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Article Published April 29, 2005

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

Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament

Progress of Bill S-18

Following a two-week break, the Senate of Canada resumed sitting on Tuesday 12 April 2005. Contrary to our hopes and expectations they did not resume Third Reading debate of Bill S-18 at this time. According to the daily Journal, Bill S-18 was called and postponed 'until the next sitting'.

Debate resumed on Wednesday 13 April 2005 with Senator Wilfred P. Moore (Liberal - Nova Scotia) speaking against the access to Historic Census records sought by genealogists and historians. Since March of 2002, when he expressed support for Senator Milne's Private Senator Bill S-12, Senator Moore had been shown on our Scoreboard having a Gold Tick of Support. No more! It seems that the good Senator did a complete about-face regarding public access to Historic Census records. His comments during his speech left little doubt as to his opposition and as such his Gold Tick of Support has been removed. The Scoreboard now shows him having a Red X of Opposition.

As have other Senators (and some MPs) who have spoken against the access we seek to regain, he made frequent references to 'promises' that have been proven never to have existed. Like others have done, he quoted two narrow clauses of the 1918 Statistics Act while ignoring all pertinent clauses of Instructions to Officers and Enumerators of Census from 1901 to at least 1946 (all having the Force of Law) referring to records of Census having value as historical documents, and being stored in the 'Archives of the Dominion' for research in the future. He ignored the fact that clauses in the Access to Information and Privacy Acts, and Privacy Regulations make provision, clearly and unambiguously, for access by any person or body for purposes of research 92 years after the Census is collected.

As we have come to expect, the Honourable Senator Comeau got his two-bits worth in once more. He made reference to individuals using Census to obtain clues relating to health concerns and then expressed concern that insurance companies could use such information to limit what kind of insurance coverage could be obtained. The fact is that Census does not give specific information relating to health concerns, but only gives vague clues on where such information might be found. For such information to be of use to insurance, or any other companies, they would be compelled to compile a multi-generation genealogy for each person seeking to purchase a policy. The likelihood of any company doing this costly and time-consuming exercise is extremely remote. We view the expressed concern of Senator Comeau in this regard simply as scare-mongering.

The debate was adjourned in the name of Senator Lynch-Staunton. No further debate on Bill S-18 took place in the Senate until Tuesday 19 April 2005, when it received its final debate with Senator Lynch-Staunton (as usual) speaking against the Bill. As seems to be the case regardless of who is speaking to the Bill, the Honourable Senator Comeau got his comments in once again.

Senator Lowell Murray, with whom I have been at odds almost from the beginning of our campaign to regain access to Historic Census records, spoke in support of Bill S-18, indicating his intention to vote in favour of it. I was convinced of the sincerity of his support at this time, and for that I finally awarded him a Gold Tick on the Senators Scoreboard. I will be writing to him to express my personal thanks for his support at this time.

Unlike previous reports where I have elaborated on the debate, I simply suggest you read this session for yourselves. The Hansard extract of all debates have been posted to the Post 1901 Census Project website at the URL following my signature. Follow the link for 'Progress of Bill S-18'.

Bill S-18 passed in the Senate with a verbal vote of Yeas/Nays, however a recorded vote was called for. On Wednesday 20 April 2005 the Senate of Canada voted 51 to 16 to pass Third Reading of Bill S-18 - An Act to amend the Statistics Act. The following charts show the way the Honourable Senators voted:



Adams Lapointe
Austin Lavigne
Bacon Léger
Bryden Losier-Cool
Callbeck Maheu
Carstairs Mahovlich
Chaput Massicotte
Christensen McCoy
Cook Mercer
Corbin Milne
Cordy Mitchell
Cowan Murray
Day Nancy Ruth
Downe Pearson
Dyck Pépin
Eggleton Peterson
Fairbairn Phalen
Ferretti Barth Pitfield
Finnerty Poulin
Furey Poy
Gill Ringuette
Hervieux-Payette Robichaud
Hubley Rompkey
Jaffer Smith
Joyal Tardif-51



Angus Lynch-Staunton
Buchanan Moore
Cochrane Nolin
Comeau Oliver
Cools Plamondon
Di Nino Prud'homme
Keon St. Germain
LeBreton Stratton-16

Bill S-18 received First Reading in the House of Commons on Thursday 21 April 2005.

Your assistance requested - again

While Bill S-18 has received First Reading in the House of Commons, at this time there is no indication regarding when debate in Second Reading will take place. Unlike Senate procedures, where an item remains on the Orders of the Day continuously and may be dealt with at any time, the Order Paper in the House of Commons works very differently. In the House of Commons only those items on the Projected Order of Business can be debated on any given day in the House. As I write this the House of Commons is in recess for the week of 25 April. For the week of 2 May, Bill S-18 does not as yet appear on the Projected Order of Business.

With your help we hope that this can be changed. We would like everyone reading this to send an email message to the leaders of all political Parties in Ottawa to encourage further debate of Bill S-18 to be completed and passed in a single sitting of the House of commons. Send that message to the following people, with a copy to your own Member of Parliament. Write a brief note in your own words. Request that all parties get together to agree to pass Bill S-18 in one day. Some of the points you may want to make in the email would include:
  • 210 current MPs are on public record as supporting the release of historic census records
  • Why the release of Historic Census records is important to you
  • The Privacy Commissioner, Chief Statistician, National Archivist, Canada Census Campaign, and Canadian Historical Association all support the bill.
  • Acknowledge that this is a tough time for the house but that this is a non-partisan bill.
  • You do not take any side on whether or not there should be an election, your only concern is getting this bill through.
  • All 4 House Leaders HAVE GOLD TICKS.
  • Jack Layton, Stephen Harper and David Emerson ALL HAVE GOLD TICKS.
  • Statistics Canada needs a decision on this bill right away so final preparations can be made before printing the 2006 Census schedules.
Please do not copy and paste information from this column directly into a message to the parliamentarians. It is a million times more effective when it comes in your own words.

This may be the most important request we have made in the course of our campaign. We need everyone reading this to climb aboard. If you have ever, or never, written a letter or email supporting our campaign, now is the time to do so.

Please write immediately you read this column. If you do not, it may be too late. Time is rapidly running out for Bill S-18 to be passed before Parliament is recessed for the summer. Should an election be forced upon us before Bill S-18 is passed it will mean we have to start over one more time.

Letter from Ontario Genealogical Society

The following letter was sent on behalf of the Ontario Genealogy Society by Past-President David MacKenzie.
    The Ontario Genealogical Society
    40 Orchard View Blvd., Suite 102,
    Toronto, Ontario, M4R 1B9

    April 21, 2005

    To Party Leaders and House Leaders,
    The Parliament of Canada.

    Ms. Davies and Gentlemen:

    I am officially writing to you on behalf of the more than six thousand members of the Ontario Genealogical Society, but I am sure that I also speak for the tens of thousands of family historians in this country who are not members of our Society.

    The Senate has now adopted Bill S-18. This bill clarifies and eliminates any ambiguity that may have existed concerning the release of census information to the National Archives 92 years after to census has been taken.

    Access to this information is often the only tool available to a family historian to research and find the members of a given family or this information may lead the researcher to other important avenues of information. Allow me to give you an example:

    I live in Brockville, Ontario. By means of mail and e-mail I answer questions that come to me from individuals who are all over this continent and even overseas. These people are searching their family history in our region where the Loyalists settled in the 1780's. Not too long ago I received a request from a lady in Oklahoma who was able to furnish me only with the name of her great grandmother and the fact that this lady was supposed to have died in our region around 1912. Searching in the registers of the local cemeteries I was able to find her tombstone that indicated not only the date of death of the woman, but also the name of her husband and the date of this death as well (1904). I therefore concluded that they had probably lived in the region at the time of the 1901 census. I therefore searched the registers of this census and found them. I was able to find their dates of birth, the fact that they were both born in Scotland and were members of the Presbyterian Church. This led me to search the registers of the Presbyterian Church where I found the documents recording the births and marriages of their children. Using this information the lady from Oklahoma traveled to Scotland where with the dates from the census, she was able to find several other generations of her family.

    In this and several other cases, access to the census was essential to enable the searcher to trace his or her roots. The 92-year delay provides adequate protection of the privacy of personal information

    This Bill has wide support. The Privacy Commissioner, the National Archivist, the Chief Statistician, The Information Commissioner and the Canadian Historical Association all support this Bill, as does our Society. 209 members of the current parliament have indicated their support All of you have indicated your support. This is not a partisan issue. In this precarious parliament speed might be of the essence. Please get all parties together and pass the Bill in a single day.

    Your help will be most appreciated.


    David A. Mackenzie,
    Past President, OGS
LDS supports Bill S-18

The following letter from Wayne Metcalf, Vice President of the Genealogical Society of Utah was sent to MPs Tony Valeri, David Emerson, Jay Hill, Stephen Harper, Libby Davies and Jack Layton. A French language version of this letter was sent to the leaders of the Bloc Quebecois. The letter is copied here with permission.
    From: "Wayne J Metcalfe"
    Sent: Tuesday, April 26, 2005 2:01 PM
    Subject: Senate Bill 18 in the House of Commons

    April 26, 2005

    Dear Parliamentary Leaders:

    I am writing to respectfully request passage of Senate Bill 18 in the House of Commons.

    My name is Wayne Metcalfe, and I am Vice President of the Genealogical Society of Utah ("GSU"), which is affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church operates the largest family history library in the world in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A., with 4,500 branches worldwide, including 154 branches in Canada. These branches serve approximately 172,000 Canadian citizens annually.

    As you are aware, Senate Bill 18 authorizes the release of census information 92 years after its collection. Census information is of vital interest to family historians and genealogists. The bill represents a compromise and is supported by 209 current members of Parliament. It passed the Senate by a vote of 51-16. The Information Commissioner, Privacy Commissioner, Chief Statistician, National Archivist, Canada Census Campaign, and Canadian Historical Association all support the bill.

    Statistics Canada needs a decision on the bill in the near term so that final preparations may be made for the 2006 Census.

    We acknowledge that this may be a difficult time for the House, but Senate Bill 18 is not controversial; it is a non-partisan bill.

    GSU takes no position on whether or not there should be an election, only that it is vital to pass Senate Bill 18 in the House of Commons prior to any election. Therefore, GSU joins many other interested groups and citizens in respectfully urging the House to pass Senate Bill 18 in one day.

    Thank you very much for your consideration of this important matter.


    Wayne Metcalfe
    Vice President
    Genealogical Society of Utah
Editor's Note: Wayne J. Metcalfe currently serves as the Vice President of the Genealogical Society of Utah. His previous assignments include responsibility for the Society’s, microfilm and acquisitions efforts in the United States\Canada, and the Asian\ Pacific areas. Mr. Metcalfe served as the Coordinator of the widely successful 1980 World Conference on records which attracted 11,000 participants from 20 countries. Born in Wellington, New Zealand, Mr. Metcalfe graduated from the University of Utah with degrees in Political Science and Public Administration.

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