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Article Published July 10, 2004

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

Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament

Canadian Federal Election

The Federal election held 28 June 2004 ended up with the Liberals forming a Minority Government. Some will be happy about that while others, for reasons of their own, will be disappointed. One result of this is that the Liberals will have to seek cooperation with members of other parties in order to see legislation pass. They will no longer be able to push things through the legislature on their own and perhaps we can hope this will result in actions or legislation that will return to us the public access of Historic Census records that we seek - with NO restrictions and NO conditions.

We will be watching with interest to see who is appointed to the new Cabinet of Prime Minister Paul Martin. Heritage Minister Helene Scherrer did not retain her seat in the House of Commons. Industry Minister Lucienne Robillard was re-elected but there is not yet any indication that she will remain as Industry Minister. As she has neither answered nor acknowledged receipt of my letters to her, perhaps we would be better off with someone else responsible for Statistics Canada.

We hope, but do not really expect, to have someone appointed as Industry Minister that will have the intestinal fortitude to stand up and tell the Chief Statistician to obey the laws of Canada and return care and control of Historic Census records to the National Archivist. We hope, but also do not really expect, Prime Minister Paul Martin will remember his statements that bureaucrats should follow policy directed by Parliament and should not themselves be directing policy.

MP Scoreboard updated

Following the election there were many changes made necessary to the MPs Scoreboard. There were 106 new names to add to the Scoreboard and a corresponding number of names to remove. In addition there were 121 changes in names of constituencies. Each addition or change to the Scoreboard requires multiple changes to at least four files so since the election I have not strayed far from my computer. The Scoreboards themselves have been updated to reflect the makeup of the new House of Commons. Updating of the MP Correspondence Logs is under way and I hope to have them finished within the next week.

New Members of Parliament are indicated in the left column of the Scoreboard with a single asterisk (*). Email addresses for most of the new MPs have been calculated based on a formula using their name and initials. These addresses are indicated in the right column of the Scoreboard with a double asterisk (**). They may not yet be activated. Changes to these addresses will be made as I become aware of them. Snail mail addresses are available on the Post 1901 Census Project website.

The current status of the MPs Scoreboard is as follows:

There are currently 0 vacancies in the House of Commons

MP   S c o r e b o a r d    S t a n d i n g s
a s   o f    J u l y   2,   2 0 0 4

Sitting on the Fence

The names of some of those not re-elected and that have been removed from our Scoreboard we will not miss. Others we removed with reluctance - such as Murray Calder, our Champion in the House of Commons for the past several years. We would have preferred to see him keep his seat in the House. We thank Murray for his support of our efforts and wish him well in his life away from Parliament Hill. We will be seeking another supportive MP to present our case in the House of Commons.

Our Legal Case

Our lawyer Lois Sparling received the judgement of the Federal Court that we have been waiting for on 29 June 2004.

I regret to advise that our application was dismissed without costs. This is bad news. We had felt that if judgement were made solely on the letter of the law that we could not fail. It would appear that it does not pay to be too optimistic, or to put too much faith in what others (i.e. Judges) will do. As I write this I have not yet seen a copy of the judgement so cannot say what the reasons for dismissal were.

Lois is considering the advisability of launching an appeal. There are a number of things to consider regarding an appeal.
  • Is it worth the effort to appeal when a legal action by the Information Commissioner, should he so proceed with one as a result of our complaints to him, may have a better chance of success?
  • Should we appeal is there a danger that a Federal Court of Appeal decision might jeopardize any case presented by the Information Commissioner.
I am not aware of the time frame within which we must file an appeal should we decide to do so. So far as I know, we could appeal only if it were discovered that the Judge had made an error in Law.

The dismissal of our legal action does not mean the end of our efforts. It is another pothole in our road to success. It simply means that we will have to redouble our efforts in other directions. We must continue to write our Parliamentarians - and there are many new ones to write to. We must collect as many signatures as possible on our new petitions as we can for presentation when Parliament resumes in the fall. We must take every step to make the public aware of the Census issue and seek their support in our goal of continued unrestricted public access of Historic Census records.

If we want to regain the access that we seek we all must be prepared to work for it a little longer.

Report of the Information Commissioner

We are still waiting on the decision of the Information Commissioner to our complaints against Statistics Canada. That decision should be forthcoming any time now but as I write this I have been unable to reach my contact in the Information Commissioner's office for an update. We sincerely hope the decision of the Information Commissioner regarding our complaints re: the 1911 Census will be similar to his decision on the 1906 Census. In that instance he found that our complaints were well founded.

He was prepared at that time to proceed to the Courts on our behalf. On 24 January 2003, the day his application was filed with the Courts, the 1906 Census was released and placed online for access by the world.


Many people may be tiring of collecting signatures on petitions and writing letters to our parliamentarians. They are no more tired of hearing about the need for this than I am tired about writing about it. It is difficult to continually find new words to state the same thing. The fact is, however, that if we wish to achieve our goal we must not only continue but we must redouble our efforts in this direction. We must not allow those opposing our efforts to think that we have given up and gone away.

Petitions are necessary to state what it is we seek and they are the only way we have to indicate numbers of people seeking to regain the public access to Historic Census records. Our earlier petition resulted in more than 62,000 signatures being sent to Ottawa. Our goal is to see the number of signatures on our NEW petitions meet, or beat that number. Our initial goal is to see as many signatures as possible presented to Parliament immediately, or shortly after, the Fall session resumes in September. This gives us the summer months to collect signatures.

Some petitions have started coming in, although not yet in the numbers we would like to see. Names of some sending petitions are familiar as they were active in collecting signatures for our previous petitions. Other names are new to us. The largest petition received so far by myself contained 184 signatures. This was a Non-Resident Petition containing signatures from across England and Northern Ireland. One woman and her family collected these signatures.

Some words of caution. Some signatures sent to us have been on copies of our OLD petitions that are worded differently and state a different goal than do our NEW petitions. Please ensure that you are using the NEW petitions that are downloadable from the Post 1901 Census project website. While scanned, photocopied or faxed copies of the BLANK petition pages may be used, the government will accept ONLY ORIGINAL HANDWRITTEN SIGNATURES as being valid on petitions sent for presentation to the House of Commons or the Senate. Emails with the wording of the petition will not be accepted by government people that scrutinize petitions because they do not have handwritten signatures.

Instructions for petitions, including where to send completed petitions, are included on the same pages from which the petitions are downloaded.


As with petitions we must continue, and redouble our efforts in writing letters to our parliamentarians. With 106 new Members of Parliament there are many who may not yet be aware of the Census issue and the problems we have had in our efforts to regain the public access currently denied us. We need to inform them about the issue, and we must remind those re-elected that we are still concerned that the issue has yet to be resolved. In all cases we must ensure that they are aware that what we seek is the same, unrestricted access to all Historic Census records after 1906 that is currently available for 240 years of records up to that time. We must tell them in no uncertain terms that the conditions and restrictions of now defunct Bill S-13, in particular any 'informed consent' clauses, are totally unacceptable. We must let them know that we have not forgotten about our goal, and that we are not about to forget it and go away.

At times we have been advised that many MPs and Senators have remarked that they received more correspondence regarding the Census issue than on any other subject. Let us make sure that we hear those remarks again.

New questions?

Since the formation of the Canada Census Committee we have been asking our parliamentarians the same question. It is perhaps time for a change in what we ask them. For the past few days I have been working on a letter that I will be sending to all MPs - both old and new. In that letter I will be asking the following questions.
  • Would you, as an elected Member of Parliament, propose or support a Motion in the House of Commons calling for the government to direct the Chief Statistician of Canada to immediately transfer care and control of the 1911 National Census of Canada to the National Archivist?
  • Would you support a Bill (preferably a Government Bill) that would add to the Statistics Act a single clause similar to the following:

      "Original schedules of Census or authentic copies thereof shall, not later than thirty (30) years following collection, be transferred to the care and control of the National Archivist for subsequent public access in accordance with provisions of the Access to Information and Privacy Acts, and Regulations attached thereto."
These questions complement the goals stated on our new petitions. The suggested addition to the Statistics Act would ensure the continued public access sought by genealogists and historians. It would not add unnecessary conditions or restrictions to that access. It would retain the balance (92 years) between 'privacy' and 'access' of information collected through Census or survey established by the Access to Information and Privacy Acts in 1980/83. 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

Post 1901 Census Project Web Site:
en français

  • Global Gazette articles regarding Census Project

  • Click here for official Census Project Web site

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