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Article Published April 05, 2005

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

Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament

Progress of Bill S-18

Third Reading debate of Bill S-18 resumed in the Senate on Monday 21 March 2005.

Senator Lorna Milne spoke against the amendment proposed earlier by Senator Comeau. She urged members of the Senate to defeat the amendment and to pass the Bill.

Senator Lynch-Staunton asked if Senator Milne would "allow a question or two". The Honourable Senator did couch his comments in the form of questions. It appeared however, that his main purpose in speaking was to object to the stated commitment of Statistics Canada to participate with the Library and Archives of Canada at the time of Census, to educate and encourage Canadians to allow access to their Census records, 92 years in the future, to preserve Canada's history for future generations.

The Honourable Senator stated his intention to speak to this "in due course" but subsequently moved adjournment of the debate, after which Senator Jack Austin (Leader of the Government in the Senate) asked when he intended to "make his contribution?" The response was "As soon as I can, honourable senators". We cannot help but wonder why the good Senator did not do so at that time, rather than necessitate further debate on another day.

The Honourable Senator Lynch-Staunton did make his "contribution" Tuesday 22 March 2005. Third Reading debate continued with him leading the charge against passage of the Bill. As he had done before for the Privacy Commissioner and the Chief Statistician, he now berated Justice Canada for having produced a legal opinion that differed from earlier opinions in that it found no intention that Census records were intended to remain confidential forever, and no evidence that any 'promise' had been made that would give such an impression. He stated "Justice has a bad habit of tailoring opinions to suit its client."

It does not appear to matter to the Honourable Senator that earlier opinions from Justice Canada were based on a very narrow view of one specific clause in Instructions to Officers and Enumerators of Census (having the Force of Law), and one clause of a single applicable statute. On the other hand, the opinion of Ann Chaplin in August 2000 considered ALL pertinent clauses (also having the Force of Law) in those Instructions, as well as ALL legislation having a bearing on the access issue. Understandably, she came to different conclusions than those opinions given before hers.

Senator Lynch-Staunton was prolific in quoting clauses of various statutes, Instructions, and Census forms which, while they gave assurances of confidentiality in contemporary terms, nowhere was there anything that indicated that such confidentiality was intended to last FOREVER. Not surprisingly, he made no mention whatsoever of clauses in the Access to Information and Privacy Acts, and Privacy Regulations that make specific provision for any person or body to access Census records, for purposes of research, 92 years after collection.

The Honourable Senator Comeau added some further comments as well.

Debate continued on Wednesday 23 March with Senator Madeleine Plamondon speaking against the access we seek. Since the beginning of our efforts in 1998 Senator Plamondon has never seen fit to respond to any of our questions regarding her position on this issue. Her speech however, left little doubt as to her position and has earned her a Red X of Opposition on our Senator's Scoreboard. As have others who oppose the access we seek, she made references to 'promises' being broken and related this to a lack of trust the people have in politicians.

Once again the Honourable Senator Comeau had his comments to make. Senator Jack Austin, Leader of the Government in the Senate, spoke to the Bill and encouraged speedy passage of Third Reading so that it might be referred to the House of Commons where further debate could take place. During his speech he was subjected to some heckling - mostly from Senator Lynch-Staunton.

Senator Eymard G. Corbin spoke to the Bill without committing himself either way although on previous Bills dealing with the issue of access he had voted in favour of that access. When it came time to vote on the amendment by Senator Comeau he abstained.

It was no surprise that Senator Noël Kinsella spoke in favour of the amendment that would prevent access to all Census records from 1918 to 2005. Senator Joan Fraser spoke in support of the Bill and in opposition to the amendment.

It was nice for a change to see some Senators, other than our champion Senator Lorna Milne, having supportive comments to make. This debate was more lengthy than those previously reported on. I will not go into it here in any great length here but urge all to read the debate for themselves. As usual, Hansard extracts of these debates have been placed on the Post 1901 Census Project website at the URL following my signature. Follow the link for "Progress of Bill S-18".

Motion to amend Bill S-18 defeated

During the debate Wednesday, there were two recorded votes taken - one on a motion by Senator Moore to adjourn, was defeated. Senator Moore later stated his reason for making the motion was to give him time to prepare his remarks rather than having to speak off the cuff. The second vote was on the amendment proposed by Senator Comeau that would close all public access to Census records from 1918 to 2005.

Fortunately the amendment was defeated so that all we have to deal with now is the Bill as originally presented to the Senate.

Debate adjourned to 12 April 2005

We had hoped that Bill S-18 would complete Third Reading and be referred to the House of Commons before the Easter recess. We expected this to happen on Thursday 24 March. We were disappointed however, to learn at the end of Wednesday's sitting a motion was passed to adjourn the Senate until 12 April 2005. Apparently there are enough Senators still wishing to speak to the Bill that Senator Austin did not yet feel he could call for a vote on Third Reading.

What now?

We are frequently asked what the current status of our efforts is and what is going to happen next? Looking at the recorded vote on the amendment, and breaking down the Yeas/Nays by political party we find a clue as to what is likely to happen. 34 Senators voted against the amendment by Senator Comeau, and presumably will vote in favour of the Bill when Third Reading is completed. All 34 were Liberals. One Liberal abstained from voting.

Nineteen Senators voted in favour of the amendment, and will presumably vote against the Bill. Of these, there were 15 Conservatives, 1 Progressive Conservative, and 3 Independents. Nine of those voting for the amendment have been shown on the Senators Scoreboard as supporting the access we seek. I have not yet decided whether these Senators really voted their beliefs, or voted in a manner opposing the Government who presented Bill S-18 simply because they are in the Opposition. Voting for the amendment however, flies in the face of their indications of support. I have written to each of those nine seeking clarification of their position. Based on past performance of most however, I am not holding my breath waiting for responses from them.

Bill S-18 is a Liberal Government Bill, and given sufficient time we expect to see it passed. Of the 105 members of the Senate, 64 are Liberals and most of these can be expected to vote in favour of the Bill because it is a Government Bill.

There are 308 MPs in the House of Commons. There are 133 Liberals. Liberals alone could not pass the Bill. However there are 99 Conservative MPs, of which 97 have expressed support for the access we seek. Support of the access we seek is, in fact, a position of the Conservative Party of Canada -- or at least many of them, including their leader Stephen Harper, have told us so. Currently, 207 of 308 Members of Parliament have expressed support for access to Historic Census records. Considering the possibility of some of these having changed their mind, there should still be more than sufficient votes to pass the Bill.

My greatest concern right now is 'time'. Time for the Bill to go through all the steps left before it becomes law. Time for this to happen before Parliament recesses for the summer, or before the Government is defeated on a 'confidence' motion. Even should all of those Senators who still wish to speak to Bill S-18 be able to do so, and it passed Third Reading and was referred to the House of Commons on 12 April, at that time there will be only 32 House sitting days left before Parliament recesses for the Summer. Time is getting short.

Another Letter

As I have occasionally done in the past, I copy here a letter that I feel worthy of passing on to my readers. This one is from Ethel (Moffet) Fulford. Ethel has sent it to her Member of Parliament, Prime Minister Paul Martin, Industry Minister David Emerson and Senator Lorna Milne. It is copied here with permission.
    To whom it may concern:

    I am just one little old lady, & even though I don't think that I am old, I know that I am old. In fact I come from a very old Canadian family. However, until a few years ago all I knew about my ancestors was that they came from Normandy, France. I never knew my grandparents, as I was born after they died. I was told though that my grandfather in Ottawa was the owner/editor of the first French newspaper in Ontario, Le Temps. I was also told that in the late 1890s & early 1900's that he was a translator for the Hansard in the House of Commons.

    My uncle Louis Moffet who was the chief accountant for the city of Ottawa, began the family history search & found that my grandfather was also a good friend of Sir Wilfred Laurier & Captain Etienne Bernier. In fact during my brother's research after my uncle died, he found that my grandfather, Flavien Moffet, accompanied Captain Bernier on one of his exploratory trips through the North West Passage & has an inlet named after him.

    Now just imagine how proud this little old lady felt when I read about my relative. This of course stirred a great interest in me to pursue the missing information as to when the family actually arrived in Canada. My older sister also got interested and did research whenever she could both on the Internet & traveling. When my brother died both my sister & I continued the project. A number of pictures of the family were found in the Archives in Ottawa, but there were still a lot of gaps regarding Quebec ancestors.

    When I took over part of the research I was able to go to libraries that had access to the Canadian census. I found that I could collect names similar to mine but spelled in a different way so wasn't sure of the connection. This connection was found just a few years ago when a previously unknown member of my distant relatives did some research for me in the Quebec City archives. Apparently the name has progressed from Maufay in 1653 when they arrived in Canada, to Maufait, then to Moffet today.

    Why I am telling you all this is to show you how one little person, old or young, can find out so much about their family, if they are really interested in & proud of them, with the help of such things as archives & censuses. I understand that there is a bill under discussion that would enable the access to Historic Census records that existing legislation already states we are entitled to. Will the history of Canada come to an end because of the fear of terrorism? If terrorists want that info they will find a way of getting it no matter how much security you put around it. The only way to prevent that access to them is to burn every piece of paper with relevant information on it. I'm sure that a great percentage of both Canadians & Americans, who are descendants of Canadians, would be very angry if you decided to delete that access of information to us.

    Today we have digital sources for researching, but the fact is that the only the latest available generation of discs on which info is stored has a lifespan of 100 years - the previous CDs available have a much shorter lifespan. Besides technology will advance & possibly those CDs won't even be able to be read on the new systems. On the other hand older paper, as I'm sure you know, has a much longer lifespan than new paper and definitely should be preserved at all costs. Then at least we will have that to refer to when the CDs are out of use.

    These are just my thoughts & I hope that every effort will be made to consider the curiosity of our future generations, so they can learn from previous errors - hopefully not yours, to avoid making their own.

    Ethel (Moffet) Fulford
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