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Article Published December 13, 1999 Vol. III No. 26
POST-1901 CENSUS NEWS (Canada)
By: Gordon A. Watts, firstname.lastname@example.org
Honourable (?) mention in Annual Privacy Report
Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament
Our efforts to obtain Release of Post 1901 Census Records received mention in the Annual Report of Privacy Commissioner Bruce Phillips. For those interested in seeing the entire report, and reports for some previous years, they can be found at
The excerpt from the Annual Report is copied below. The emphasis is mine.
Report recommends retention of Australia's Census records
It is interesting to note that in the report above, Australia has been cited as a country that destroys it's name-identifiable Census records following statistical complilation. This may have come to an end.
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in Australia, in May 1998, presented a report titled Saving our Census and preserving our history. It was sub-titled A report on the inquiry into the treatment of name-identified census forms. (ISBN 0 644 52577 0)
The forward of this report stated:
Commonwealth censuses, supported by legislation, have been held in Australia since federation. The inquiry was the first major public examination of the practice of destroying name-identified census forms. The level of public response to the Committee's inquiry illustrates that the issues the subject of this inquiry are of interest not only to government officials and academics but to a large number of ordinary Australians.
The aim of the Committee has been to consider the competing views of interested parties and to make reasonable proposals, in all the circumstances, for future censuses. The Committee believes that saving the census for future research, with appropriate safeguards, will make a very valuable contribution to preserving Australia's history for future generations.
The Committee recommends that name-identified information contained in forms from future censuses be retained.
The Committee further recommends that specific legislation be implemented to provide for the retention of name-identified information from all future censuses.
The Committee recommends that name-identified census records be closed for a period of 99 years, and that no researcher have direct access to name identified records during that time. The Committee recommends that name-identified census records be made available in the 100th year.
The Committee further recommends that appropriate legislation be implemented to give effect to this recommendation.
The Committee recommends that a stated purpose of the census be that name-identified information be available for possible future research.
The Committee recommends that during the 99 year closed access period the census records be able to be accessed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the purpose of certain epidemiological research.
Access for the purpose of such research is to be strictly limited to applications put forward under protocols developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council. The applications must have received the prior approval of the ethics committee of the institution with which the researcher is associated.
The Committee further recommends that the NH&MRC protocols take the form of disallowable instruments.
The Committee recommends that census information continue to be processed and handled only by officers of the National Archives of Australia or the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The Committee expressed concern that the Australian Bureau of Statistics had had undue influence in the formation of opinions of various government agencies. They stated:
Sound familiar? With the number of MP responses that have directly quoted much of what Statistics Canada has put out in their various releases, our Expert Panel should have similar concerns.
Senator Milne speaks on appointment of Expert Panel
On 16 November 1999 Senator Lorna Milne spoke in the Senate regarding the appointment by Minister John Manley of an Expert Panel to study Release of Historic Census Records. She stated, in part
Updating of Canada Census Project Page
There has been little or no updating of the Census Project pages since early October due to a shortage of staff.
Just prior to my recent trip to Calgary Rick (at GlobalGenealogy.com) contacted me to see if I knew of anyone who had the time and expertise to volunteer to work on updating the pages, at least on an interim basis. While I am not very experienced in doing this I have decided to have a go at it myself.
I downloaded the source files for the Scoreboard and have done some checking of it (some 70 odd pages). I feel certain that I can make the necessary changes and download the file for Rick to put in the Project pages. I spent a good part of today going through my files, identifying and printing letters of MP responses so that I can keep an organized file of what has been done, and what needs to be done. Hopefully within a week you will start to see some changes made and I will endeavour to get it fully updated and subsequently to keep it that way. If I get stuck I have a few people I can call on for a little help.
One of the priorities in this work will be to update the Petition page and to add to it the new Senate petition for Canadian residents to sign. Until this is done, the Senate petition can be obtained from myself at email@example.com or from Muriel Davidson at Farquhar@netcom.ca. A reminder that all deadlines have been removed from the petitions and we will accept them for the foreseeable future.
This will my last column before Christmas. The Gazette will not be published 24 December so my next column will be 31 December. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to wish each and everyone of you the very best of the Holiday Season. I would also like to thank all for their continuing support in the Census campaign. While it has been slow, we have made some progress.
Until next time. Happy Hunting.
Gordon A. WATTS