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Article Published January 07, 2000, Vol. IV No. 01

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

Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament

Senator Lorna Milne Presents Private Senator's Bill

From Hansard 16 December 1999
Statistics Act National Archives of Canada Act
Bill to Amend-First Reading
Hon. Lorna Milne presented Bill S-15, to amend the Statistics Act and the National Archives of Canada Act (census records).

Bill read first time.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?

On motion of Senator Milne, bill placed on Orders of the Day for second reading on Tuesday, February 8, 2000.

As of the date of writing I have not yet obtained the wording of the Bill. I will report it as soon as I am able. The press release announcing the presentation of Bill S-15 follows:
    Senator Lorna Milne announces a Private Senators' Bill to allow for the release of post-1901 census records to the public.

    OTTAWA December 16, 1999 - Liberal Senator Lorna Milne (Peel County, Ontario) today introduced a Private Senators' Bill to the Senate entitled, An Act to amend the Statistics Act and the National Archives of Canada Act (census records).

    The Bill would amend the 1906 regulations and later legislation which have been interpreted to mean that the records must be confidential forever. The information in census returns up to and including the 1901 census has been released for public use after 92 years. If the 1911 Census were bound by Privacy Act regulations, which stipulate the 92 years rule, it would be released in 2003.

    "The information contained in the post 1901 census returns is vital not only to genealogists and historians, but as a teaching aid as well. It provides a snapshot to 20th century Canada that should not be withheld from Canadians," said Senator Milne. "On the eve of a new millennium, the records of the 20th Century should not be forever concealed from the public's eyes."

    Senator Milne admits to having a formidable following in the genealogical community. Her supporters introduced Senator Milne to the problem and have conducted the letter writing campaign that has descended on Ottawa.

    Last November 1998, Senator Milne introduced an inquiry calling the Senate's attention to the situation. There was a vigorous debate on the issue which has been reflected in the proposed legislation.

    Senator Milne is confident that the bill will receive the approval of the Senate and hopes to have it referred to committee early in the new year.

    Second reading of the bill will be in February 2000.

Support for Bill S-15 requested

As indicated in the Hansard excerpt above, Second Reading of Senator Milne's Bill S-15 is to be on Tuesday, 8 February 2000. It would be a help if the major genealogical societies from each province could issue press releases endorsing the bill. Timing of the press releases should coincide with Second reading of the bill.

M.P. Mac Harb poses question in House of Commons

The following was picked up from Hansard for the House of Commons for 3 December 1999.

Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, many of my constituents have written to my office requesting that Statistics Canada release census information dating back to 1911. What is the Minister of Industry planning to do to respond to these requests?

Hon. John Manley (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this is actually a very difficult question. On the one hand there are very legitimate interests on the part of historians and genealogists in obtaining this information. On the other hand the census data were obtained from Canadians on the basis of a law that did not anticipate it ever being released to the public. In order to try to deal with these really conflicting, diametrically opposed interests, I have asked a panel of experts, chaired by Dr. Richard Van Loon, president of Carleton University, to review the situation to see whether they can give us a recommendation that might balance these two interests and report back to us by the end of May of the coming year (2000).

Australians get choice

In my last column I reported that a committee of the Australian House of Representatives had presented a report that made recommendations to retain and release their Census information. It appears that their parliament has acted on at least some of the recommendations made. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has announced that respondents to Census in Australia will now have a choice in allowing their information to be released 99 years after collection. This choice will be done on an individual basis through a question to be included on their Census forms. While this is a major step up from the previous practice of destroying the forms immediately statistical compilation was completed, it can make for a very fragmented source of information. It is to be hoped that the Expert Committee studying release of Historical Census records in Canada do not see fit to recommend a similar system. The ABS press release follows:

17 December 1999


The 2001 Census will offer the Australian people a choice of having their names, addresses and Census form information retained by the National Archives of Australia and released for research purposes after 99 years. This was announced today by Minister for Financial Services and Regulation, Joe Hockey.

The Government's decision was welcomed jointly by Australian Statistician, Bill McLennan, and Director-General of the National Archives of Australia, George Nichols.

Mr Nichols said that the 2001 Census has great significance, being the first of the new millennium and will coincide with the Centenary of Federation. The Government's decision will mean that the census information which people have elected to have retained will be available to genealogists, social historians and other researchers in the 22nd Century.

Mr McLennan stated the census will continue to provide a detailed statistical picture of Australia which will be vital to informed decision making in the future.

Names, addresses and census information will only be retained for those householders who explicitly "opt-in". These details will be retained by the National Archives of Australia and released in 99 years.

"A primary role of the Archives is to retain valuable Commonwealth records in a safe and secure environment, so these census records are guaranteed to remain confidential for the next 100 years," Mr Nichols said.

The high levels of cooperation with past censuses indicate that Australian people have always viewed it as very important for shaping the future of their country.

The ABS encourages organisations with online services to link to the site. Please phone us if you need help to do this.

Media Requests for interviews and comment
For ABS Steve Dangaard 0418 481 757
Melanie James 0409 311 308
Jim Payne (02) 6252 7525
For NAA Robert Beattie (02) 6212 3979

The Promise - Again

In a previous column I copied an e-mail dated 22 November 1999 that I had written to Privacy Commissioner Bruce Phillips. Among other things I stated that in my opinion the promise of confidentiality in perpetuity or the explicit guarantee of indefinite confidentiality so often quoted by Statistics Canada and the office of the Privacy Commissioner existed only in the minds of those who wished it to be.

I asked that I be shown the promise. I asked that I be shown the specific clauses that detailed the promise, the form of the promise, and the means by which the promise was conveyed to those responding to census.

On 16 December 1999 I finally received a response to that e-mail. As is typical of many of our elected officials, and senior bureaucrats, the response came not from Mr. Phillips but from Mr. Brian Foran, Director, Issues Management & Assessment.

Mr. Foran's e-mail did little to answer the specific questions I asked and certainly did not show me the promise. What he did was to refer me to various statutes, most of which I was already familiar with and had already researched. He refers widely to Statistics Canada, quoting how they interpret the legislation and the position they take as a result of that interpretation. He referred to the two options that StatsCan gave John Manley many months ago, and to the appointment 12 November 1999 of the Expert Panel to study release of Historical Census Records. The end result was that Mr. Foran told me little or nothing that I did not already know.

I have not given up! I am currently drafting a response to Mr. Foran in which I will be requesting once again to show me the promise. As a side issue, I have still received no response to a similar request from Senator Lowell Murray. This was sent at the same time as my e-mail to Bruce Phillips.

Response from Hon. Sheila Copps office

In the past year or more I have seen many complaints that letters to the Honourable Sheila Copps, Minister for Canadian Heritage, have gone unanswered. For the most part, those receiving responses from her office were informed only that their concerns had been forwarded to the Honourable John Manley, Minister for Industry. I have seen no responses that gave specific answers to specific questions.

For my own part, from 25 April 1999 I sent to Ms. Copps four letters by Canada Post, and four e-mail. Two of those letters requested specific answers to specific questions. The remaining two letters, and the four e-mail were sent to request that she respond to, or at least acknowledge receipt of, the two letters containing questions. On Friday, 10 December 1999 I made a telephone call to the regional office for Heritage Canada in British Columbia. They forwarded my call to the office in Ottawa where I left a message on an answering machine, asking what it took to receive a response to letters and e-mail.

On Monday, 13 December 1999 I was awakened at 6:20 AM by a telephone call from a male voice stating that he was with Statistics Canada, and that within about three weeks I would receive a response to my letters.

On Wednesday 29 December 1999 I received that response from Beatrice Raffoul, Director of Operations for the office of Sheila Copps. I will not bother to copy that letter here. It contained the typical non-committal response and again referred me to the Hon. John Manley. While the main part of this letter was more or less what I expected, what bothered me about it was Ms. Raffoul's closing statement which I copy here:

    "I would also like to advise you that this constitutes our final communication with you on this subject. Any further inquiries will be directed to file."
My response to Ms. Raffoul follows:
    30 December 1999

    Hon. Sheila Copps
    Minister for Canadian Heritage
    House of Commons
    Parliament Buildings
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0A6
    Attention: Beatrice Raffoul, Director of Operations

    Dear Ms Raffoul:

    Thank you for your long awaited response to my letters to the Hon. Sheila Copps. Unfortunately it has done little to answer the questions I asked of Ms. Copps in my letters of 25 April 1999 and 18 August 1999.

    Your letter refers to my correspondence of 9, 12 and 21 November, 1999. These correspondences, and a subsequent one of 7 December 1999 were virtually identical e-mail requesting responses, or at least acknowledgment of letters mailed via Canada Post and dated 25 April, 18 August (two letters), and 14 October, 1999. It was only after making a telephone call to the regional office of Heritage Canada that I finally received your letter dated 21 December 1999.

    You refer to your previous correspondence to me, dated 29 April and 7 July, 1998. My recollection of correspondence from your office in 1998 did nothing other than "pass my concerns" on to the Hon. Mr. John Manley, Minister of Industry. Unfortunately this did little to answer specific questions contained in my letters written in 1999.

    My letter of 25 April 1999 asked of Ms. Copps:

      "Kindly advise what you personally, as an elected Member of Parliament, and Minister responsible for Canadian Heritage, have done, or are doing, (other than "passing our concerns" to Mr. Manley) to prevent the loss to the public of a major source of Canadian Heritage information, i.e. Post 1901 Census reports."

    One of my letters of 18 August 1999 asked again, as have many Canadian citizens:

      "Would you, as an elected Member of the House of Commons of the Parliament of Canada, vote FOR or AGAINST a Bill supporting release to the Public, of Post 1901 Census Records, 92 years after they were recorded. ( 1911 Census information available in 2003, 1921 in 2013 etc.)"

    The remainder of my correspondences with your office (two letters and four e-mail) were requests that you respond to, or at least acknowledge receipt of, my letters containing the questions above. Had I received such response or acknowledgment these two letters and four e-mail, and my subsequent telephone call, would not have been necessary. If you had, in fact, responded to the letters mentioned above, those responses were not received by myself.

    Ms. Copps, like many politicians, or perhaps yourself on her behalf, appears adept at failing to respond to specific questions with specific answers. I am well aware that Ms. Copps is not the Minister responsible for Statistics Canada. However, as Minister for Canadian Heritage Ms. Copps should be interested in a subject that is a concern of an estimated twenty-five percent of the population of Canada that seek their personal heritage. Unfortunately, your responses simply referring the matter to the Hon. John Manley give the impression that she could care less about our concerns. I have received and seen many e-mail expressing exactly this sentiment. It causes one to wonder if Ms. Copps ever actually sees any correspondence relating to Post 1901 Census issues.

    Finally, in regard to your closing statement, i.e. "I would also like to advise that this constitutes our final communication with you on this subject. Any further inquiries will be directed to file." I find this to be a rather rude, and unwarranted comment, tantamount to a small child taking his bat and ball and going home because the other children will not play by his rules. I quite frankly resent your dismissal of the concerns of myself and many others in this manner.

    Gordon A. WATTS

Update of Post 1901 Census Project pages progressing

I am continuing to work on updating the Post 1901 Census Project web pages. The MPs Scoreboard has been updated and I am currently working on the Correspondence Logs and the Petition download page. Changes are taking place as fast as I am able to modify the files and download them to Rick Roberts so that he can place them on the server. In checking the MP Scoreboard and correspondence logs, should you find anything that is not consistent with responses you have received from your MP, please let me know. The only way I have of knowing the response of your MP is if you tell me. A question mark icon indicates that we have had no correspondence regarding the position of that MP.

Best Wishes for a Happy New Year

On behalf of myself, and the other members of the Canada Census Campaign Committee, I wish for each and every one of you the Happiest New Year, for now, and many years to come. May any Y2K problems you might have be small ones that are easily resolved.

My wish for the New Year is that our efforts to obtain release of Post 1901 Census records will be successful so that I, and you, can return to our genealogy with the possibility of finding new information immediately from the 1906 Census, and in a few years from the 1911 Census .

Until next time. Happy Hunting.

Gordon A. WATTS

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