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Article Published November 10, 2004

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

Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament

New Census Bill announced

On Tuesday, 2 November 2004 the Honourable Lorna Milne, Senator, announced the presentation of a new Government Bill designed to settle the issue of public access to Historic Census records, 92 years after collection. She did so by sending the following email to the Canada Census Campaign mail list:
    From: "Milne, Lorna: SEN" MILNEL@SEN.PARL.GC.CA
    Sent: Tuesday, November 02, 2004 12:13 PM
    Subject: VICTORY

    Dear friends:

    It is my great pleasure to inform you that after years of negotiation I can finally announce that the government has my unqualified support, and indeed the support of the leaders of the Canada Census Campaign, the Canadian Historical Society and the Association of Canadian Archivists.

    I have attached a copy of the text of the bill, as well as copies of the press release that I will be putting out tomorrow. You will see that the additional 20-year rule that would limit our access to census records has been eliminated! There will be no restrictions to the use of census information 92 years after the date of the census.

    We were very concerned for a long time that the "opt-in" clause would destroy the census as a historical tool. That too has been softened by Statistics Canada. They have now conceded that such a clause could have detrimental effects on the historical record. As a result, they have agreed to review that section after 2 censuses have been completed. We will have an opportunity to look at how this section will work in practice and then deal with any issues that arise.

    You all should know that none of this would have happened without the hard work of Minister David Emerson, the minister now responsible for Statistics Canada. When I first mentioned this issue to him this summer he told me that he thought the census should be released, and he did not see why he couldn't resolve the issue quickly. He has lived up to his word. Over the last few months he has stayed in close communication with me and it has allowed me to have significant influence on the text of this bill, and has produced a bill that I am proud of.

    I hope that all of you will join me in supporting this bill. We have made remarkable gains in this fight. We can now guarantee that all census returns from 1911 to 2001 will be released in a timely manner. Some will be disappointed that people will have the option to withhold their censuses from the historical record, but even that issue will be reviewed in due course.

    I wanted also to take the time to thank each and every one of you for all of your work on this file. It has been a long journey. I can now say with confidence that the war has been won, and we have been able to gain real access to Canada's history.

    If anyone has any questions, please feel free to contact either me, or my assistant Jeff. We're more than happy to discuss all of the details with you.

    Yours truly,

    Hon. Lorna Milne
The Bill

    Bill S-18 An Act to amend the Statistics Act

    1. The Statistics Act is amended by adding the following after section 18:

    18.1 (1) The information contained in the returns of each census of population taken between 1910 and 2005 is no longer subject to sections 17 and 18 ninety-two years after the census is taken.

    (2) The information contained in the returns of each census of population taken in 2006 or later is no longer subject to sections 17 and 18 ninety-two years after the census is taken, but only if the person to whom the information relates consents, at the time of the census, to the release of the information ninety-two years later.

    (3) When sections 17 and 18 cease to apply to information referred to in subsection (1) or (2), the information shall be placed under the care and control of the Library and Archives of Canada.

    2. (1) No later than two years before the taking of the third census of population under section 19 of the Statistics Act after the coming into force of this Act, the administration and operation of subsection 18.1(2) of the Statistics Act as enacted by section 1, shall be reviewed by any committee of the Senate, the House of Commons or both Houses of Parliament that may be designated for that purpose.

    (2) The committee shall submit a report to the Senate, the House of Commons or both Houses of Parliament, as the case may be, in relation to the review that includes a statement of any changes to the administration of subsection 18.2(2) that the committee recommends.
Existing clauses of Statistics Act

To enable readers to put into context the terms of the new Census Bill I copy here the sections of the existing Statistics Act that are referred to in the Bill. The clauses of the new Bill would follow those shown here.

    Prohibition against divulging information

    17. (1) Except for the purpose of communicating information in accordance with any conditions of an agreement made under section 11 or 12 and except for the purposes of a prosecution under this Act but subject to this section,

      (a) no person, other than a person employed or deemed to be employed under this Act, and sworn under section 6, shall be permitted to examine any identifiable individual return made for the purposes of this Act; and

      (b) no person who has been sworn under section 6 shall disclose or knowingly cause to be disclosed, by any means, any information obtained under this Act in such a manner that it is possible from the disclosure to relate the particulars obtained from any individual return to any identifiable individual person, business or organization.

    Exception to prohibition

    (2) The Chief Statistician may, by order, authorize the following information to be disclosed:

      (a) information collected by persons, organizations or departments for their own purposes and communicated to Statistics Canada before or after May 1, 1971, but that information when communicated to Statistics Canada shall be subject to the same secrecy requirements to which it was subject when collected and may only be disclosed by Statistics Canada in the manner and to the extent agreed on by the collector thereof and the Chief Statistician;

      (b) information relating to a person or organization in respect of which disclosure is consented to in writing by the person or organization concerned;

      (c) information relating to a business in respect of which disclosure is consented to in writing by the owner for the time being of the business;

      (d) information available to the public under any statutory or other law;

      (e) information relating to any hospital, mental institution, library, educational institution, welfare institution or other similar non-commercial institution except particulars arranged in such a manner that it is possible to relate the particulars to any individual patient, inmate or other person in the care of any such institution;

      (f) information in the form of an index or list of individual establishments, firms or businesses, showing any, some or all of the following in relation to them:

        (i) their names and addresses,

        (ii) the telephone numbers at which they may be reached in relation to statistical matters,

        (iii) the official language in which they prefer to be addressed in relation to statistical matters,

        (iv) the products they produce, manufacture, process, transport, store, purchase or sell, or the services they provide, in the course of their business, or

        (v) whether they are within specific ranges of numbers of employees or persons engaged by them or constituting their work force; and

      (g) information relating to any carrier or public utility.


    (3) In this section,


    "carrier" means any person or association of persons that owns, operates or manages an undertaking that carries or moves persons or commodities by any form of land, sea or air transport;

    "public utility"

    "public utility" means any person or association of persons that owns, operates or manages an undertaking

      (a) for the supply of petroleum or petroleum products by pipeline,

      (b) for the supply, transmission or distribution of gas, electricity, steam or water,

      (c) for the collection and disposal of garbage or sewage or for the control of pollution,

      (d) for the transmission, emission, reception or conveyance of information by any telecommunication system, or

      (e) for the provision of postal services.

    R.S., 1985, c. S-19, s. 17; 1992, c. 1, s. 131.

    Information is privileged

    18. (1) Except for the purposes of a prosecution under this Act, any return made to Statistics Canada pursuant to this Act and any copy of the return in the possession of the respondent is privileged and shall not be used as evidence in any proceedings whatever.


    (2) No person sworn under section 6 shall by an order of any court, tribunal or other body be required in any proceedings whatever to give oral testimony or to produce any return, document or record with respect to any information obtained in the course of administering this Act.

    Application of section

    (3) This section applies in respect of any information that Statistics Canada is prohibited by this Act from disclosing or that may only be disclosed pursuant to an authorization under subsection 17(2).

    1970-71-72, c. 15, s. 17.
News Release of Senator Lorna Milne


OTTAWA - November 2, 2004 - This afternoon the government announced long-awaited legislation that will govern the release of census information. Senator Lorna Milne (Liberal - Ontario), who has been fighting for the release of historic census records since 1998, was quick to proclaim that the bill meets the needs of Canada's genealogists, historians, and archivists.

"Under Bill S-18 Canadians will have unrestricted access to all censuses taken before this date immediately upon the 92nd anniversary of each census. This is the kind of access that Canadians deserve and have been fighting for since 1998." Milne explained.

S-18 also contains provisions that will see Canadians indicate on future census forms whether or not they want to have their census information released after 92 years for future research.

The government bill follows the release of the 1906 census in January of 2003, and a government commissioned expert panel that found that there were no legal barriers to the release of historic census information.

For six years Canada's research communities and the government have been debating how to balance the need for privacy against the importance of the census as a historic document. Until now, no one has been able to find a system for access to the records that everyone was willing to agree to. Senator Milne credits Minister Emerson's work on the file for finding that agreement.

"Minister Emerson decided from the outset that he was going to solve this issue quickly and with common sense" Milne revealed. "He was able to quickly identify the fundamental needs of both Statistics Canada and Canada's researchers. This bill accommodates both sets of needs".

In addition to Minister Emerson and Senator Milne, the Canada Census Committee, the Canadian Historians Association, and the Association of Canadian Archivists all endorse this bill without amendment.

"With that kind of support, I would hope that the bill would pass through both Houses of Parliament quickly" said Milne.

For more information, please contact Jeff Paul at 613-947-9744 or 613-715-2965.

News Release from Statistics Canada

Date: 2004-11-02

OTTAWA, November 2, 2004 -- An Act to amend the Statistics Act was introduced in the Senate of Canada today. The proposed bill would enable access to both past and future census records.

This bill has two key provisions.

Personal census records for censuses taken between 1911 and 2001 inclusive would be released 92 years after each census.

Starting with the 2006 Census, Canadians will be able to decide if they will allow their personal census information to be released publicly after 92 years. Individual census records would be released only when consent is given.

The proposed legislation will permit access to historical census records and ask Canadians for their consent for the release of their future census records. It meets the legitimate interests of genealogists and historians while continuing to put all appropriate safeguards in place to protect the privacy of individuals.

"Informed consent about the use of one's own personal information is a matter of fundamental privacy protection," said the Honourable David L. Emerson, Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for Statistics Canada. "Canadians should have the right to decide for themselves if they want their personal census records to be made publicly available in the future. I am proud of the active consent provisions of this bill which satisfy the highest standard of privacy protection."

The proposed legislation includes revisions in response to concerns raised by parliamentarians over the previously proposed bill (Bill S-13), tabled on February 5, 2003. This bill died on the order paper following the prorogation of Parliament on November 12, 2003.

Statistics Canada, in conjunction with Library and Archives Canada, will, as part of the 2006 Census public communications campaign, encourage Canadians to allow future access to their census records to preserve Canada's history for future generations.

For further information on the proposed legislation, please contact:

Media Relations
Statistics Canada
(613) 951-4636


An Act to amend the Statistics Act

In November 2004, the government proposed new legislation to amend the Statistics Act. This proposed legislation involves two key provisions. It provides access to historical census records for the period 1911 to 2001 inclusive, 92 years after each census. The 1911 Census records will be released once the legislation has been passed.

Starting with the 2006 Census, Canadians will be asked to decide if they will allow their personal census information to be made publicly available 92 years after the census has been taken. These records would only be made available when consent has been given.

Informed consent about the use of one's own personal information is a matter of fundamental privacy protection. Canadians should have the right to decide for themselves if they want their personal census records to be made publicly available in the future.


During the late 1990s, a number of genealogical associations, researchers and other interested individuals started a campaign to express dissatisfaction with their inability to access historical census records after 1901.

The census records up to and including 1901 were not taken with a statutory guarantee of confidentiality and were made available to the public through the National Archives 92 years after the event. Those censuses held after 1901 contained a statutory provision of confidentiality and were therefore collected with legally enforceable and no time-limited promise of confidentiality. As a result, these latter census records have not been made available to the public. Legal opinion initially held that these census records may not, in fact, be made available for public access; it now holds that they may be made available.

Following extensive review of the matter, the government announced two decisions on January 24, 2003: (a) that there was need to clarify the Statistics Act and that legislation would be drafted to resolve this issue; (b) to release the 1906 Census records on January 24, 2003. The 1906 Census was a special census that was conducted only in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Furthermore, in contrast with other censuses which contained some very sensitive questions, the 1906 special census collected only very limited information: name, address, age, sex, marital status and origin.

A bill to amend the Statistics Act (Bill S-13), was introduced in the Senate on February 5, 2003 and passed 3rd reading, without amendment, on May 27, 2003. It was introduced in the House of Commons on May 28, 2003. Parliament was prorogued on November 12th, 2003. The bill died on the Order Paper.

In light of the delay in resolving the matter of access to historical census records, genealogists and historians and the Information Commissioner acting on their behalf have sought legal redress to gain access to the 1911 Census records.

In June 25, 2004, in a Federal Court decision, Justice Gibson ruled that the care and control of the 1911 Census records rests with the Chief Statistician. Moreover, Justice Gibson stated that there is no legal obligation that would compel the Chief Statistician to transfer these records to the National Archives absent of an agreement between both parties. The Federal Court in this case recognized that there exists a tension between the privacy rights of Canadians and public access to historical census records. He suggested that resolution of this matter is a policy matter best left to the government to address.

Your comments invited ?

Your comments regarding Bill S-18 are invited. Please send them to myself at or Muriel M. Davidson at . When sending your comments to us please copy in Senator Lorna Milne at .

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