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Article Published February 10, 2005



Gordon A. Watts POST-1901 CENSUS NEWS (Canada)
By: Gordon A. Watts, gordon_watts@telus.net


Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament


While Parliamentarians took a break from sitting in the House of Commons and Senate Chambers from mid-December to the end of January, I took a bit of a breather from the Post 1901 Census campaign. I did not stop work altogether during this period but as little was happening there was not much to report. It is now time to get back into full gear.

Progress of Bill S-18

Before Christmas, the last activity regarding Bill S-18 was 2 December when, following Senator Terry Stratton's speech the debate was adjourned in the name of Senator Noel Kinsella. To recap, Bill S-18 - An Act to amend the Statistics Act was introduced in the Senate 2 November 2004. Debate on Second Reading began 16 November with Senator Lorna Milne speaking in support of the Bill, followed on 17 November by Senator Gerald Comeau speaking against it. There followed a two-week delay before Senator John Lynch-Staunton spoke against the Bill on 1 December, followed by Senator Terry Stratton on 2 December, also speaking against it. Following Senator Stratton's speech debate was adjourned in the name of Senator Kinsella, who indicated his intention to speak the following week. At that time there were six sitting days left before the Christmas break, however Senator Kinsella did not resume the debate during this period.

To date the progress of Second Reading debate has not all been smooth sailing. Some of our supporters have obviously felt that delays between debates were unnecessary and may in fact have been deliberate attempts to delay Second Reading of the Bill. Rather than messages encouraging timely continuation of the debate, some Senators apparently received a number of less than flattering, even abusive messages regarding these delays. This led Senator Kinsella, when finally speaking to the Bill on 2 February 2005, to make reference to what he called a "letter-writing campaign of intimidation". At the same time he speculated that had it not been for this "letter-writing campaign" Bill S-18 "…might have completed second reading prior to Christmas". When reading this, and considering that the Honourable Senator did not take the opportunity to speak to the Bill before the Christmas break - as he indicated he would, someone less trusting than myself might indeed tend to believe that at least some delay in the debate had been deliberate.

Whether or not such is the case is not my concern at this time. I wish to go on record as stating that the Canada Census Committee does not condone, nor has it ever condoned, personal, abusive attacks - either in writing or by telephone, to any Member of Parliament or Senator - regardless of their position on the Census issue. We have certainly encouraged everyone to contact his or her Parliamentary representatives. Our purpose in contacting them is to inform them of the facts of the issue, and to seek and encourage their support for our efforts. We maintain, as we have always, that our messages to them must be polite and respectful. Being abusive will not accomplish what we seek - it will most certainly cause the exact opposite result of what we want. The remarks of Senator Kinsella are certain proof of this.

As indicated above, Senator Kinsella finally resumed debate of Bill S-18 on Wednesday, 2 February 2005. As expected, he spoke in opposition. For the most part however, he did not speak to the Bill itself but on a number of things regarding the process leading up to it. He spoke about what he called some "misinformation being propagated about the process". I wish to touch on one of his references to "misinformation" in particular.

It has always been my understanding that when a Bill has been adjourned in the name of a particular Senator or Member of Parliament no further action can be taken until the named Senator or MP has spoken on the Bill in question. According to the Honourable Senator such is not the case. In this regard he stated (emphasis mine):
    "Honourable senators know that this chamber goes through the entire Order Paper every sitting day. We often choose not to speak to some items, but any senator who has not already spoken to a bill may take up any bill on any day and it makes no difference in whose name it stands. There is no requirement that it be held for a particular senator beyond the demands of courtesy and a desire to ensure that those who wish to speak to a subject are given an opportunity to do so."
If the Honourable Senator is correct in what he states here, and he is most certainly more knowledgeable in this area than am I, I for one have obviously been guilty of passing on "misinformation" regarding this point. I plead however, that it was done with the honest belief that what I said was correct.

In speaking of this, and a number of other points, Senator Kinsella made reference to the Rules of the Senate. While I have been successful in finding government web pages dealing with procedures and rules for the House of Commons, I have never been able to find similar pages for the Senate. Perhaps the good Senator will advise me as to where on the Internet the Rules of the Senate might be found so that I might become more conversant with them and thus not pass on any further "misinformation".

The text of the speech of Senator Kinsella, and others who have spoken to Bill S-18 before him, is available on the Post 1901 Census Project website. Follow the links for Bill S-18.

Bill S-18 referred to Committee

Following the speech of Senator Kinsella, no further Senators rose and on motion Bill S-18 received Second Reading. A subsequent motion saw it referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.

With earlier Bills, when they were referred to Committee, I posted the names and contact information of Senators on the Committee and encouraged all to make to submissions to the Committee. At this time however it is felt it may be better not to flood the committee with letters. Major leaders of the Census campaign are expected to make submissions to the Committee but it is not felt necessary at this time to encourage everyone else to do so. Most Senators on the Committee have been on it for some time. They will be well aware of our concerns, and submissions this time around would likely be substantially the same as those made when Bills S-12 and S-13 were before them.

When viewing the Senators Scoreboard on the Post 1901 Census Project website, it is noted that there is an even split between those who have stated their support for access, and those who have either not responded to our questions, not given a definitive response, or have voiced opposition to it. We are assured however, that there is sufficient support among the Committee members that Bill S-18 should easily pass the Committee stage. The only question at this time is how long it will take.

Mike More, Chairman of the Ottawa Branch OGS, recently made a submission to the Senate Committee on behalf of his 750 members. The prompt response he received stated the following:
    "Senator Kirby asked me to let you know that our Committee will be dealing with Bill S-18 in the not too distant future. As you may know, at the moment, our Committee is just about to start a series of cross-country hearing as part of our mental health study, this has filled up our Committee schedule somewhat but we will find time to hold hearings on Bill S-18.

    Our office will endeavour to keep you informed as to the progress of this Bill."
It is our sincere hope that the Committee will find the time to consider Bill S-18 very shortly.

Action of the Information Commissioner

In my last column I reported that it was the intention of the Office of the Information Commissioner to place a folder added entitled "Litigation" on their website which would contain information concerning the various stages of the Application, including the representations and affidavit and documentary evidence. Information on the progress of the Application was expected to be available there. Daniel Brunet, Director for Legal Services in the Office of the Information Commissioner had indicated that the "Litigation" folder should have been available some time the week in which my column was written. Unfortunately that has not happened.

A few weeks ago I contacted Mr. Brunet to advise that I had been unable to locate the "Litigation" folder, and to ask where I might find it. The following is the response that I received from Mr. Brunet.
    Dear Mr Watts,

    Thank you for your email. My expectations have not been satisfied. Apparently, according to some federal policies applicable to the public sector, we cannot provide access on our public web-site to material not available in both official languages. This is not the case for the Supreme Court of Canada where the status of each case is reported in the language used in the specific proceedings (see Supreme Court of Canada bulletin). This is the model I was going to follow and that I still intend to follow. My staff is looking into the matter. What is good for the Supreme Court is good for the Information Commissioner. We intend to go one step further and to provide the public with full access to the public portion of the Court proceedings. May I ask for your patience. I expect that this contre-temps will get resolved.

    In the meantime may I provide you with the following status of the case:

    Applicant's Affidavits filed on 2004.02.26
    Respondent's Affidavits filed on 2004.04.14
    Amended Notice of Application filed on 2004.12.03
    Applicant's Affidavits filed on 2004.12.15
    Respondent's Affidavits to be filed on 2005.01.31
    Applicant's Reply Affidavits to be filed on 2005.02.14
    Cross-Examination on Affidavits to be done by 2005.03.11

    Daniel Brunet
    Directeur des Services juridiques/ Director of Legal Services Commissariat à l'information du Canada/Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada
Further information on the action of the Information Commissioner on our behalf will be reported as it becomes available to us.


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