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Article Published September 24, 1999 Vol. III No. 18

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

Parliament Prorogued - New Session to Start 12 October 1999

Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament.

The following was copied from a Government of Canada web site.

"The Governor General informed the Speaker of the House of Commons that the 1st Session of the 36th Parliament will prorogue as of September 18, 1999. The Throne Speech, which will open the 2nd Session of the 36th Parliament will be on Tuesday, October 12, 1999 at 2:30 p.m. Prorogation is the ceremonial ending of a parliamentary session. All pending business before the two Houses is abolished and all committee work is halted between the announcement of the prorogation and the commencement of the new session."

Deadline for Petitions Extended

In view of the prorogation of Parliament, and the fact that during October there are a number of activities that offer the opportunity for gathering more signatures on petitions, it has been decided to extend the present deadline for getting petitions in until 31 October 1999.

One of the activities offering an opportunity for gathering signature is the Global Family History Fair '99 to be held in Milton, Ontario, October 16/17 1999. Rick Roberts has offered to donate table space for a CENSUS CAMPAIGN table. However with his other responsibilities regarding the two day fair, he is unable to supply people to man the table and collect petition signatures.

We are therefore looking for a handful of local volunteers to look after this. Responsibilities would be to prepare some basic signs for the table, promoting the petition, and to provide copies of the petitions to be signed. As always the petitions are downloadable from the Post 1901 Census Project page.

Volunteers would have access to the site, parking, etc. (not the workshops) free of charge.

If you are willing to volunteer for this please contact me as soon as possible. The first person responding who indicates their willingness to do so will be given the task of coordinating the others re: times for duty, making signs etc. I will put you in contact with each other and let you know how to contact Rick for site access.
If you are hearing about Global Family History Fair '99 for the first time, check out the official web site at:

There will be lots of great family history research workshops, vendor area, thirty buildings and exhibits with costumed interpreters, War of 1812 re-enactors, world class quilt exhibition and more...

Check out the monthly meetings of your Family History Societies which likely have resumed by this time.. Better take a petition with you in case there is not already one there.

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

There is an old saying that everyone, before they leave this world, gets fifteen minutes of fame. If there is any truth to that, I guess I had my fifteen minutes this past Sunday, 19 September 1999. In fact, I got twenty-five minutes.

What I am referring to is a Coast to Coast telephone interview with radio talk show host Peter Warren.

As a result of information packages that I made up and distributed to various major newspapers, television stations, and radio talk show hosts in the Vancouver area on Friday 17 September, I received a phone call from the producer of the Peter Warren talk show. She asked if I would be available for a 15 minute telephone interview about Post 1901 Census Sunday at 3:30 PM PDT. Peter Warren's talk show is on the WIC network (CKNW locally) and is broadcast nationally (Canada) on Saturday and Sunday. CKNW also broadcasts over the net using RealAudio. Their URL is:

I had one supporter from San Jose, California, email and tell me that she had tested the connection and would be listening to the interview. Thanks Betty.

While I was somewhat nervous, and made a few stumbles, all told I think that the interview went very well. This was the first time that the Post 1901 Census campaign has been covered Coast to Coast by any media (with the exception of a single sentence in the 20 September Maclean's Magazine). I think that I managed to get the pertinent points out. It is to be hoped that this interview will trigger some more action in the media.

Elizabeth Taylor in Ottawa was one of two callers that got in before our time ran out. Her call served as an excellent example of why we are campaigning to have Census records released. I have previously corresponded with Elizabeth on genealogy matters. And no, Elizabeth's call was not prearranged. She emailed me later to tell me it was her. Thanks Elizabeth.

Mr. Warren ended the interview by indicating that in coming months he would keep up to date with what was happening on our Post 1901 Census campaign. I will make every effort to keep him informed. Mr. Warren is a hard nosed, no nonsense interviewer, and at times can be very abrupt, as evidenced by some of the letters he receives. However, with me he was very cordial and supportive. Thank you for that Peter, and thank you for the opportunity to air what, to millions of Canadians is a very important issue.

Maclean's Magazine Article Disappointing

In my last column I reported that Maclean's Magazine had interviewed one of our Committee members and was printing articles regarding increasing interest in genealogy in Canada. Holly had been told they would have a focus article re: Post 1901 Census issues. While the cover article in the 20 September issue, titled "The Search for Roots", was excellent, I was disappointed to find only a single sentence that referred to the Post 1901 Census campaign, i.e. "Another problem is that all Canadian census information after 1901 is protected by privacy guarantees in the Statistics Act, which genealogists are lobbying the federal government to change."

Delivery to the news stands in my area was two days late so I did not get a copy of Macleans until Wednesday. That night I emailed a fairly lengthy letter to the editor expressing my disappointment regarding the lack of coverage of the Post 1901 Census campaign. I doubted that a letter the length of the one I submitted would get printed but I hoped that it might provoke a follow up article in the next issue.

At 8:15 Thursday morning I received a telephone call from John Nicol, author of the article. His editor had passed my letter on to him and he suggested that if I wrote a shorter letter it might be printed. He indicated that while he had written more about our campaign, because of space limitations his editor had cut most of it. He doubted that there would be a follow up article in a subsequent issue, however if enough of us wrote to express our concern about it - who knows?

I wrote the shorter version of my letter and sent it, however when checking the on-line version of Macleans on Monday 20 September, there were no letters referring to the Searching for Roots article at all. Perhaps in the next issue.

Support for Census Campaign Strong In Other Countries

Support for our campaign remains strong in countries other than Canada. Letters and petitions have been received from most of the Western countries including the United States, England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, and New Zealand. One of our greatest supporters has been Sharon Sergeant, organizer of the Boston States Migration Workshop and Genealogy Fair to be held Saturday October 2, 1999 at the Charles River Museum of Industry, Waltham, MA. I reported on this fair in my last column.

Sharon is an excellent writer and has submitted the following press release to approximately 2 dozen New England newspapers. She has promoted the campaign, in both Canada and the States, in numerous media interviews she has had relating to the Boston States Fair.

Post-1901 Canadian Family Tree Pruned in Perpetuity

Millions of Americans who have just begun researching their family history have new found cousins and branches in Canada. They are sometimes able to find these connections by piecing together what they know or can gather from their immediate family members. They can also tap the international community of Internet genealogy web sites, message boards and email lists. Confirming these connections often requires research in Canadian birth, marriage, death and census records.

Such records usually have restricted access for time periods prescribed by law to protect the privacy of living individuals. The most recent Canadian census records available for inspection are the 1901 census. However, this may be the last Canadian census ever released to the public.

The Canadian government is currently pondering a series of laws in the early 1900s which may have been motivated by taxation concerns, as well as later laws protecting privacy. These Canadian laws have been interpreted to mean that the 1901 census is the last Canadian census to be made public. Previous census data was made available after 92 years, when any person living at the time of the census was likely to be deceased. Some proposals are reported to actually include records destruction.

Census returns include information on household occupants, neighbors, property, age, birth place, ethnic origin, occupation, religion, health, economic and lifestyle issues. Irish and French groups form the largest populations of the recent century's migrations to the US, but immigrants from many countries are represented in the groups that passed between the US and Canadian borders, especially in the twentieth century.

Without access to the post-1901 census, many links to early or pre-Canadian heritage and migration patterns in prior centuries will be lost. Historians and hobbyists are not the only ones affected. The ordinary Canadian citizen's ability to challenge or correct extrapolations of census information based on outdated social policies, ignorance and statistical methodologies or provide new insight to direct medical research would be completely unavailable. Many human rights issues throughout history have been hampered by the withholding of information and destruction of important records.

On a very personal level, family histories are essential for genetic disease studies and donors. Genealogists are often involved in family research for medical issues such as locating bone marrow donors for leukemia victims.

Detailed reassessments of historical information are often needed to understand the growing complexities of our daily lives. This historical information also provides perspective on the current challenges of the global economy and mobility. No other historical record can provide both the big picture and the essential details found in the census information.

Does the Canadian government have a responsibility to protect the rights of deceased persons or is the current interpretation of the law being confused with completely different concerns for privacy in today's electronic data gathering? An Ottawa genealogy web site reports a response from the office of Dr. Ivan Fellegi, Chief Statistician of Canada as follows, " There are no exceptions in the legislation that would permit the disclosure of information from the Census that can be related to individuals, without their written consent."

Genealogists and historians throughout Canada have organized the Post-1901 Census Campaign to inform representatives in the Canadian government about the views of the current constituency. Canadian Senator Lorna Milne has been working with the Census Campaign organizers to call attention to this matter.

The Campaign group urges Canadian citizens living in Canada to write to their MP and sign Canada wide petitions. They are also collecting signatures on petitions from Canadian citizens outside of Canada and non-Canadian citizens with research interest in the census data.

US family researchers in the northeast region are especially affected. The 1990 US census statistics show that New England has the highest concentration of reported Canadian ancestry. It seems quite likely that the year 2000 census will reflect even higher concentrations as the recent surge in family history research uncovers previously unknown branches in the hundreds of years that migrations circled the borders.

Recently, George F. Sanborn, Jr., F.A.S.G. of the New England Historic Genealogical Society wrote to Senator Milne to voice his support:

    "I am writing to you to voice my support for opening the post-1901 Canadian census records. As a Canadian citizen living in the U.S.A., I do not have an MP to whom I can write and express my opinion. I am told that you welcome letters from outside the country on this important subject.

    As a professional genealogist, I live in New England and work in Boston at the New England Historic Genealogical Society where I am the Canadian specialist. I have led genealogical research tours for the Society to different parts of Canada; authored and edited books on Canadian research; and lectured all over North America on Canadian genealogical research. I cannot stress to you strongly enough how important it is to both our countries to have these records open to family historians and to scholars alike."

The September 20, 1999 issue of Maclean's, the award-winning Canadian magazine, has the cover story "The Search for Roots". The story author John Nicol made a telling comment about his visit to the Mormon church Archives in Salt Lake City, Utah: "What amazed me was how many Americans were researching their Canadian roots. ... "Each story I heard added to the puzzle of putting Canada's history together."

American family history puzzle pieces are also often found in Canada. Seafarers and traders began circling the Atlantic coast and rivers before the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia and Plymouth, Massachusetts colonies. Large migrations from New England occurred when a series of Maritime Province settlers in the mid-1700s, called the Planters, were given economic incentives to replace the expelled Acadians. Fleeing Loyalists and post-Revolution families who had outgrown their land moved up into the Canadian provinces during the late 1700s, often on their way into western territories.

Steamship travel aided the movements and trade between the states and the provinces throughout the 1800s. The industrial revolution and railroad lines greatly increased the concentrations of eastern Canada families moving into New England. These families went to work in the mills and the construction of towns and cities. Some branches then radiated into the rest of the states and provinces with the railroads or during the various land and gold rush periods.

Canadian citizens in New England and other US researchers interested in Canadian ties can sign petitions in support of the Post-1901 Canadian Census Campaign during the Boston States Migration Workshop and Genealogy Fair on Saturday October 2, 1999 in Waltham, MA. Details may be found at the web site:

Further information about Canadian and American family history research can be found at :

Additional information on the Canadian laws and Census Campaign may be found at the Global Gazette Census Campaign web site:

or by writing to

The Honourable Lorna Milne,
The Senate of Canada,
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A4

Thank you Sharon for an excellent article.

Other Sources of Information

It occurs to me that perhaps one of my shortcomings in writing this column has been a failure to publicize other sources of Post 1901 Census information on the net. While I will attempt to remedy that at this time it must be realized that I will only be aware of sites that I have found myself, or that you as supporters of the Post 1901 Census Campaign have sent to me. Many of the pages listed below also include links to other pages:

Global Genealogy's Post 1901 Census Project:

Bryan Keddy's Lunenburg County's Canadian Census Campaign

Holly McKenzie's Manitoba GenWeb :

Michele Doucette's Acadian GenWeb:

Alberta Family Histories Society :

Alberta Genealogical Society:

British Columbia Genealogical Society Newspage:

Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia:

Canadian Historical Society:

Saskatchewan Genealogical Society:

Have You Written YOUR Letter?

One of our supporters, Don Nisbet, has a knack of putting a number of things in perspective and has been a great help in our campaign. He recently sent the following post to the Canada-Census-Campaign mail list.

"The internet and web is a wonderful tool for us genealogists but it has a flip side to it--it can leave the mistaken impression that more is being accomplished than actually is. Surfing the web on the post-1901 census issue it would be easy to believe that a veritable army of concerned people are out there busily writing letters, getting thousands and thousands of names on petitions, and just generally getting the job done. Gee, what's left for me to do but sit back with my feet up and wait for the census to be handed over by Stats Canada--piece of cake this.

But then, well, how many reading this have actually written a letter to their Member of Parliament and John Manley, surely everyone on this list must have--or have they. I wonder. I had this conversation with the secretary of my MP's local constituency office: "A letter really, when did you send it? June! No kidding, and your name again. Hmm, nope never received it. What was it about? .Huh, the whatist? Statistics Act, nope. Try census, nope, can't recall anything coming in about that. Well, just try again and maybe this one will get here." Now I live in a large suburban Vancouver constituency and yet, if I am to believe this secretary, I may be the only one in this constituency who has sent him a letter on the census issue-now that's scary!

I'm still waiting for my Member of Parliament to get around to answering my second letter. But since very few letters have shown up on the Global Genealogy website I assume I am not alone. It is obvious however that some people have written or emailed their MP, got a response, and have not passed it along to Global Genealogy to be posted. Please, if you have received a reply send it along so we can all see it, or, if in cruising the net you find an MPs reply which someone has posted to a mailing list or a web site check the Global site to see if it's there and if it's not please pass it along to me so I can post it on Global's web site.

And, if you live in Surrey-North--Whalley, Guildford, Fleetwood areas-- (Chuck Cadman-Reform), my letter would like some company. He is in Ottawa now so send it there, don't forget the stamp."

Don Nisbet

I could not agree more with the comments that Don has expressed here, except for the stamp - it is not needed on letters to MPs mailed in Canada.

Canadian Media Reluctant to Pick up on Census Problem

I want to add something to what Don has said. He is correct in saying the activity on the net can give a misleading impression on how much is really being done. Without the net our campaign would not have been possible, but we need to expand beyond it's boundaries. The media in Canada appears extremely slow, perhaps even reluctant to report anything to do with our Post 1901 Census Campaign. Maclean's magazine cutting John Nicol's reference to the problem to a single sentence is only one example.

Sharon Sergeant reports that in promoting the Boston States Migration Workshop and Genealogy Fair, CBC radio's Information Morning last week called from St John, Moncton and Fredericton for 3 live telephone interviews to alert the New Brunswick radio listeners. Their segment intro was "Shake a Canadian Family Tree and an American will fall "oot". Sharon has put a lot of work into creating and promoting her fair (and our campaign along side of it) and deserves a fantastic turnout. I cannot help but wonder however, why our media in Canada seems more interested in a function held in the US than it does our campaign to rectify a situation that affects more than 7.5 million Canadians.

My effort recently to provide information packages to the media in Vancouver resulted in 25 minutes Coast to Coast on the Peter Warren radio talk show. While this was the only response from ten packages I distributed, it was a good response. On the other hand, because I received only one response out of ten, it illustrates the lack of interest from most of the Canadian media.

We have to make a concerted effort to increase that interest. To do that we have to inform the media by writing letters to the editor of your local papers, drafting and distributing "press releases" to radio and TV stations, talk show hosts, etc. Perhaps your local TV cable company has a Community channel willing to do a program on the problem. There are a lot of opportunities out there, limited only by your imagination. What's holding you back?

Need I remind you again to write your letters and to sign our petitions? I hope not.

Until next time. Happy Hunting.

Gordon A. Watts

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