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Article Published June 25, 1999 Vol. III No. 10

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

Update on The Post 1901 Census Issue

Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament.

I just looked at the date on my watch and realized that the deadline for my Post 1901 Census column is tonight. "Now, what do I say" I thought to myself. I am on the tail end of an extended Fatherís Day weekend which I spent with eleven guys from work, most of whom, like myself, are now retired. We spent this weekend at a friendís cabin at Sheridan Lake in BC having a "Deliverance Weekend" reunion. Those at this weekend had at various times spent other smaller weekend gatherings in other years, but this was the first "reunion" as such.

"Why is he telling us this?" you may ask. "What has this to do with updating the Post 1901 Census Issue?" Absolutely nothing actually. It just gives me the chance to tell you that one of the things that I did at this reunion was to gather more signatures on the Petition to obtain Release to the Public of Post 1901 Census records. This weekend was the start of a four to five week trip through BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, during which I will be visiting friends and relatives, some of whom I have not met before. All during this trip I will be gathering more signatures "for the cause".

Reunions are but one likely place to explain the Post 1901 Census issue and to get signatures for the Petition. Visiting friends and relatives provide more opportunities for this. Members of your Canada Census Campaign committee are getting email from supporters telling us of the various ways they use to spread the word and post the Petition. Libraries, supermarket bulletin boards, apartment lobbies, Family History Center libraries are but a few locations. Let us know what innovative ways and places you have used to gather signatures. The British Columbia Genealogy Society, of which I am a member, is looking at the possibility of setting up a table in some of the local malls. This is a great idea if you can gather the manpower (personpower ??) to make it more than a one person show. Any other genealogy groups have similar ideas?

Parliament in Recess

Parliament has now recessed for the summer. Possibly when they are in summer recess our MPs might find time to answer a few of the letters we have sent to them. I am still waiting for a response from my own MP, Lou Sekora of Coquitlam, BC. I wrote to him in April, using snail mail, and took a copy to his Constituency Office in Port Moody. A short time ago I returned to his office to question the lack of an answer. I still have not received it.

In a personal conversation with Colleen Beaumier MP she indicated to me that she had not received a single letter regarding the Census issue from any of her constituents. Other MPís, in letters that have been forwarded to me, have indicated they had received few, or no letters from their constituents regarding the Census. Please write your letters. Without your letters we cannot succeed.

Ms. Beaumier indicated to me that while she received all snail mail addressed to her, e-mail was screened by her staff and forwarded to her according to her specific interests. This strengthens the fact that for most Mps, snail mail has a greater impact than does e-mail.


The CANADA-CENSUS-CAMPAIGN mail list is now up and running. In the week since it started about sixty people have subscribed. I look forward to many more subscribers as itís existence becomes known. Please spread the word. To subscribe send an email to

with ONLY the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject line and/or the body of the message. NO signature files please, or the computer will reject it. To subscribe in Digest mode, change the L in the address to a D. The purpose of this mail list is to provide a forum for those concerned with Post 1901 Census issues. NO LOOKUP REQUESTS or QUERIES not related to Post 1901 Census issues please.


Senator Lorna Milne has closed off her Inquiry in the Senate on Access to Census. It is her intention to reopen the Inquiry in the Fall Session and introduce a Private Members Bill for Access to Census. She has written a letter to The Toronto Star, the text of which I have included here:

17 June 1999

Letter to the Editor

The Toronto Star
1 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON
M5E 1E6

Re: Access to post-1901 census records

I am writing about the work I have been doing in the Senate of Canada to have the post-1901 census records released to the public.

As the law currently stands, post-1901 identifiable census returns will never be released to the public for research purposes. The Statistics Act promised that the information collected in every census after 1901 was to be kept secret and Statistics Canada has interpreted this guarantee of secrecy to be for eternity.

The information collected in the census returns is vital to genealogists and historical researchers not only in Canada but abroad as well. Books, documentaries, town and city annals and family histories have all been made possible thanks to the information contained in census returns. For many family historians the census records have been the only place they were able to fill in the missing pieces of their family.

Last November I introduced an inquiry in the Senate to draw attention to this lack of access to vital information which will affect many Canadians. The purpose of the inquiry was to gather information and ideas as to how the current situation could be solved, and to serve as the basis for what is called a "private senators' bill." The support I have been receiving in favour of this initiative has been overwhelming. In addition to hundreds of letters, and many petitions signed by Canadians, I have received correspondence and e-mail from the United States of America, United Kingdom and even as far away as Australia and New Zealand. On Thursday, June 10th I closed the inquiry with the promise that I will return in the Fall with a bill to amend the applicable legislation in favour of the release of the census records.

I invite anyone who is interested in this matter to send a letter to Hon. John Manley, Minister of Industry and Statistics Canada and to their member of parliament expressing their interest in this important aspect of Canadian heritage.

If this first hand and factual account of the lives of ordinary Canadians is no longer open to the public after 92 years, we will lose almost the whole 20th century of our social history.

Yours sincerely,


Hon. Lorna Milne

Some of our MPs have also indicated their willingness to present Private Memberís Bills in the House of Commons. The realities of our Government system however, are that Private Memberís Bills seldom, if ever, get passed. To obtain our goal we must have a Bill that has been introduced by the Government. That is why the Petition is so important. A Petition with several thousand signatures will be difficult for the Government to ignore.


A French language version of the Petition is being worked on and will be posted as soon as it is available. We have had many requests from people in the United States, England, Australia, and other countries that wish to support our Census campaign. As a result an effort will be made to put together a petition form worded to show support for our efforts. It will also be posted when available.

Access and download the Petition, read the Senate debates, and keep track of the MPís Scoreboard and correspondence logs at

The MPs scoreboard on the Post 1901 Census Project page continues to be updated as you send us copies of your MPís responses to your letters ó keep them coming.

Until next time. Happy Hunting.

Gordon A. Watts

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