties should their oath be violated, will have access to census returns. All completed census returns will be secured in facilities controlled by Statistics Canada. All of the Census data will be stored on a secure computer network, with no link outside of Statistics Canada.

    The ability to produce high quality statistics is dependent on the trust of Canadians. Statistics Canada would never betray this trust by making available census returns to anybody outside of the Agency, especially a foreign country.

    Ivan P. Fellegi
    Chief Statistician of Canada
We note in the above response that Dr. Fellegi made no mention of his refusal to release the 1911 Census .

Confidential (?) tax records revisited

A couple of columns ago I reported on an article by Tom Godfrey in the Toronto Sun of Thursday 8 January 2004. That article reported on an impending merger of Canadian and U.S. immigration and customs databases. It indicated that information provided by the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency would include immigration and tax records of Canadian residents. It stated that U.S. officers would have access to work records, property owned and investments of Canadians.

I have been surprised that this article, and what it implies, has received so little attention or reaction by the media and the public. Our government balks at releasing 92-year-old information from Census to those seeking information about their ancestry. They do not appear to have the same qualms about providing comprehensive, up-to-date information of the most personal kind to officials of a foreign nation.

The fact that it is being given to our greatest and most trusted friend and ally in the name of National Security for both countries is not the point. When filing my latest Income Tax Return I willingly gave permission for the CCRA to supply my name and address to Elections Canada to help keep the election rolls up to date. I did not give them permission to provide any other information to any other body - foreign or domestic - for any purpose whatsoever.

United States Census testing too?

Even though the next Census of the United States is not scheduled until 2010 it appears that they, like Canada, are conducting advance tests. Their testing however appears to be going in the opposite direction to what Canada's is.

According to a report Tuesday 4 April 2004, Census enumerators doing this test are going door to door as was done in earlier days. The difference today is that the enumerators will be inputting the information provided into handheld computers and information collected in this manner will be downloaded to a central location nightly. Reportedly, information in the computers used will be encrypted to ensure their security.

Assuming the success of this test, it is expected that this method of enumeration will be used in compiling the 2010 Census of the United States. Their goal is "no more paper questionnaires, no more paper maps, no more paper lists."

Apparently each household will be asked only eight questions. This would tend to lend credence to research done some time ago by one of the Canada Census Committee members that indicated the year 2000 would be the last time the U.S. utilized a 'long form' Census. It seems in the U.S. they are getting back to the main reason for conducting a Census - a simple enumeration of the population.

The full article may be viewed at

Complaints to Information Commissioner

On 1 April 2004, in a telephone conversation with Dan O'Donnell, Privacy Commissioner Investigator, I learned that there would be a further delay in receiving a decision of the Information Commissioner regarding our complaints against Statistic Canada.

I was advised that some further procedural issues had arisen, and that it was necessary to have meetings with up to three more individuals. One of those meetings was scheduled for Monday 5 April, another for the following week, and depending on the outcome of that meeting, possibly a meeting with third individual during the week of April 19. Following that, the Information Commissioner would review the evidence and makes his assessment, after which he would contact the Chief Statistician to advise him of that assessment and make recommendations regarding it. It is my understanding that the Chief Statistician has up to two weeks to respond to the Information Commissioner.

Mr. O'Donnell's best estimate of when we could expect complainants to be given letters of response was about 4 June 2004 -- four days before our legal action is heard by a Federal Court Judge. He indicated he would contact me if it were likely this would happen sooner.

Mr. O'Donnell was restricted in what information he could provide prior to a decision by the Information Commissioner. He was unable to tell me anything more about what procedural issues had arisen, or who still needed to be interviewed. In response to my questions, he indicated that the situation was not a carbon copy of that for the release of the 1906 Census records. He indicated that there was different legislation to be considered. I responded that the 1911 and 1906 Censuses were conducted under the same legislation. He agreed with that but stated that in addition, the proposed legislation of Bill S-13 had to be considered. He indicated that this was the case even though Bill S-13 was dead.

In making a decision regarding our complaints, I believe no consideration should be given to Bill S-13. Any decision should be based on existing legislation and regulations -- not on proposed legislation that has died on the order paper. I advised Mr. O'Donnell that consideration of Bill S-13 in this matter would be akin to a traffic officer giving me a ticket for an infraction contained in proposed future legislation for which there was no guarantee it would ever be passed.

On 2 April 2004 I wrote to the Information Commissioner to advise him of our feelings regarding consideration of Bill S-13 when making his decision on our complaints against the Chief Statistician. His response, received 5 April 2004 read as follows:
    Dear Mr Watts,

    Thank you for your representations. I agree with you that this case has gone on far longer than any of us would prefer. I know that you would like to have access to these records as quickly as possible, but I must be mindful of the results of my office's responsibilities.

    Before making my finding, however, I prefer to ensure that the investigation is complete and thorough . Consequently, we have felt it necessary to seek out additional testimony to ensure that all the bases are covered since the issues appear to be somewhat different in this case than in the 1906 Census records. If these complaints should go before the Courts, I wish to have a full and complete investigation available.

    Yours sincerely,

    John Reid
We agree that the investigation of our complaints must be complete and thorough - particularly should they end up going before the Courts. We appreciate the diligence of the Information Commissioner in ensuring all the 'i's are dotted and the 't's are crossed. I am not sure, however, that we would agree that the issues regarding the 1911 records are 'somewhat different' than those for the 1906 records. In our view the issues are the same for both.

The 1906 and 1911 Census es were both Censuses of population and of agriculture. As such they both sought similar information. Both were conducted under the same legislative statute, and both were governed by similar Instructions to Officers and Enumerators of Census. Records of both were withheld (believed illegally) from public access by the Chief Statistician of Canada. The major difference between the two is that the 1906 Census was limited to the Northwestern Provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, while the 1911 Census was a National Census of all Provinces existing at that time.

The legal case

There is nothing new to report regarding our legal action to force the release of the 1911 National Census of Canada. Our hearing in the Federal Court at Calgary is scheduled for 8 June 2004. Nothing further will happen until that hearing is held.

Canada Census Campaign mail list

For those few out there who may not yet be aware of it, we have a mail list intended to be a forum for those concerned with regaining public access to Historic Census records in Canada.

If you have some concerns or comments you wish to express regarding the refusal of Chief Statistician Ivan P. Fellegi to turn care and control of Historic Census records to the National Archivist for subsequent public access - if you want to let others know what you are doing to encourage public access to the records - if you want to post your letters re: the Census issue to MPs or Senators - this is the place to do it.

To join in List Mode, send an email to with ONLY the word SUBSCRIBE in the Subject line and body of the message, with no other text. To join in Digest Mode, send your email to Send this column to a friend

For those who may not yet have noticed, it is possible to send this column to a friend (or your MP). A window below allows you to input an email address to send it to, and allows you to insert a few comments regarding it. Feel free to forward any of my columns to anywhere you feel there may be an interest in it.

Until next time. Happy Hunting.

Gordon A. Watts

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