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Article Published March 10, 2000, Vol. IV No. 06

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

Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament

As I am still working full time on my submission to the Expert Panel on Release of Historic Census Records, this issue of my column will be necessarily short. There have, however, been a few things of importance happen recently.

Senator Lorna Milne Presents Petition

The following extracts are from the Debates of the Senate as recorded in Hansard.

Senator Lorna Milne Presents Petition

15 February 2000
    Census Records
    Presentation of Petitions

    Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table 59 petitions addressed to the Parliament of Canada from both Canadian citizens and citizens of the United States and the United Kingdom calling upon Parliament to enact legislation to preserve the post-1901 census records, remove them to the National Archives and make these, as well as future census records, available to the public after 92 years, as is presently consistent with the many provisions of the privacy legislation and time limits now in force. These petitions contain 2,607 signatures.

    Census Records
    Petitions Accepted

    Hon. Fernand Robichaud (The Hon. the Acting Speaker):
    Honourable senators, it has been drawn to my attention that the petitions presented in the Senate earlier today were not entirely signed by Canadian citizens. I would like to quote citation 1035.(3) of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules & Forms, which states:


    1035.(3) A petition signed by both Canadian citizens and foreigners has been received by the House with unanimous consent.


    Honourable senators, is it your pleasure to consent to the tabling of these petitions as presented by Senator Milne during Presentation of Petitions?


    Hon. Lorna Milne: Honourable senators, I ask for unanimous consent to present this petition, which contains a number of signatures. A small minority of them come from the United States and from Great Britain, as I mentioned when I presented the petition. The petition is in favour of the release of census records after 1901.

    According to Beauchesne, the Honourable the Acting Speaker is quite correct in that I should have asked for unanimous consent to present this petition. I ask for unanimous consent now. If not granted, I will withdraw the petition and then present the vast majority of the names, which are Canadian, tomorrow.

    Hon. Noël A. Kinsella (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): On behalf of honourable senators on this side of the house, we are pleased to grant our consent to the presentation of this petition in the manner in which it has been presented, in part based upon the principle expressed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As honourable senators know, we recognize those rights and freedoms to be predicated on behalf of everyone, save and except only three rights - the right to leave Canada and return to Canada, which is limited to Canadian citizens; the right to vote, which is limited to Canadian citizens; and the right to certain minority education rights, which is limited to Canadian citizens. All the other rights that we recognize, however, are predicated on behalf of everyone. A petition of this sort, notwithstanding what is contained in Beauchesne, is based upon that principle. That is why we are happy to grant our consent.

    Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I, too, am prepared to give agreement to Senator Milne in this particular instance. However, this is one of those questions on which we should seek clarity at some particular point in time. Unfortunately, I did not hear the earlier presentation of the petition, but I did hear what Senator Kinsella just said. I understand and I agree with the concept that rights are broadly endowed. I am not convinced totally, however, that citizens of the United States of America or any other foreign country have a right to petition the Parliament of Canada. Nevertheless, to the extent that Senator Milne has done a lot of work, I am prepared and quite happy to give her my consent in this instance.

    The Hon. the Acting Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to accept the petitions?

    Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Another Petition

February 29, 2000
    Census Records
    Presentation of Petitions
    Hon. Lorna Milne:
    Honourable senators, I have the honour to present two petitions, totalling 244 signatures, from the Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia and the Lambton County Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society. They are petitioning the following:

    Your petitioners call upon Parliament to enact legislation to preserve the Post 1901 Census Records, remove them to the National Archives and make these, as well as future census records, available to the public after 92 years as is presently consistent with the many provisions of the privacy legislation and time limit now in force.

Term of Privacy Commissioner Bruce Phillips Extended.

March 2, 2000
    Privacy Commissioner
    Motion to Extend Term of Appointment Adopted

    Hon. Dan Hays (Deputy Leader of the Government)
    , pursuant to notice of March 1, 2000, moved:

    That, in accordance with subsection 53(3) of the Act to extend the present laws of Canada that protect the privacy of individuals and that provide individuals with a right of access to personal information about themselves, Chapter P-21 of the Revised Statutes of Canada 1985, the Senate approve the reappointment of Bruce Phillips as Privacy Commissioner for a term of four months, effective May 1, 2000.

    The Hon the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

    Hon. John Lynch-Staunton (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, this motion relates to the appointment of a very important official, the Privacy Commissioner. It was very worthwhile when, last year, the commissioner appeared before us in Committee of the Whole. It would be valuable for him to come to us again.

    I am very happy that the government is supporting his reappointment, but the Privacy Commissioner has an important role and he reports to Parliament. He should have an opportunity to explain both his successes and his frustrations to it. I know the latter are quite numerous. I suggest to the government that we ask Mr. Phillips to appear before us and agree to his renomination while he is with us.

    Senator Hays: Honourable senators, I support that suggestion. I will try to accommodate Senator Lynch-Staunton in having Mr. Phillips, our Privacy Commissioner, appear before us. In terms of standing this matter, I am not sure when his appointment runs out.

    Senator Lynch-Staunton: The motion gives the date of May 1.

    Senator Hays: The motion is effective May 1 for a further period of months. I assume his appointment does not run out until the end of April. I have some concern that if I do not do pass this motion, we might not have a Privacy Commissioner. However, I have no problem in pursuing what has been requested.

    I believe all honourable senators would need to agree to call the Privacy Commissioner before us, as we would require a motion of the Senate to proceed into Committee of the Whole.
    I cannot speak for all senators any more than can Senator Lynch-Staunton. However, I will undertake to see that this matter comes to the floor of the Senate at an early time. I shall discuss the matter with my counterpart. In the meantime, I desire to see the man's appointment renewed, if honourable senators see fit to support this motion.

    Senator Lynch-Staunton: Honourable senators, I have no objection to the reappointment of Mr. Phillips. However, it would be to the advantage of all honourable senators for the Privacy Commissioner and other officers of Parliament to appear before us on a regular basis to explain exactly how they are carrying out their responsibilities, how they need the support of Parliament, and how Parliament can help them to carry out their responsibilities even more effectively. That is a suggestion, and I believe I see agreement on both sides.

    Hon. Marcel Prud'homme: Honourable senators, I am pleased to see such full agreement on both sides. In my view, there are three sides in the Senate. I made a speech on the great qualifications of Mr. Bruce Phillips years ago. I never regretted it, but I remember that not everyone was pleased at the time.


    I am pleased by the suggestion by Senator Lynch-Staunton that we should make every effort possible. I cannot speak for the other independent senators, and I would never dare to speak on behalf of the four great personalities who sit as independents.

    Honourable senators, I will not interfere with the agreement that seems to be developing here this afternoon. I should like to endorse Senator Lynch-Staunton's suggestion that the commissioner come here. If all independent senators are still here, it will be difficult for anyone to say, "Well, I would have objected if I had been there." Honourable senators, I think there will be unanimous consent to go along with what is being proposed today. Senator Lynch-Staunton has my agreement. His is a good suggestion.

    Senator Hays: I thank all honourable senators for their cooperation in this matter. I shall recite what has transpired.

    We will deal with this motion. However, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate has made a request, which I have agreed to negotiate with my counterpart, Senator Kinsella. The essence of the agreement is for the matter to be placed on the Order Paper, whereby it will be put to the Senate that we wish to revert to Committee of the Whole when the commissioner's term expires and a new term for four months comes into effect. At that time, we will have the same type of discussion we had with Mr. Phillips the last occasion he appeared before honourable senators.

    The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

    Hon. Senators: Agreed.

    Motion agreed to.

Debate on Bill S-15 Continued:

March 2, 2000
    National Archives of Canada Act
    Bill to Amend-Second Reading-Debate Continued

    On the Order:

    Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Milne, seconded by the Honourable Senator Chalifoux, for the second reading of Bill S-15, to amend the Statistics Act and the National Archives of Canada Act (census records).-(Honourable Senator LeBreton).

    Hon. Thelma J. Chalifoux: Honourable senators, I speak today, with the permission of Senator LeBreton, in support of Bill S-15.

    The Métis people and the First Nations were settled in Western Canada long before Louis Riel and the provisional government of the day negotiated the Manitoba Act. That was the beginning of Western Canada as we know it today. Indian treaties and the railroads were completed. Migration to the west began in earnest. The aboriginal nations were mobile and followed the buffalo herds for their food supplies.

    Once the treaties were signed, the First Nations people were put on reserves, and the Department of Indian Affairs began to keep records of them from birth to death. These records are available today for genealogists, historians and families to access. In the meantime, the Métis and the new immigrants were being recorded in the census of the day.

    New regulations of Parliament adopted in 1906, under the government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and clause 15.1 of the Statistics Act passed in 1918 served two purposes - they guaranteed privacy and encouraged people to tell the truth. This I can understand.

    In the meantime, time has passed. Five or six generations of families have come and gone since this act was passed. Generations of Canadians and distant relatives who were left behind in the old world are not allowed to complete their family trees and histories.

    The early 1900s were really the era of mass migration to the west. There were homesteads, farming, ranching and land grabs. It was one of the most exciting times in Western Canadian history. By depriving families, genealogists and historians from accessing important archival material, we are also depriving our children and grandchildren of the wonderful history to which their ancestors contributed - the development of Western Canada.

    Honourable senators, I shall give you another reason why I support Bill S-15. The Métis Nation has been challenged for many years as to how we determine our lineage as an aboriginal nation. This challenge would be easily met by being able to access the census of 1906 and later census records.

    Since 1971, Métis leaders have argued that there is still a great need to identify ourselves through an enumeration process. We are challenged daily, as a nation of people, by both the private and public sectors. Let us take the example of employment equity initiatives. The First Nations and Inuit have government-approved cards, while we, as the Métis, are always challenged to prove our identity, even though the Constitution was amended in 1982 recognizing the Métis as one of the distinct groups within the aboriginal nations. If census information was made available and accessible, we would have the opportunity to validate our current registration process.

    By supporting Bill S-15, we, as the Senate, will be unlocking the doors of the history of Western Canadians, from the Métis to all the newcomers. Our children must learn their lineage and the contributions that their ancestors, the Métis, the First Nations and the newcomers, made in developing Western Canada. Western Canadian history needs to be told. By unlocking the archival doors, we will be giving these descendants, the historians, the genealogists and the archivists an opportunity to tell our story.

    On motion of Senator Chalifoux, for Senator LeBreton, debate adjourned.

Motion M-160 Debated.

Motion M-160, presented in the House of Commons by Jason Kenney, was debated recently for one hour. In my next column I will present some of the debate that occurred. While a motion does not become law it serves to get the feeling of the House regarding a given situation. This motion asks that the Census of 1911 be made public immediately upon control of it coming under the National Archives. This motion still has two hours of debate allotted to it.

Updating of Post 1901 Project website will continue.

While my priority recently has been to complete my submission to the Expert Panel appointed by Minister John Manley, I have not forgotten that updating of this website is still required. I will be continuing on that task once my submission is in the mail. In the meantime I encourage newcomers to our cause to visit the site at:

To join the Canada-Census-Campaign mail list, send an e-mail to

with only the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject line and body of the message. To subscribe in Digest mode, change the 'L' in the address to a 'D'.

Until next time. Happy Hunting.

Gordon A. WATTS

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