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Article Published June 22, 2004

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

Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament

In Memoriam

It is with the most sincere regret that we learned of the death of Dr. Robert Clifton Westbury on 4 June 2004. At the age of 68 Bob died peacefully at home after a lengthy battle with Cancer.

Bob was an energetic and enthusiastic supporter of our campaign to regain public access to Historic Census records until his illness forced him to pass his torch to others. He was a driving force in promoting our first legal action that resulted in the release and placing online of the 1906 Census of the Northwestern Provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. He pushed for taking legal action when some others of us were less enthusiastic about taking that course. Were it his decision alone we would have proceeded with the legal action a full year earlier than we did. It is ironic that his passing took place within a few days of our second legal action being heard in Federal Court. We imagine his spirit sitting in the back of the room rooting for Lois Sparling in her dealings before the Court.

His frequent postings to the Canada-Census-Campaign mail list before becoming ill promoted much lively discussion on the list. Access to our history was a matter of great importance to him. Bob was truly outraged with the refusal of the Chief Statistician to facilitate public access to Historic Census records. He occasionally stated his advocacy for the use of 'civil disobedience' to publicize our campaign.

In May I was in Calgary to visit family. During my time there Doug Joudrey and I paid a visit to Bob. His illness had made him very weak and it was difficult for him to speak. He was, however, alert and aware and knew who we were. He appreciated that we had come to see him.

Robert Westbury is the second member of the Canada Census Committee to die without seeing the successful conclusion of our efforts. The first was Donald Nisbett. Both joined the Canada Census Committee at the time of its formation. Both made significant contributions to our campaign. When we are finally successful in regaining continued public access to all Historic Census records it will be due, in no small part, to the contributions they have made to that effort.

We have tendered our condolences to Bob's immediate and extended family.

Rest in Peace Bob -- You will be remembered.

The full obituary of Dr. Robert Clifton Westbury as provided by his family follows:
    WESTBURY - Dr. Robert Clifton 1936 - 2004
    Dr. Robert Clifton Westbury died peacefully at home on June 4th, 2004, at the age of 68 years, after a long illness faced with dignity and good humour, He is survived by his loving wife, Clare, and four sons and their wives -- Tim and Mary Anne, Chris and Elena, Jamie and Pamela, and Eric and Julie; and six grandchildren of whom he was so proud. Grace, Jasper and Finnian in Bragg Creek, Nicholas and Zoe in Edmonton, and Ethan in Vancouver. Also by one brother, Donald and his wife, Robena, three nephews and a niece all in England. Robert was born in London and educated at Westminster School, Peterhouse, Cambridge and Guy's Hospital, London. He came to Calgary with his wife and eldest son in 1962 and interned at the Holy Cross Hospital. He joined the Cambrian Clinic in 1963 and worked there till his retirement in 1991. As a family physician he was widely recognized for his interest in research and teaching. He was a member of the National and Alberta Research Committees and was chairman of the Library Services Committee of the College of Family Physicians of Canada and was instrumental in the foundation of the Canadian Library of Family Medicine at the University of Western Ontario, in London, Ontario. He was also chairman of the international classification committee which standardized the classification of disease world-wide. He was a part-time associate professor of Family Medicine at the University of Calgary and won several awards for his published papers. He was awarded the Queen's Jubilee medal in 1977 and was named Family Physician of the Year by the Alberta Chapter of the College of Family Physicians in 1986. He was granted a Doctor of Medicine degree by Cambridge University after writing a thesis in 1979 on the effects of Medicare on his practice. After his retirement he had more time for his hobbies of family history and bookbinding. He was an active member of the Alberta Family Histories Society until his illness, and was also a member of the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild. In lieu of flowers, the family would welcome donations to the Alberta Cancer Foundation, 1331, 29th St. N.W. Calgary T2N 4N2. Please designate donations to Melanoma Research. Donations to the Heart Fund, 1825 Park Road S.E. Calgary T2G 3Y6 would also be appreciated by the family. A memorial service will be held at Holy Cross Anglican Church, 2828, 19th St. N.W. on Thursday, June 10th at 2p.m., Rev. Brian D. Way officiating. It was Robert's wish that his cremated remains be interred in the family vault at Tonge cemetery in Bolton, Lancashire, England

Our legal case

On the morning of 8 June 2004 lawyer Lois Sparling attended Federal Court in Calgary to present arguments in our second legal action. The purpose of the action was to force the Chief Statistician of Canada to return care and control of records of the 1911 National Census of Canada to the National Archivist. Once under the care and control of the National Archivist it is expected that, under the terms of the Access to Information and Privacy Acts, these records will be made available for public access. Patrick Bendin appeared as Counsel for the defense. Mertie Beattie (our plaintiff) and Rene Dussome were in the visitor's gallery providing moral support.

Our action is not a 'trial' as such, but is simply a hearing before a Federal Judge - in this case Mr. Justice Gibson. Lois presented argument for about three hours with some questions from the judge. Lois indicated that she would have preferred more questions and discussion with the judge since that would have given her some clues as to what he was thinking and what he did and did not accept from her arguments.

When all was said and done the judge reserved his decision, meaning that he will think about it all some more, perhaps do some research of his own, and will render his decision at a later time. There is no time within which the judge is required to bring down his decision, however Lois feels it should be a matter of only a few weeks.

Federal election under way

Canada's Federal election has been called for 28 June 2004. Many incumbents, and new candidates hopeful of being elected are vying to obtain your votes. The various political parties and candidates are making new promises - and repeating old ones. Many predictions are being made on who will win the election and whether it will result in a majority or minority government being formed.

My own personal opinion is that a minority government would be the best one for the people because one side cannot ride roughshod over the others - there must be some cooperation and negotiation between government and the opposition in order to see the business of the Country proceed. The arrogance that seems to inevitably accompany a government having a large majority does not override everything else. Many may disagree with me, but that is the way I see it.

In any case, when all is said and done we will see many changes and many new faces representing us on Parliament Hill. We will see those same changes need to be made on the MPs Scoreboard of the Post 1901 Census Project website. There will be many new faces for which we will need to find out their position regarding public access to Historic Census records. We may be able to accomplish some of this before the fact of their election.

There is time still before the election for us to visit constituency offices and campaign headquarters in our are to speak to those seeking office and find out what their position is, if they have one, regarding public access to 92 year old Census records in accordance with provisions of the Access to Information and Privacy Acts. If they come to your door seeking your vote, ask them what their position is on public access of 92-year-old Census records. Attend the all-candidate meetings in your area.

If we want to see continued public access to Historic Census records we must work for it. Question the candidates in your area. Convince them of the need for these records and solicit their support for access should they be elected. Let us know what their position re: access is. Post their responses, along with their name, political party and riding to the Canada-Census-Campaign mail list, or send it to me directly for forwarding to the list. For any that are elected, if I know their position beforehand I will be able to post it when I redo the MP Scoreboard after the election.

Complaints to the Information Commissioner

I last spoke with Dan O'Donnell, the investigator in the Office of the Information Commissioner that is handling our complaints regarding the refusal of the Chief Statistician to release records of the 1911 National Census of Canada, near the end of May. At that time he indicated that some further delays in getting our response from the Commissioner had become necessary. At the time he felt that we might expect that response to be forthcoming about the middle, to the end of June.

As I write this I have been unable to contact Mr. O'Donnell for an update but as far as I am aware there has been no change in the status of things. Indications from another source are that things are in the final stages laid down in legislation. We feel that the end result should be the same as was the case for the 1906 Census records, i.e. that the Commissioner will have found no reason for the records not to be released, and that he will be willing to proceed to the Courts on behalf of the complainants. All things being considered however, there is nothing certain in this life except that no one gets out of it alive. We will have to be patient for a short time longer and believe that the end result will be what we seek.


We have started to receive signed petitions. So far there have not been great numbers of them but they are coming from all parts of the country, and Muriel has received a number of Non-Resident petitions. So far it is early in the game but we would very much like to see the petitions coming in greater numbers. We wish to have as many signatures as possible to present to the new government shortly after Parliament resumes in the fall. If the current Parliamentary Calendar holds true that will take place 20 September 2004.

It is important to note that the government will accept ONLY original signatures on petitions. They will not accept photocopied or facsimile copies of petitions, nor will they accept the wording of the petition 'prayer' copied into an email with the name of the sender added. Again - they will accept only ORIGINAL SIGNATURES. Please download and use the petitions from the Post 1901 Census Project website. We have received a number of petitions with only a single signature. While we accept these with thanks, we feel that many who have sent these may have family, friends or neighbours who would be willing to sign if only they were asked.

Many genealogical and historical organizations will be holding their annual conferences and seminars in the next little while. We ask that petitions be kept on hand for these functions and that if possible, tables be set up so that those attending might add their signatures. Possibly additional copies of the petitions might be made available for those attending to take with them.

Make sure your local organizations are aware of the Census campaign and urge them to include copies of the petitions when mailing out their newsletters. Ask those at your local meetings to sign the petitions.

Vacation time is fast approaching. Family reunions and other functions may be taking place. All these are great opportunities to collect signatures. Carry the petitions with you so as to not miss out on chances to collect more signatures.

For our first petition we sent more than 62,000 signatures to Ottawa. We would like to exceed that number for our current petition. The greatest number of signatures on our first petition were gathered in Alberta, mainly through the efforts of the Alberta Family History Society and the Alberta Genealogy Society. Do we have another Province or other organizations that will challenge and try to beat Alberta in numbers of signatures gathered for the NEW petition? By rights, Ontario and Quebec having the greatest Provincial populations, should see the greatest number of signatures gathered. In the last go around, however, such was not the case.

The NEW petition is entirely different from the first one so those who signed the first petition are free to sign the NEW one. Petitions to the House of Commons and to the Senate are directed at different places. As such, BOTH petitions may be signed by the same people.

Government guidelines for petitions do not give age restrictions for those signing. We have taken the position that so long as those signing are old enough to be able to read and understand what they are signing, their signatures should be valid. This would enable those in Middle and High School to sign petitions. Gathering signatures on petitions might be a good class project for students. After all, the Census issue affects them as well.

We want to receive as many signatures as possible, as fast as possible, and there is no deadline for receiving them. We will continue to collect signatures as long as we feel they are necessary.

2003 Report of Privacy Commissioner

Thanks in part to a message posted to the Canada-Census-Campaign mail list I was recently reminded of the 2002-2003 Annual Report of the Privacy Commissioner. Normally I would have been watching for this report, as I have in the past, and checked it out before now. However, due partly because of other aspects of our campaign, and partly to family considerations, I had neglected to do so until now.

The Privacy Commissioner's Annual Report to Parliament for 2002-2003, presented to Parliament in September 2003 by interim Commissioner Robert Marleau did not forget about us. The Overview of this report had this to say:
    "One long-running dispute, about the confidentiality of census returns, appears headed for resolution in a manner that runs directly counter to the recommendations of our Office. Canadians have been told at least since 1905 that the information they reveal in censuses will be held in confidence and only used for statistical purposes. The Privacy Act actually allows the National Archives to disclose personal information collected in a census, 92 years after the information was collected. This remained largely academic until recently, because the only census records under the control of the Archives were those few that had been conducted up until 1901. Census officials took the view that, beginning with the 1906 census, regulations and legislation required them to keep the returns confidential rather than transfer them to the Archives. Historians and other researchers have long sought access to these documents, and this year the government, following the recommendations of an expert panel but over our objections, released the 1906 census records and introduced legislation to allow the release of the rest. Our Office had supported a compromise that would have limited access to the returns to scholars conducting peer-reviewed historical research and individuals wishing to conduct genealogical research on their own families. The government rejected this. Our concern is with the repeated promises of confidentiality. Canadians were asked to reveal personal information to census-takers, and were led to believe that it would be kept confidential. Violating that promise could diminish the confidence Canadians have in government. We remain hopeful that this will be recognized when the House of Commons takes up this proposed legislation, which was passed by the Senate in May."
Much of the Report of the Privacy Commissioner is written by his staff, rather than by the Commissioner himself. We suspect that in fact staff members wrote all of the Report, with the possible exception of the Forward. We wonder if the staff member that wrote the segment quoted above did his/her homework. He/she states that "the only census records under the control of the Archives were those few that had been conducted up until 1901".

"Those few" records under the control of the National Archivist include 235 years of records from the first Census of New France, conducted in 1666 by Intendent Jean Talon, up to the 1901 National Census of Canada. They now include the 1906 Census of the Northwestern Provinces. Granted there are gaps where records had been destroyed by fire or flood, or other means, but 240 years of recorded Censuses are hardly a "few" records.

We continue to be upset with past references, and references in this Report, of "repeated promises of confidentiality". "Promises" that neither Statistics Canada nor the Office of the Privacy Commissioner have been able to produce, and for which there has not been a single piece of documented evidence produced that they ever existed. Requests for such evidence through Access to Information requests have been fruitless. They cannot produce what does not exist.

Repeated references by government officials to "promises" that do not exist are incorrect, misleading, and - by some - may be considered to be fraudulent. We strongly suggest that such references cease.

Speech by new Privacy Commissioner 'encouraging'

Ms. Jennifer Stoddart was appointed as Privacy Commissioner for a seven-year term effective 1 December 2003. We are, to some extent, encouraged by a speech given by her to the Conference for the Access to Information and Privacy Community on 1 April 2004. She was addressing front-line ATIP people. I copy part of that speech below. (Emphasis by bolding of the last paragraph is mine.)
    "…………….. I recently read a biography of the great British public administrator and bon vivant, Samuel Pepys. Pepys is best known for the diary he kept from 1660 to 1669. The diary, which is now held at Cambridge University, is one of the great treasures of the English historical record, giving us a vivid picture not just of Pepys but of the age in which he lived.

    Pepys wrote his diary in shorthand to hide it from casually prying eyes, and he wrote many of the particularly delicate passages in a code of his own devising. He had good reason to do so. The diary was extraordinarily revealing, of all sorts of very personal information, not just about him, but about his wife, and about other people as well. It contained accounts of his many intimate personal relationships. It contained medical information about him and about his wife. It contained his political thoughts - a dangerous proposition in an unsettled time. It recorded, for example, that he had rejoiced at the execution of Charles I - not exactly something he wanted known after the restoration of Charles II.

    So Pepys wrote in code, to protect his privacy. But he also instructed that his diary, along with a guide to the code that he had used, would at a certain time after his death be made available to Cambridge University.

    Pepys recognized that his life was part of British history. He had, after all, been a Member of Parliament, the Secretary of the Admiralty, and the President of the Royal Society; he had witnessed the English Revolution; he had been present at the coronation of Charles II; he had seen the Great Fire of London and interviewed the man believed to have started it; he had been instrumental in the development of the modern English navy. As intimate and personal as his diary was, it also was, or would be one day, a historical record, the importance of which outweighed whatever his privacy interests might be by that time. Just as Pepys in many ways straddled the transition to the modern humanist age, so the record of his life straddled the distance separating the private life from the public record.

    Pepys's approach to his diary has, I suspect, a lot of lessons for us about the social interests in privacy and in open governmental records, and I hope that in some way it can serve us as a model, at least to stimulate our thinking about how to balance the two, for example in looking at census data."
Ms. Stoddart's reference to Pepys seems apropos. Pepys was a public figure. While he was obviously very scrupulous in keeping his private diary private, he took steps to ensure that it would be accessible some time after his death. He was obviously aware that his diary would have some historical significance in the future. He recognized that the need for personal privacy diminishes with time to a point where it should no longer be a consideration.

Not all people are public figures, and not all people keep diaries that will be made publicly accessible some time after their death. The common people however, play no less a part in the history of a country than do those who are publicly recognized. Census is the diary of the people of a country. It chronicles the lives of the common people as well as the elite and as such it is a document of enormous historical importance. We hope that Ms. Stoddart, as a former historian and teacher, will recognize this and will not, as did her immediate predecessors, fight against release of Historic Census records 92 years after collection.

Parliamentarians of the 1970s and 1980s, responding to representations of the people at that time, established that 92 years was a reasonable 'balance' between privacy of individuals and the 'public good' that continued access to Historical Census Records would provide. They took steps to formalize that 'balance' through specific clauses in the Access to Information and Privacy Acts. We urge Ms. Stoddart to recognize that the 'balance' between privacy and open government records (re: Census) as established in the Access to Information and Privacy Acts is appropriate.

Lockheed Martin Census contract cancelled

In my last column I reported on a controversy regarding the awarding of a contract to Lockheed Martin, a subsidiary of an American based company, for collection of the 2006 Census of Canada. Those expressing concerns did so for a variety of reasons - some 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. Still others 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.

It would appear that unlike our concerns regarding access, Statistics Canada has listened to the concerns about the letting of the Lockheed Martin contract. The following article appeared in the 9 May 2004 issue of The Ottawa Citizen.
    StatsCan kills census deal over privacy concerns Firm has close ties to U.S. defence interests

    Joe Paraskevas
    The Ottawa Citizen

    Sunday, May 09, 2004

    The federal government, bowing to public and political pressure, has broken a contract with the Canadian arm of U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin for work on the next national census.
    The New Democratic Party and other organizations had lobbied the government for months to drop its plans to have the Kanata-based company provide services for the 2006 national survey and a mini-census, out of concerns private information of Canadians could be used by an organization with close ties to United States defence interests.

    The director of the 2006 census, which is produced by Statistics Canada, confirmed Friday those concerns drove the government to pull out of its agreement with Lockheed Martin.

    "There were a number of concerns expressed, perception issues around confidentiality and privacy," said Anil Arora. "We wouldn't want to subject even the slightest perception that the census was in any way subject to any of those concerns, so to do away with that we decided that it would be Statistics Canada employees that would actually handle and process the census questionnaires in 2006."

    A spokesman for Lockheed Martin could not be reached for comment.

    The next census will involve about 13.6 million households and will be the first to be offered online. About 20 per cent of respondents are expected to file electronically, Mr. Arora said.

    Public concerns were unwarranted, he added, because census work would be conducted under security in Statistics Canada facilities with no external connections through which information could leak.

    But the NDP exulted in the government's reversal.

    "Hats off ... to all those who persuaded Statistics Canada that the integrity of the census was at stake," said NDP parliamentary leader Bill Blaikie in the House of Commons.

    The government would sustain a penalty "in the tens of thousands of dollars," for breaking the second phase of its three-phase contract with Lockheed Martin, Mr. Arora said.

    The phase involved the conducting of a mini-census of 300,000 homes and used as a preparatory step before the 2006 main census. The government would not be penalized for breaking the third phase of the contract, which actually involved the main census.

    The first phase of the contract -- in which baselines for the census were established -- has already been completed.

    Lockheed Martin had been selected in 2001 among other bidders, marking the first time census software had been purchased from the private sector.

    Electronic data processing could cut up to three months off compilation of census figures, Mr. Arora said, meaning the 2006 results could be ready by January 2007.
Sharing of Income Tax information denied

Also in my last column I revisited 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.

Glen Bodie has not had much success getting MP Dennis Mills to respond to his questions regarding access to Census records. He did, however, get a reaction to an email voicing his concerns regarding the above article. The following is the response Glen received.
    Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2004 10:09 AM
    Subject: Re: US Access to Canadian Records

    Dear Mr. Bodie:

    Mr. Dennis Mills has kindly forwarded to the Honourable Judy Sgro, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, a copy of your e-mail of January 18, 2004, concerning a recent article in the Toronto Sun.

    I understand your concern about immigration policy, as reported in the news media. I would like to caution you, however, that such articles are often the writer's personal opinions and are not based on information obtained from official sources. In many instances, the media may not have all the facts necessary to support the statements made.

    With regard to the article in question, Smart Border Action item 11 called for the creation of Compatible Immigration Databases in the United States and Canada. A working group was established to explore options surrounding an interface between certain Canadian and U.S. immigration databases. This will not involve the U.S. having full access to Canadian immigration databases or vice versa. Rather, it would allow a basic systematic interface to verify whether information was held in a specific Canadian or U.S. database on a particular person.

    In the Toronto Sun article, the limited sharing of information from immigration databases has become linked erroneously to sharing income tax and other related information, which is found in the files of Revenue Canada, part of the former Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. Taxation information was never intended to be shared with U.S officials.

    Thank you for taking the time to share your concerns.
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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