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Article Published May 16, 2002

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

Greetings Readers, and Members of Parliament

The Legal Case Begins...

On Friday 10 May 2002 our lawyer, Lois Sparling was in Ottawa to cross-examine representatives of Chief Statistician Ivan Fellegi (Mary Ledoux) and National Archivist Ian Wilson (Greg Eamon).

It would appear that our expectations of a straight forward question and answer period dealing with the issues was not to be. Lois indicates that Justice Canada lawyers stone-walled much of her line of questioning and refused to allow the witnesses to answer many of her questions. Simple questions such as when the 1906 Census returns were micro-filmed, and by whom, were not allowed to be answered. The witnesses had obviously been coached on what they could or could not say and were prevented from answering many of the questions posed by Lois.

A possible surprize in these cross-examinations was the lack of response from the witness representing Ian Wilson who, we know from personal conversations with him, supports our efforts to regain public access to the Post 1901 Census records. It is presumed that a reluctance to cooperate by this witness was once again directed by the Justice Canada lawyers.

Professor Bill Waiser of the University of Saskatchewan, and myself were cross-examined Tuesday 14 May 2002, in Lois Sparling's Calgary offices. As we were questioned separately, I cannot say what Professor Waiser was questioned on.

My own questioning was a surprize, and not what I had expected. I had thought to be questioned on some of the legal points of our arguments but such was not the case. The thrust of the questions asked of me had to do with whether or not I was a professional genealogist, and whether or not I had personally made an Access to Information Request for access to the 1901 Census records. While Lois made no objection to any of the questions asked of me by the Justice lawyers, they refused to allow me to answer some questions she asked in re-examination.

My impression, from their line of questioning, is that they expect anyone seeking information from the 1906 Census to submit an Access to Information Request for that information, and when that is refused, to submit a complaint with the Informations Commissioner. It would appear that their line of thought is that if we did not follow this route, then we have not availed ourselves of alternate methods of obtaining information from Census.

My own response to their question on this was that I had not personally made an ATI Request for access to the 1906 Census Record. I had not done so because I was aware of Professor Waiser's application, and refusal thereof, and that it was well known that Statistics Canada would not honour such a request. I noted also, that while the intent of the Access to Information Act was to enable easier access to information, it was more often than not used by the governement to exclude or exempt the information requested.

Professor Waiser and myself were the only plaintiffs to be personally cross-examined by Justice Canada. The remaining plaintiffs were sent written interogatories, the thrust of which were also questioning whether or not they had personally made ATI Requests for the 1906 Census Records to either Statistics Canada or the National Archives.

Lois indicates that she will likely have to bring an application in Federal Court to compel answers to her questions, and may have to bring another court application to compel timely compliance with the undertakings they did give. She may also have to make more court applications to get answers to the next set of questions and timely compliance with the next set of undertakings. All in all it would appear that the main objective of the Justice Canada lawyers is further delay.

It is well known that the positions of Chief Statistician Ivan Fellegi and National Archivist Ian Wilson are diametrically opposed. Dr. Fellegi opposes access to the records while Ian Wilson supports it. We do not see how lawyers from Justice Canada can represent the positions of both defendants. In our opinion this is a clear case of conflict of interest.

There are set time limits for each stage of our application. This has been only one stage of the proceedings and we will keep you informed of our progress though each stage.

Happy Hunting.

Until next time, Happy Hunting.

Gordon A. Watts

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