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Article Published March 18, 2005

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

Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament

Bill S-18 proceeding through Senate

On Monday, 7 March 2005 Bill S-18 - An Act to amend the Statistics Act, was reported back to the Senate by the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. It was reported without amendment and on motion of Senator Keon was placed on the Orders of the Day for Third Reading "at the next sitting of the Senate."

On Tuesday, 8 March 2005 Senator Bill Rompkey moved Third Reading of Bill S-18 in the Senate. Debate on the motion however was immediately adjourned, in the name of Senator Gerald Comeau, with no discussion having taken place.

Third Reading debate of Bill S-18 continued in the Senate Wednesday, 9 March 2005, with Senator Gerald Comeau speaking once again in opposition to the Bill. He expressed his disappointment that the sponsor of the bill (Senator Milne - although he did not mention her by name) had not yet spoken to the Bill in Third Reading. In expressing this disappointment he neglected to mention that debate was adjourned in his name immediately the motion to read the bill the third time was made by Senator Rompkey.

In actual fact, Senator Milne was not in the Chamber for debate of S-18 at that time because she was attending formal meetings of the Senate Standing Committee on Energy and the Environment. The committee was in Alberta, studying emerging Kyoto issues.

As usual, the Honourable Senator Comeau fixated upon 'breaking of ... promises' that neither he, nor anyone else, have been able to prove ever existed. He berated the Privacy Commissioner and the Chief Statistician for their positions of support for Bill S-18 during the Committee stage.

As he had done during the Committee stage, he proposed an amendment to the Bill, seconded by Senator Ethel M. Cochrane, that would allow unrestricted access to the 1911 and 1916 Censuses, but would prevent any public access at all to records of Census from 1918 to 2005. Senator Comeau's amendment goes against the stated intent of the Bill and it is felt extremely unlikely that it will be passed. We certainly oppose his proposed amendment.

Extracted Hansard transcripts for March 7, 8 and 9 March, relating to Bill S-18, have been added to the Post 1901 Census Project website at the URL following my signature. Follow the links for Bill S-18. These extracts have been added in both official languages.

Time is getting short

As I write this, there are 43 sitting days left before Parliament recesses for the summer on 9 June 2005. While the possibility does exist for an extension of up to 10 sitting days if pending business warrants it, it is felt unlikely at this time that this will happen. Of course, all of this is subject to change at the whim of the government. However, we should not count on any more than the 43 sitting days. Not much time left to see Bill S-18 to be completed before summer.

Not much time either to send in any Census petitions you may still have on hand. As indicated in my last column, it is time now to send us any petitions that you may still have on hand.

More records in danger of destruction

Those researching ancestors in England may be aware of a magazine called "Your Family Tree". The following information, circulated on a number of mail lists for UK locations, is reportedly an editorial column from that magazine. I make no claim as to the authenticity, or otherwise, of the article or its content, but felt it worthy of being passed on. The article makes several references to MOD, which I believe would be the abbreviation for Ministry of Defence.
    WW1 medal records - under threat of being destroyed?

    As we go to press, it has come to my attention that in April the MOD intends to destroy some 6 million records of medals issued to WW1 personnel. I think you will agree that we cannot let them do so.

    Our military expert Paul Reed has been looking into the matter and it appears that the private facility used by the MOD to hold the records at Hayes wants to relocate and charge the MOD for moving the cards. The MOD's response is to get rid of the 140 filing cabinets that contain the 4x6 cards. The National Archives doesn't want to take on the cards because it has already microfiched them and the microfiche has been digitally scanned (see ).

    This isn't good enough. This is the only complete and untouched record of First World War soldiers left. Other service records were burned during WW2. Only the fronts of the cards have been scanned and we believe that written on the back of many of these cards is the address that the medals were sent to. Often, it isn't possible to determine whether the record of the medals issued relates to your ancestor or another person without checking this address.

    First, the cards need to be preserved. They then need to be scanned properly, front and back, and re-indexed. If the National Archives won't step in, perhaps someone else will. The Imperial War Museum? The Veteran's Association?

    The MOD claims it holds copyright on the cards and that it can do what it wishes with them. I'd argue that these cards are part of the nation's heritage. They are public records, and I'd remind the MOD that the descendants of WW1 soldiers pay their taxes. The cards remind us of the enormous sacrifice and loss incurred by men and women in this country during WW1, and of their bravery in adversity. They enable the children and grand-children of those who died, and those who survived, to find out some of the lost details of their forbears.

    To save the cards we must take action. We're instituting a campaign to urge the Minister of Defence, Geoff Hoon, and the Director of the National Archives, Sarah Tyacke, to prevent the destruction of these records straight away. Address your letter to us and we'll pass it on to these authorities:

      Rt. Hon Geoff Hoon & Sarah Tyacke
      Save the Medal Index Cards
      c/o Your Family Tree
      30 Monmouth Street
      Bath BA1 2BW

    Alternatively, send an email headed 'Save the Medal Index Cards' to us at Do it now - the records are due to be destroyed in April.

    Garrick Webster,
    Editor, "Your Family Tree"
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