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Article Published August 20, 2000, Vol. IV No. 14
POST-1901 CENSUS NEWS (Canada)
By: Gordon A. Watts, firstname.lastname@example.org
Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament
John Manley Takes His Own Sweet Time
The Report of the Expert Panel on Access to Historic Census, according to Dr. Pamela White, Secretariat of the Expert Panel, was delivered to the office of the Hon. John Manley on 30 June 2000, one month later than the original due date. According to the letter sent to John Manley advising that the report would be late, Dr. Richard van Loon - Chairman, stated the extra time was necessary to allow formatting and translation of the report before presentation. The delay, for the reasons stated, may be understandable, although frustrating for the many thousands of Canadians that await it's delivery to the Public.
At the time of writing, now more than six weeks after delivery of the Report to the Hon. John Manley, we still wait. On 11 and 12 August I made several long-distance telephone calls to Ottawa. After being passed from one person and department to the next, on Friday 12 August I finally made contact with Mr. Courtney P. Tower, Assistant to John Manley. Mr. Tower confirmed that the Report of the Expert Panel had indeed been received by the Office of the Minister on 30 June 2000, but as of 12 August, nearly six weeks later, Mr. Manley had yet to view the documents. Mr. Tower had no idea when Mr. Manley would view the Report as he was not, at that time, in Ottawa.
Letter to John Manley
Following my conversation with Mr. Tower I sent the following letter by e-mail to John Manley.
The Honourable John Manley, PC, MP,
Minister for Industry
House of Commons, Parliament Buildings
OTTAWA, Ontario, K1A 0A6
Dear Mr. Manley.
As one of the estimated 7.5 million Canadians who are actively pursuing the avocation of genealogy I have been awaiting release to the Public of the Report of the Expert Panel on Access to Historic Census. This report, originally due 31 May 2000, was delayed until the end of June.
I am advised that although this Report was presented to your office on 30 June 2000, you have yet to view it.
Mr. Manley, this Report is of vital interest to those of us that seek our ancestry, our heritage. Canada's first decade of the Twentieth Century had the greatest influx of immigrants in it's history. Public access to Historic Census for purposes of genealogical research, is allowed under Regulations attached to the Privacy Act. Without this access, millions of Canadians will be unable to determine their family origins. This would be a tragedy beyond compare.
I would respectfully request, Sir, that you immediately view the Report of the Expert Panel on Access to Historic Census and allow the release of same to the Public. Thank you.
Gordon A. WATTS email@example.com
Canada Census Committee
A posting to mail lists of the letter and suggestion above on 14 August 2000 resulted in several letters to John Manley being copied to myself. This took place within a few hours of the posting being sent.
Environics Research Group opinion survey.
Another report I have been trying to obtain is the result of the Public Opinion Surveys conducted by Environics Research Group. The public opinion research was commissioned by Statistics Canada for the Expert Panel on Access to Historical Census Records. The objective of the research was to find out how Canadians felt about the release of future and past personal census records. It also attempted to determine how Canadians felt about a retroactive amendment to permit the release of past census information.
Environics was selected as it has an Omnibus Public Opinion Survey that is conducted every four months. In this survey, a number of public opinion type questions are asked of 2,000 randomly selected Canadians. The sample covers all of Canada.
The Environics Omnibus Survey was conducted in March and April, 2000. The survey included 9 questions on the topic of access to historical census records. Upon review of the results of this survey, it was decided by Statistics Canada that additional information needed to be obtained. A further 7 questions were asked on a Special Omnibus Survey that Environics held in late April/May, 2000.
This May 2000 Special Omnibus Survey had been planned by Environics to meet the needs of another client. Given the Panel's tight time requirements, it was decided to add these additional questions to this survey rather than wait for the next regular Omnibus Survey planned to occur in June/July, 2000.
I have been trying to obtain this report for quite some time. I was originally advised by Statistics Canada that it was expected to be released to the Public in early June, 2000. It is still not available. The reason for the delay, according to Statistics Canada, is that the report must be translated so that it can be made available to the Public in both official languages. My request for a copy of the Report in English only was refused.
Environics Research conducted the Focus Study Groups reported on in an earlier column, and which resulted in newspaper headlines stating Canadians did not want Census released. I am concerned that the questions asked in the Omnibus Surveys were as skewed as those asked in the Focus Groups and were designed to elicit pre-determined responses. Only the release of this Report will prove or disprove my concerns.
Request for Access to Information made.
On 14 August 2000 I filled out and mailed an Access to Information Request to the Access to Information and Privacy Coordinator of Industry Canada. In this request I stated:
Relating to the Report of this Expert Panel, Environics Research Group Ltd. was commissioned to conduct an Opinion Survey relating to Historic Census. An Omnibus Survey was conducted in March and April, 2000. The survey included 9 questions on the topic of access to historical census records. A further 7 questions were asked on a Special Omnibus Survey that Environics held in late April/May, 2000. I seek also to obtain the Report detailing the results of these opinion surveys.
Interim Privacy Commissioner appointed.
My thanks to Jacqui Nex for pointing me in the direction of the following Canada Newswire News Release. While dated 1 August 2000, it is interesting to note that I have not seen anything in the press about it, nor has anyone else advised me of it until now. So far as I know it was not picked up by the newspapers.
I had been expecting some kind of announcement, probably that Bruce Phillips' term had been extended again, but had not seen one. Jacqui expressed the opinion that when a new permanent Commissioner is appointed he or she can't be any worse than Phillips. I will reserve judgement on that. As the saying goes, sometimes it is better the Devil you know, rather than the Devil you don't know. In any case, read on.
Minister Boudria Announces Appointment of Interim Privacy Commissioner
OTTAWA, Aug. 1 /CNW/ - The Honourable Don Boudria, Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, today announced that, pursuant to subsection 53(4) of the Privacy Act, George Radwanski of Toronto, Ontario has been appointed to assume the responsibilities of Privacy Commissioner on an interim basis upon the expiry of the term of the current Privacy Commissioner, Bruce Phillips, on August 31, 2000.
"In view of the on-going and extremely sensitive responsibilities of the Privacy Commissioner, the office should not be vacant for any significant period of time." said Minister Boudria. "This interim appointment will ensure that the office functions effectively until the House of Commons and the Senate have the opportunity to approve a Privacy Commissioner." added the Minister.
Mr. Radwanski, a former journalist, is currently President of his own public policy and communications consulting firm. From 1965 to 1985, he held journalism positions of increasing responsibility with various newspapers, including Associate Editor with the Montreal Gazette; Ottawa Editor and National Affairs Columnist with the Financial Times of Canada; and Editor-in-Chief with the Toronto Star. Following his departure from the journalism field, Mr. Radwanski was appointed by then Ontario Premier, David Peterson, to head major studies into matters of importance to the Canadian public, including a study into the service sector in Ontario and a study of relevance in education and the issue of school dropouts. In 1996, at the request of the Canadian Government, Mr. Radwanski chaired the mandate review of Canada Post Corporation.
The Privacy Commissioner, a special ombudsperson accountable to Parliament, is appointed by the Governor in Council subject to the approval of the Senate and the House of Commons. The Privacy Commissioner monitors the federal government's collection, use and disclosure of its clients and employees' personal information, and its handling of individuals' requests to see their records. The Privacy Act gives the Commissioner broad powers to investigate individuals' complaints, to launch his own complaint, and to audit federal agencies' compliance with the Act.
This appointment is effective September 1, 2000.
In the past few months I have had some correspondence with the National Archivist, Ian Wilson. He is supportive of our efforts to obtain Access to Post 1901 Census records. In July I sent him some information, including my complete submission to the Expert Panel on Access to Historic Census. The other day I received the following letter from him.
Mr. Gordon A. Watts
1455 Delia Drive
Port Coquitlam, BC
Dear Mr. Watts
Thank you for your letter of 15 July 2000. I much appreciated the additional package of information that you provided me, which included, most notably, an unabridged copy of your submission to the Expert Panel on Access to Historic Census records, entitled "The Myths of Census."
It is an impressive and comprehensive piece of historical research, which I am sure was well received by members of the Expert Panel. Meanwhile, as you mention in the letters that you sent to the editors of the National Post and the Ottawa Citizen, thousands of Canadians are anxiously awaiting the Panel's report.
Please let me know if I can be of further assistance and I look forward to hearing from you as further developments regarding the release of post-1901 censuses take place.
Ian E. Wilson
Prime Minister Jean Chretien has set a date of 11 September for a Federal by-election. Jim Hart of Okanagan-Coquihalla in British Columbia has stepped down to allow newly elected leader of the Canadian Alliance, Stockwell Day to run for office. Scott Brison of Kings-Hants in Nova Scotia has similarly stepped down to allow Progressive Conservative leader Joe Clark to run.
Jim Hart, because of family considerations, has indicated he has no interest in running in the next Federal general election, while Scott Brison has already been nominated for his riding. Joe Clark will run in Calgary in the next general election.
Both Jim Hart and Scott Brison support allowing access to Historic Census.
Newfoundland Census of 1921 on-line.
The following article is from Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter of 6 August 2000 and is copyright 2000 by Richard W. Eastman. It is re-published here with the permission of the author.
Update on 1921 Newfoundland Online Census Project In the May 16, 1998 edition of this newsletter, I wrote about a project "in progress" that is placing the 1921 Newfoundland Census on the World Wide Web. I wrote, "It is a major effort and probably will not be finished for several years. However, many of the records are available now."
The site has continued to grow at a lively pace. More than 150 people worldwide have volunteered their time and efforts to transcribe and post this data to the web 4 for the benefit of genealogists, historians and for general interest. The original, handwritten 1921 Census for Newfoundland fills 18 reels of microfilm and contains approximately 234,000 names, birth dates, relation to a family group, religion, occupation and various other data.
The transcription of this census still is not complete, but the volunteers have finished all the districts with the exception of St. John's. They are now in the process of taking inventory of that District and hope to have it completed by the end of summer.
To view the results of the 1921 Newfoundland Online Census Project, go to: http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/Heritage/NGB/
Petitions still accepted
Petitions to the House of Commons and to the Senate are still being accepted. Download the Petitions from the Post 1901 Census Project Website at:
Letters and E-mail still Required
Wonders will never cease. We have now passed the half way mark with 152 of 301 MPs showing marks on the Scoreboard of something other that the obvious blue question marks indicating no response to letters from their constituents. In fairness however, I must state that in actual fact we have had response from less than half of the MPs. A handful of those showing gold ticks, fences, or red crosses have those marks, not because of letters they have written, but because of their comments in the House of Commons taken from Hansard.
Letters and e-mail to your elected representatives, urging them to support access to Post 1901 Census, are still required, perhaps now more than ever. Lately, many more MPs have been responding to our questions than previously, perhaps because they are in summer recess and have a little more time. Perhaps also, the message that we want access is finally sinking in.
Post 1901 Census Project website updates continue
The MPs Scoreboard is being kept up to date with the information that we receive from you, or directly from the MPs. Your assistance is still required. Check out the Scoreboard and if you have received responses that differ from that shown there, please send them to me at:
Currently, Nova Scotia is the ONLY PROVINCE which has received a response from every one of it's MPs. Not all Nova Scotia MPs show a gold tick, but I am sure you will continue working on those who do not. The Province of Quebec has the poorest showing, based on responses from MPs. Almost none of the MPs from Quebec have responded to our questions.
Request for Submissions to the Expert Panel
Have you made a major submission to the Expert Panel on Access to Historic Census Records - on behalf of a genealogical or historical society, or yourself? If so, please send me a file(s) containing that submission so that I might include it in future columns, and thus inform our readers.
Canada Census Campaign Mail List
The Canada-Census-Campaign-L mail list was set up to provide a forum for those interested in obtaining release of Historic Census Records in Canada. It is not for look-ups or individual queries. Your comments and questions relating to release of Post 1901 Census records are welcome. Subscribe to the list by sending an e-mail to
With only the word subscribe in the subject line and the body of the message. Do not include any other text or signature files in the body of the message. To subscribe in Digest mode, change the ‘L’ in the address to a ‘D’.
Post 1901 Census Project website
If you have not already done so, please send me any responses you have
received from your Member of Parliament regarding the Census problem. You are invited to view the website at:
More Information On The Census Project
Until next time. Happy Hunting.
Gordon A. WATTS firstname.lastname@example.org