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Article Published April 19, 2002



Gordon A. Watts POST-1901 CENSUS NEWS (Canada)
By: Gordon A. Watts, gordon_watts@telus.net


Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament


Report of Town Hall Meetings and Focus Groups released

On Wednesday 17 April 2002 the Environics Research Group Report on the Town Hall Meetings and Focus Groups regarding Release of the 1906 and 1911 Census Records, was quietly placed on the Statistics Canada website. There was no fanfare, no parade, no notice. Later the same day, links on the Environics website no longer went to individual reports on the Town Hall meetings, but now opened the Report on Statistics Canada's website.

The Report is in PDF format and requires the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to be opened and read. It may be accessed by clicking on this link.

I have finished reading the Report, and to say the least, I am not impressed.

Information on the Town Hall Meetings was no surprize as we had reports of participants and witnesses previously and were aware that the vast majority of presenters supported access. The way that things were presented, however, was a surprize in that no numbers were indicated when presenting the various aspects of the issue.

We know that there were 157 presenters at the meetings. We know that there were 6 presenters that spoke against access while the other 151 spoke for it. The Report, however, gives no indication of those numbers. It speaks of a 'majority of presenters', 'many presenters', 'a number of presenters', 'some presenters', 'several presenters' and 'a few presenters'. Similar references were made whether discussing either the pro access or con access positions.

But no numbers were cited. As such an unfamiliar reader would not be aware of the overwhelming support for access that was shown at the meetings. To simply state that 'a majority of presenters' supported access does not show that the majority was in fact over 96% of those making presentations.

A similar situation exists in the individual reports and the summary of the Focus Groups, although perhaps not to the same extent. There are some numbers mentioned there, although they are not presented in a tabular form such as were the results of the surveys conducted for the Expert Panel.

The Summary of Findings states, in part: (emphasis mine)

'Although qualitative results are not representative of the population as a whole, we did find that, by a two-to-one margin overall and in a majority of the sessions, the focus group participants would withhold the release of these records. This is in stark contrast with the town hall presentations, where the overwhelming majority supported the release of these records.'

Not encouraging, to say the least.

There were approximately 43 questions asked of focus group participants. Not one of them specifically mentioned the 'promise' of never-ending confidentiality, however responses in the individual reports on the focus groups referred to it so frequently that I find it difficult to believe that all references to it were spontaneous.

From the start I have expressed my concern about the possibility that a bias towards negative response would be used in the focus groups. It is my opinion that there was such a bias here, although it is not as obvious as it was in, especially, the second survey held for the Expert Panel. Contrary to the surveys held for the Expert Panel, I believe this bias shows up not so much in what participants in the focus groups were told, but in what they were not told.

They were told that Canadians have been participating in censuses for 3 centuries and that 'the overall data on population figures and other measures have always been released'. There was no mention that individual information was included in the information released. They were next informed that some people feel that data collected for individuals from censuses should be available after a delay of about 90 years. Emphasis was placed on the reference to information on individuals. The implication from this could be drawn that we were seeking something that previously did not happen.

Participants were shown two clauses, one at a time, from the Instructions to Enumerators for the 1911 Census . The first was Clause 23. 'Secrecy of census provided for'. (emphasis mine)
    23. Secrecy of Census information provided for. Every officer or other person employed in any capacity on Census work is required to keep inviolate the secrecy of the information gathered by the enumerators and entered on the schedules or forms. An enumerator is not permitted to show his schedules to any other person, nor to make or keep a copy of them, nor to answer any questions respecting their contents, directly or indirectly; and the same obligation of secrecy is imposed upon commissioners and other officers or employees of the outside service, as well as upon every officer, clerk or other employee of the Census Office at Ottawa. The facts and statistics of the Census may not be used except for statistical compilations, and positive assurance should be given on this point if a fear is entertained by any person that they may be used for taxation or any other object.
Respondents were given time to read this clause. Some questions on the clause followed with the main one asking if this clause had anything to do with the issue of the release of historical census records.

They were next shown Clause 36. 'Clear and legible records.' (emphasis mine)
    36. Clear and legible records. The enumerator is required to make all entries on the schedules in ink of good quality, and every name, word, figure or mark should be clear and legible. If a schedule cannot be read, or if the entries are made with a poor quality of ink, or in pencil, or if they are blurred or blotted, the work of the enumerator may be wholly wasted. The Census is intended to be a permanent record, and its schedules will be stored in the Archives of the Dominion. See Instruction No. 65.
Respondents were asked if this instruction mentioned anything to do with regard to how the information is to be treated. Again they were asked if this clause had anything to do with the issue of the release of historical census records, and if there was any conflict between the two clauses.

What participants were not shown was a third clause of these instructions that plays a very important part in the issue of access. That clause, 16. 'Rural and village enumeration to be kept separate.' stated: (emphasis mine)
    16. Rural and village enumeration to be kept separate. If an unincorporated village is included in the enumerator's district he should take the Census of it separately from the rural portion proper, but on the same schedule. A short line drawn across the left hand margin above the number of the first family and another below the number of the last family of the village as entered on the schedule, will be a sufficient mark of separation. But if the village have a distinct name it should be written along the left hand margin of the schedule, between the upper and lower lines, on each page until the enumeration of such village is completed. (See Sample Schedule, lines 17 to 34.) This separation will facilitate the tabulation of agricultural statistics, and it will have value as a record for historical use in tracing the origin and rise of future towns in the country. The Census of unincorporated villages however will be included as heretofore with the statistics of rural sections.
One might ask how these records could 'have value as a record for historical use' if it were never intended that they be accessible in the future? This question was never asked of the focus groups.

'Appendix F - Summaries of Town Hall Meetings' contains the same reports on individual Town Hall Meetings that were placed on the Environics Research Group website at http://erg.environics.net/ less the disclaimer that each report had. I note that earlier Wednesday, those reports were still accessible. In checking later, however, the link now takes us to the Report on the Statistics Canada website.

'Appendix H- Summaries of Focus Group Sessions' contains reports on individual Focus Groups using a format similar to those for the Town Hall Meetings. These reports appear to be presented in a subjective manner, giving the moderator's interpretation of responses, rather than in an objective manner that would specifically detail the responses given with numbers or percentages attached to them.

Each of these individual reports has the same disclaimer attached to them as was originally attached to the reports of the Town Hall Meetings. This disclaimer states: (emphasis mine)
    'This summary is based on the notes of the moderator. Although this summary accurately portrays the overall findings in this session, this report is not based on a review of the session transcripts and must be taken into consideration with the findings in upcoming focus group sessions. As well, qualitative results are not representative of the general population.'
I find the last sentence of this disclaimer particularly interesting. If qualitative results are not representative of the general population, what was the purpose of this recent exercise? Did not Statistics Canada state the purpose of these proceedings was to garner the opinion of 'ordinary Canadians"?

In the Report of the Expert Panel, questions asked in the surveys and responses given were placed in tabular form with numbers or percentages given for each response, and indicating the degree of those responses. No such table is found in this report.

197 people participated in the Focus Groups. Of those, by my count, 94 specifically opposed access, which is a far cry from the 2-to-1 margin referred to at the beginning of the Report. I read this to be less than 50% or closer to 1 to 1.

Those who opposed access, for the most part, did so because they believed a 'promise' had been made and it should not be broken. Others gave moral reasons for not allowing access. Others preferred some type of compromise, but few favoured the compromise suggested by Statistics Canada.

I find it hard to believe that 100 dissenting votes from the Focus Groups and Town Hall Meetings can outweigh close to 50,000 supportive votes sent to Ottawa in petitions, letters and email to our MPs, Senators and other officials.

The Report indicated that only a handful of participants in the Focus Groups, often genealogists themselves, were aware that an issue regarding access existed. Knowledge of the issue was virtually nil. The point was made that participants in the Focus Groups showed a willingness to consider the various points of view raised during discussion. Elsewhere it indicated that presenters at the Town Hall Meetings, while knowledgeable of the subject, might be less flexible in considering the position of those opposing them.

It is perhaps specifically because of that knowledge, and knowing how things work that those supporting access are less likely to change their position. If those attending the Focus Groups were more knowledgeable of the situation, or were provided complete, instead of partial, information during their sessions, the outcome of those groups would likely have been considerably different.

To obtain some clarification on quantitative measurement of the Report, Wayne Scott of Calgary wrote to Chris Baker, moderator of the proceedings. Wayne wrote:
    Mr. Baker.

    I have viewed your report downloaded from the StatsCan site on Census information-handling. Although interesting, it does seem to lack the sort of specifics one might expect from a survey dealing with collection and dissemination of statistics.

    I wonder whether you could provide me with numbers underlying the repeated references in the report to "some"...."most"...."many"...."few"...respondents? Is there material available which would be more useful than these generalities?

    Wayne Scott
    Calgary, AB
The response from Mr. Baker was as follows: Dear Mr. Scott,
    Thank you very much for your interest in the work done by the Environics Research Group regarding historical census records. In response to your inquiry, I would like to inform you that this report was based on a series of town hall consultations and focus groups, rather than a quantitative survey. Therefore, the specific statistics that you are looking for are not available.

    The use of statistics in qualitative research has been a matter of some debate within the Canadian research community. Recently, a debate on this issue was undertaken in Imprints, the magazine published by the Professional Marketing Research Society. Aside from the fact that qualitative results represent the views of participants and are not statistically representative of the population as a whole, one of the important points raised in this debate was the possibility that the use of percentages, or even fractions, in the reporting of qualitative results might lead some people to believe that these results were quantitative in nature, rather than qualitative.

    However, since qualitative information is important and valid, and that there is sometimes a necessity to indicate the relative weight of the positions taken by participants in focus group sessions. Therefore, there was a general agreement that indicative descriptors, such as "many", "some", "few" and so on, could be used to show the state of opinion within a session or set of sessions. In keeping with the qualitative nature of these sessions, the use of these "generalities" is considered to be responsible and appropriate.

    I am in sympathy with your interest to have greater specificity on this complex and interesting issue. However, I am confident that you will find this report to be a rich resource in understanding the views of stakeholders and other Canadians on this important public policy issue.

    Yours,

    Chris Baker
    Vice President
    Environics Research Group
From the start, many have questioned the necessity and expense of conducting these Town Hall Meetings and Focus Groups. It was, and is, felt that they were not necessary. The meetings served to solidify the support for access, while exposing the lack of interest in the issue by the general public. While advertised in each location a meeting was held those who might oppose access did not appear. As I stated in my presentation to the Vancouver meeting:
    'The silence from any opponents to access proves that the people of Canada are NOT concerned information from Census should be accessible 92 years after collection. They do not view it as an issue they should be concerned with. The great opposition of the Canadian people, as espoused by Statistics Canada, is just not there.'
To have groups of people having little or no knowledge of the issue, and being given insufficient information to become knowledgeable about it, debating the best way to accomplish something seems to me to be counter-productive.

I have been trying to think of a parallel example. The closest I can come is to ask if a group of mechanics, bakers, bankers, waitresses, janitors etc., given a basic 2-hour first aid course, should give direction to a brain surgeon on the best way to remove a tumor. Is it the best way to go? Not in my skull it isn't.



The legal case

In my last column I reported that legal representation for Chief Statistician Dr. Ivan Fellegi, the Attorney General and National Archivist Ian Wilson had requested and was granted an extension of the time by which affidavits of these individuals were to be submitted. On 15 April 2002 the Department of Justice served her with Affidavits on behalf of both the National Archivist and the Chief Statistician. Lois reports these Affidavits to be rather bland, not the type of thing she is used to in her usual practice of litigation.

Cross examinations are supposed to be completed within 20 days but time tables of the Dep't of Justice lead Counsel and Lois's schedule don't match up very well. It was therefore agreed to extend that to 30 days. We are looking at the week of May 6 for cross-examinations in Ottawa and Calgary - all yet to be confirmed.

Lois advises that Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski has missed his deadline for presentation of an affidavit. One could speculate that failing to present an affidavit could be his way of backing out of a situation that he does not believe he would win. The status of Information Commissioner John Reid is unknown at the time of this writing. It is presumed his deadline has also gone by the board.

Lois had advised that if the Federal Government failed to submit their affidavits before the deadline they automatically conceded the issue to our position, and the Federal Court would have to order what we asked in our Application.

I find it difficult to believe that it would be that easy, however, to quote Lois -- "Yes indeed, it is that easy". Being as there were affidavits served, I guess we are not about to find out.

Dr. Fellegi himself will not appear. He has instead delegated that privilege to Mary Ledoux, Chief ATIP Officer. Mary has been, for some time, my main contact for information in Statistics Canada.



Bill C-312 dies on order paper

MP Murray Calders Bill C-312 - An Act to amend the Statistics Act and the National Archives of Canada Act (census records) - received its one hour of debate on 9 April 2002. Three attempts to seek unanimous consent of the House to make the Bill votable failed. While for a couple of the votes there was more than one NAY spoken, in the end run the failure to get unanimous consent can be put down to one negative - that of MP Serge Marcil. Mr. Marcil is Parliamentary Secretary to Industry Minister Alan Rock. As such he can likely be assumed to have been acting on behalf of, or under orders of Alan Rock. It would appear that Mr. Rock did not wish to see any meaningful discussion in the House of this issue.

The debate took place with few surprizes. Murray Calder started it off with a speech that strongly supported our case for access to Post 1901 Census Records. He made the case that Statistics Canada was evading the law in refusing to turn control of the records over to the National Archives as per clauses of the National Archives of Canada Act. This act gives the National Archivist the authority to determine what government records have archival and historical value and that shall be deposited in, and be under the control of, the National Archives.

Murray agreed with Statistics Canada that there had been a promise made to the people of Canada, but it was not a promise that confidentiality of Census would last forever. The promise was made in Instructions to Enumerators that the records were of Historical value and would be stored in the Archives of the Dominion. Murray finished of by asking for unanimous consent of the House to make Bill C-312 votable. Records of Hansard show that a single nay defeated the motion.

Jason Kenny (CA)> voiced his support for C-312 and made reference to motion M-160, which he had presented to the House and was debated in March, April and September of 2000, and sought the release of the 1911 Census after it was placed in the National Archives. Jason has been a strong supporter of our efforts to regain access to Post 1901 Census from the beginning.

Stephane Bergeron (BQ) spoke at length. In reading what he said in Hansard, for much of his speech he appeared to be supportive of C-312. In the end run, however, that support was diminished by his comments relating to promises of confidentiality and parroting the Privacy Commissioner. There were a few inaccuracies in his statements and while he did not specifically so state, the appearance is that he opposed Bill C-312. Mr. Bergeron has never responded to our questions of support. He is shown on the MP Scoreboard as having a blue question mark indicating no response.

Peter Stoffer (NDP) spoke in favour of Bill C-312. He made a second motion for unanimous consent to make the Bill votable. A couple of nays were heard among a chorus of yeas. Mr. Stoffer stated "We in the New Democratic Party believe it is time to support the release of census information to the archives after 92 years for genealogical research.............. I find it unfortunate that we cannot have unanimous consent on such a worthwhile bill but I thank the hon. member for bringing it to the attention of the House."

Serge Marcil (LIB) is another that has failed to respond to our questions of support and is also shown on the MP Scoreboard with a blue question mark. He spoke at length opposing the Bill. He said a lot of words but little of what he stated were of his own composition. He spoke of the promise that cannot be substantiated, stating that this was contained in the legislation and regulations. He made reference to the Instructions to Enumerators having the force of law and therefore the clause in them titled Secrecy was the promise that confidentiality of Census would last forever. He conveniently ignores the fact that if that clause has the force of law, so then, does every other clause in those Instructions, and they cannot pick and choose the ones they want to support their position of non-disclosure. He chooses to ignore the clauses that state that Census has value as a Historical Record and that they will be stored in the Archives of the Dominion. He ignores also another clause of these instructions that plays a very important part in the issue of access, that states that the Records of Census 'will have value as a record for historical use in tracing the origin and rise of future towns in the country.'

The largest part of Mr. Marcils speech was a repetition of what we have been fed from Statistics Canada since the start of our efforts to regain the same public access to Post 1901 Census records that we have had for those records up to and including 1901. For all intents and purposes he might have been a ventriloquist's dummy sitting on the lap of Chief Statistician Ivan P. Fellegi. It was Mr. Marcils mouth that was moving, but the words were those of Ivan Fellegi.

Mr. Marcil summed up his speech by stating "I would like to assure my colleagues that the minister responsible for Statistics Canada really wishes to find a balanced solution to this issue. This is why I believe we should wait for the minister to see the results of these consultations with the people of Canada." These words are almost word for word identical to those spoken almost two years ago by another MP speaking against Jason Kenny's motion M-160, while we waited for the Report of the Expert Panel to be released. Minister Rock has had access to the report from Environics for two months -- surely he has read it by now. To suggest that he has not is a cop out.

John Bryden (LIB) spoke strongly in favour of C-312. He has also supported our efforts from the beginning. He suggests that the problem may be more with Justice Canada than with Statistics Canada. He states that more and more, in cases where Justice becomes involved in issues relating to privacy and access to information, the ruling more often than not comes down in favour of privacy, even when it has been a long standing practice to allow access. He suggested that should C-312 have been deemed votable it would have passed in the House by at least a two-thirds majority, if not three-quarters.

Debate wound up with Murray Calder expressing his disappointment that C-312 failed to get unanimous consent of the House to be made votable, and attempting a final time, without success, to obtain that consent. The Speaker advised that the time for debate had expired and that the Bill was now dropped from the Order Paper.

How many more surveys and reports must we endure and wait for to see a resolution to this issue? We are on our third Minister responsible for Statistics Canada. How many more Ministers responsible must we go through before we get one that will act responsibly and give directions to the bureaucrats to obey the law and transfer control of Historic Census records to the National Archivist? When do we get a Minister responsible that will give direction to the bureaucrats, rather than take it from them?

What are they afraid of? Why don't they want 92 year old records released? Who can be harmed by any information in records that old? Are they out of their minds? Why do they not even want to discuss the issue in the House? These are questions that I am constantly being asked. I do not have the answers for them.

Everyone seems to feel Statistics Canada and the government must have an ulterior motive for keeping the records hidden, but no-one has any idea of what that reason could be. It is most frustrating.

Bill C-312 is dead and gone. That does not mean that the battle is over. There is currently another Private Member Bill by MP Mac Harb (C-380) that would see the transfer of Census records to the National Archives. MP Cheryl Gallant has presented a motion (M-238) that would also see the records of Census transferred to the National Archives and requests that they be made available after 92 years. It remains to be seen if they will ever see the light of day and all we can do is encourage the submitters to push for them to be debated.



Bill S-12

Dr. Ivan Fellegi was due to appear before the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. He was to respond to comments relating to his actions and refusal to release Historic Census records made by Senator Milne, both inside Senate Chambers and without. Even though Dr. Fellegi had plenty of opportunity to respond to these comments prior to clause-by-clause consideration of the Committee in December, to date he has failed to do so.

The motion to refer S-12 back to the Committee included a stipulation that it be returned to Senate Chambers no later than 30 April 2002. We have once again urged the Committee to send the Bill back to the Senate without modification. If S-12 is passed in third reading in the Senate it will be referred to the House to go through the hoops in that place. Should that happen, it is expected that Bill S-12 would have to be considered votable and, unlike C-312, would receive the full debate that this issue deserves.

On 16 April 2002 I received notice that the hearing with Dr. Fellegi had been postponed. There was no reason given for the postponement other than that the revised schedule now shows an in camera meeting on 'The state of the health care system in Canada'. I am advised that Senator Milne has approved the postponement and that Senator Kirby, Chair of the Committee has requested a short extension on the time to return Bill S-12 to the Senate. I will be advised by the clerk of the Committee when this meeting is rescheduled.



The legal case

In my last column I reported that legal representation for Chief Statistician Dr. Ivan Fellegi, the Attorney General and National Archivist Ian Wilson had requested and was granted an extension of the time by which affidavits of these individuals were to be submitted. On 15 April 2002 the Department of Justice served her with Affidavits on behalf of both the National Archivist and the Chief Statistician. Lois reports these Affidavits to be rather bland, not the type of thing she is used to in her usual practice of litigation.

Cross examinations are supposed to be completed within 20 days but time tables of the Dep't of Justice lead Counsel and Lois's schedule don't match up very well. It was therefore agreed to extend that to 30 days. We are looking at the week of May 6 for cross-examinations in Ottawa and Calgary - all yet to be confirmed.

Lois advises that Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski has missed his deadline for presentation of an affidavit. One could speculate that failing to present an affidavit could be his way of backing out of a situation that he does not believe he would win. The status of Information Commissioner John Reid is unknown at the time of this writing. It is presumed his deadline has also gone by the board.

Lois had advised that if the Federal Government failed to submit their affidavits before the deadline they automatically conceded the issue to our position, and the Federal Court would have to order what we asked in our Application.

I find it difficult to believe that it would be that easy, however, to quote Lois -- "Yes indeed, it is that easy". Being as there were affidavits served, I guess we are not about to find out.

Dr. Fellegi himself will not appear. He has instead delegated that privilege to Mary Ledoux, Chief ATI Officer. Ms. Ledoux has been, for some time, my main contact for information in Statistics Canada.



Rumours

There is apparently a rumour going around the hill that Industry Minister Alan Rock may be preparing to make an announcement relating to the release of Historic Census records. There are no ironclad guarantees of this, but that is the rumour -- so I am told.

To help Mr. Rock make up his mind, we have a suggestion for the next 72 hours or so.

If you have access to a fax machine, or fax software on your PC, send a fax to Mr. Rock, requesting that he take immediate action to ensure the continuing release of Historic Census records in accordance with the National Archives of Canada and Privacy Acts. Be polite and respectful, and request that he take action, rather than demand it. Send one fax per person and make sure that they are individually signed. Each person should use their own words and full mailing addresses should be included.

Mr. Rock's Fax Numbers are:
    (613) 992-0302 (Ministry Office)

    and

    (613) 947-4276 (Office as an MP)
Do not forget to input the appropriate long distance access number. (In Canada and the US it is 1 ).

For this exercise, please use ONLY fax -- no email. After faxing your polite message, drop it in an envelope and send it to him via snail mail.

Until next time, Happy Hunting.

Gordon A. Watts gordon_watts@telus.net



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